Heavy Smoke in a Funhouse With Goofy Mirrors: Kings 99, Warriors 96

With 7 minutes and 50 seconds left in Tuesday's Kings-Warriors game, Sacramento led by 10, Warriors ball. Over the next 7-1/2 minutes, the Kings would go into a prevent offense, sending the game into a crawl -- 13 possessions over those 7-1/2 minutes, setting a pace that'd be slower than the Spurs on syrup had it lasted all game. In those 13 painful possessions, the Kings scored 10 points, 0.76 points per possession, an offensive performance that'd rank up there with the New Jersey Nets playing on a bed of nails during a 48-minute tremblor had it stretched over the course of a game. The Warriors had 14 possessions during that span -- starting and ending the stretch with the ball -- and managed to score 18 points, or 1.28 points per possession, something a team like the Suns would do against your local over-40 pick-up crew. This Warriors unit, mind you, was missing its talisman, Monta Ellis, and watched its Hombre Numero Dos, Corey Maggette, have the worst shooting of his life.

During that quite nearly fateful 7 minutes and 30 seconds, the Warriors outscored the Kings 18-10, chopping its deficit to two points ... but just running out of time, then being forced to pray for missed Kings three throws which would never come.

During that quite nearly fateful 7 minutes and 30 seconds, during which the already shaky Kings offense fell completely off the rails and the ever-so-painful defense relinguished point after point after point, during this drunken jaunt down the side of a mountain on roller blades ... Kevin Martin didn't play a single second.

Remember those circumstances when assessing blame for the near-loss.

This isn't to say Martin played well ... his production was quite obviously terrible! But the reaction (even among sober sources of commentary) has been once which heaps credit on the two fellows who scored well (Tyreke Evans and Beno Udrih) at the expense of Martin, who shot awfully. Martin left the game with a 10-point lead. Evans and Udrih, the choice backcourt of "Trade Martin Now!" adherents, played that entire 7-1/2 minute stretch. They were on the court when the lead evaporated. Udrih made a couple good plays, and a couple bad ones. Evans was completely awful, 0-for-6 during the stretch. If we're talking about the period in which this game went from manageable lead to "Oh crap!," then blaming Martin is the wrong call. Blame him for not being able to hit his open shots in the first three quarters ... maybe the team would have let a 20-point lead shrink to 12 during the fourth then. But honestly, there's no way to justify tying the two key arguments -- the team almost lost in the fourth, it's Martin's fault -- together.

And I know exactly how this will come off to Martin critics -- that I'm making excuses for a player who shot 1-for-9. I'm not. As I said, his production was gross. That's not the Martin we're used to. That's not the Martin we expect. That's not the Martin we need. You think he doesn't know that, too? But there's a breeze blowing through town, and it's a cold breeze, and it's making people who know better abandon what they know due to a handful of bad games. No one wants to be the last dude in an emptying bar, so everyone's racing for the exits of Kevin Martin Fan Club. You fickle fiends will be back, I have no doubt.

***

Sean May, ladies and gentlemen. I had a killer "double-double" joke coming -- spent the entirety of halftime working it out -- but, alas, it was not meant to be.

***

By my count, Spencer Hawes made one mistake on defense, in 31 minutes of play. Even that -- it was an Andris Biedrins-Stephen Curry pick-and-roll near the end of the third, after Andres Nocioni's hilariously WTF-y flagrant on Curry -- was iffy, as Beno was caught doing nothing useful as Hawes showed on Curry around 15 feet. Hawes made the right play, but was way slow re-picking up Biedrins, who ended it with an uncontested flush. Other than that, Hawes (from what I can tell from the couch) made all the right moves on defense. It was the Warriors, yes, but it's still nice to see. It left me satisfied, which is more than I can say for the fried egg taco I invented, cooked and ate this morning.

***

You could build a team around Cartier Martin.

***

Nearly as bad as his shooting production was K. Martin's defense on C.J. Watson in the late third and early fourth. Let it be noted that Beno did just as poorly on Watson, but Martin's inability to defend the little dude without fouling was really noticeable. I'm not sure it can be explained -- Watson's not an Olympic speed skater or anything, and letting him shoot a contested 18-footer off the dribble wouldn't be the worse thing; in other words, why stick on him close enough to smell his breath (or scalp, given the height disparity, I suppose)?

Hawes, May and (of course!) (the incredible) Donte Greene are the only Kings I can give passing defensive grades to. Hawes was smart, May was active and Greene was ... well, Donte Greene. Like I need to explain it.

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