Heading in, you knew the Kings would be able to get some offensive rebounds against a poor defensive rebounding team like Phoenix, especially considering how excellent Jason Thompson and Jon Brockman have been on the offensive boards. Well, Thompson had a bad night on the glass and Brockman didn't play. So it was up to Kenny Thomas to work the Suns over and ... well, he succeeded.
Thomas had eight offensive rebounds in less than 28 minutes. Spencer Hawes added three, and Tyreke Evans and Omri Casspi each added two. Overall, the Kings did their job on that end, taking a brilliant 41 percent of offensive rebound opportunities.
The problem was the other end, where the Suns did nearly the same.
Phoenix had 17 offensive rebounds in 47 opportunities (36 percent), led by Amar'e Stoudemire, who grabbed nine. The Kings just couldn't get defensive boards in traffic. Thomas had 10 (for 18 rebounds total), but Thompson and Hawes had only five between them in 55 minutes. Each was frustrated -- J.T. because of foul trouble, Hawes because of his bunnies wouldn't go home -- but really, this frontcourt must rebound better on the defensive end for the Kings' strengths to show up in the won-loss ledger.
Evans was brilliant, although his second half shot selection wasn't terribly strong. It followed in the box score: 12 points on six shot attempts in the first half, nine points on 12 shot attempts (10 FGAs, 4 FTAs) in the second. As we've seen in recent games, Phoenix adjusted its defense to keep Evans out of the paint. On one possession, Evans drove from the left wing; by the time he'd dribbled once, three Suns closed in on him. He still went to the rim and missed a fairly wild lay-up. It's as those moments you wish he'd look to pass immediately upon seeing the triple-team come.
That said, it's pretty damn difficult to quibble with 21 points on .563 True Shooting, six rebounds, seven assists, two steals and zero turnovers. Evans didn't lose this game, and in fact in the first half he kept the team in the dogfight.
Regarding Hawes in the paint: this performance (4-14, with most of those attempts coming from within five feet) was a blip, not the norm. On the season, Hawes is shooting 65 percent on shots at the rim, which is up from 62 percent last season and 57 percent as a rookie. Thompson, by comparison, iis at 57 percent, and was at 62 percent last year. Saturday's game hasn't been added in yet, so figure Hawes to droop a bit, and yes you would like to see another dunk or two so near the rim, but hey, Hawes is fine. Hell, Stoudemire is only 62 percent at the rim this season. Hawes is fine.
(As long as he improves his defensive rebounding.)
UPDATE: It's been a few hours since I watched the game, but I can't believe I forgot to mention the insane number of late whistles. Bad calls are infuriating. But the ref crew looked like they calling fouls based on whether shots went in or not (if they didn't, blow the whistle; if the shots fell, no call). If that's really what was going on, and the refs weren't just slow with the whistle for other reasons (of which I cannot imagine) ... then this was some unconscionable officiating. Calls were repeatedly made well after rebounds were secured. Constantly. All game long.