For the third straight season, the Kings nearly knocked off LeBron James and the Cavaliers in Sacramento. This time, the team was in position to win the game with the last possession of regulation, as Tyreke Evans brought the ball up the court with 10 seconds left. Paul Westphal declined to call a time-out, calling a play for Evans to take his man (LeBron, at that point) off the dribble from the top of the key. There was miscommunication, and Spencer Hawes came to set a pick, which threw off the spacing and resulted in a busted play with a weak attempt at the buzzer. Once the team's got to overtime, Hawes kept collapsing the lane to defend LeBron, leaving Zydrunas Ilgauskas wide open in the right corner. That led to three Big Z threes, and a 13-point loss for the Kings.
But Hawes, though he apparently flubbed the Kings' opportunity to win and couldn't keep himself on Z in OT, and Evans, who failed at heroism Part IV and really had a bit of a rough fourth quarter, were two of the souls most responsible for the Kings being in position to win. Evans finished with 28 points, 5 assists, 3 blocks and just one turnover. Hawes played really, really well until the final 5 min, 10 sec, with 17 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks. Donte Greene, Omri Casspi and Jason Thompson also all played well, given the circumstances. Greene opened the game on James, who had a really wet jumper early. But The Show managed to have a highlight reel finish over LeBron off a "Not a Point Guard!" alley oop from Evans, and also drove on King James for a third quarter And-1 in transition.
Casspi began the game ablaze, hitting long jumpers with ease. He cooled off, but kept contributing on the boards (6) and by giving LeBron his toughest challenge of the night. By my count, LeBron hit only one shot the 10 or so minutes Casspi marked him. (That's probably not quite right, but Casspi did a really good job forcing James to pass or take slightly uncomfortable jumpers.) Thompson wasn't featured much, but owned the paint -- 18 and 9 for Shock, with three turnovers, one of which was brutal at the end of the third quarter. (Thompson tried a baseline-to-midcourt baseball pass to Jon Brockman with less than two seconds left. Brockman had two Cavs on him, and, also, Brockman is not a threat to score from midcourt. The ball sailed out of bounds. The Cavs inbounded from their own baseline, and though the bounce pass touched the baseline before it reached Anderson Varejao and thus should have gone back to the Kings, the refs missed the flub and Varejao ended with a critical two-point basket.)
This felt like last season's Cavs-Kings game in Sacramento, in that the Kings did all they could to be in a position to win, but LeBron > [Kings star]. Last year, it was Martin, who had 34 points but was limited late as James went off for 51. Perhaps that will change when Evans gets more pro seasoning, or when Evans and Martin can combine to form a two-headed dragon of doom.
Brilliant crowd last night, by the way.