The defense nearly failed the Kings, as the Nuggets tossed up 54 points in the first half on 22-44 shooting (50 percent). But the Kings offense exploded in the second half (21-37, 57 percent, including 6-8 on threes and 11-14 on free throws), and the defense did enough to limit the Nuggets to tough shooting (15-39, including 6-15 from three). Calming down the familiar early turnover issue (seven in the first quarter for Sacramento, nine spread out the rest of the way) was also a huge boon for the offense, which suffered from another bad night from Jason Thompson (five points on nine shooting possessions, three turnovers, zero assists, zero offensive rebounds) and Andres Nocioni (three points on four shots, one turnover, zero assists, zero offensive rebounds).
Omri Casspi got off to a slow start, but I would say he ended the game juuuuuuuust fine, with a simply monumental three late. Several plays led up to Reke's game-winner, but perhaps none were as important as Casspi's left-wing three with 1 min, 4 sec left. The Kings were down two, and a miss would have put Denver in the driver seat with nothing but open road ahead. But Omri very calmly sunk the bomb, giving the Kings a one-point lead. (A goaltend by Spencer Hawes on the other end gave Denver the lead back, but the Kings had a pulse and went on to put it away.)
Jon Brockman got his first NBA start. He committed four fouls in his 38 minutes. (Well, he was whistled for four. He probably committed 17 or so. Ask Chauncey Billups' bleeding gums.) He had 12 rebounds, seven of them on offense. The Kings' defensive rebounding was pretty poor with Brockman playing so many minutes, and the defense as a whole certainly underperformed (not commensurate to what it's been all year, but underperformed relative to expectations given a primarily defensive player replaced a primarily offensive player in the starting five, and that the opposing team's best weapon sat). Brockman ended up -3 on the night; Thompson was +7, Hawes -1, Kenny Thomas +3 in less than six minutes, and Nocioni (who was a power forward primarily) -10.
I thought Hawes played exceptionally well: his defense fairly sound (given the challenges facing an athletic whirlwind like Nene, a usually good shooter like Kenyon Martin and a walking duststorm like Chris Andersen), his offense basically brilliant. He set up Omri's key three, hit one of his one in the last five minutes and had a lovely, vital hook shot late as well. But it needs to be said:
Hawes' defensive rebounding rate: 16.7 percent. Two-guard/small forward Omri Casspi's: 15.7 percent.
This is both a flag on Hawes -- can the team ever compete defensively with a center rebounding like that? -- and a flag on Omri -- are you kidding me, Omri?! I'd blame a good portion of Toronto's defensive troubles on Andrea Bargnani's rebounding. And Bargnani is only a fraction of a percentage worse in defensive rebounding than Hawes. It's not a good sign going forward. Unless Thompson turns into Rodman (unlikely), Hawes must rebound the ball better on defense, or this team is likely consigned to playing from behind on that end forever.
(I can't believe I ended a recap of such a relieving, fulfilling game by again pointing out a negative I've bleated on about all season. Hmm ... think quick, think quick Ziller ...)
Is that Spencer Hawes, or David Thompson? Oh boy!