(From the FanPosts. - TZ)
First off a big thank you to jjham15 for tipping me off to the Brock Ness Monster ticket package for this game. I went ahead and bought the tickets just in time for my dads birthday present. I even got a "I believe in the Brock Ness Monster" t-shirt out of it. You'd think I could get free tickets or something for giving the Kings free marketing with the nickname, but whatever, I'm not bitter.
The Arena wasn't packed but it wasn't empty either. Looking at the official attendance (13,630), that sounds about right. There were actually quite a few Phoenix fans tonight, including the very obnoxious ones that sat a few rows behind me. A pox on both their houses.
Another tough loss for Sacramento, in another game where they had a chance to beat an elite team in the final minutes but just couldn't pull it out. It didn't help that they dug themselves a 20 point hole either, but at least against the Suns, a 20 point hole isn't really too much. Plus the Kings don't really care about holes that are less than 36 points. Still, against a high octane offense like the Suns, you have to play well.
This was definitely a game of two halves. In the first half, the Kings weren't playing very good team defense at all, allowing a lot of open looks from 3, and letting Stoudemire do whatever he wanted. The thing that killed me about this half is how much the Kings got dominated on the glass. By Phoenix no less. The first half definitely left the impression on me that the Kings needed another big man. The Arena was also really quiet during this half until sometime in the 2nd quarter when Jon Brockman was substituted and the Kings went on a mini-run to end the half. That helped get the crowd going, and the energy lasted all through the next half. Donté had gotten hurt at some point this quarter, and it was a shame because he had been playing really well until then.
The 2nd half, the Kings came out with a lot more energy and enthusiasm, thanks mainly to Jon Brockman, who helped terrorize the boards. I looked up sometime during the 3rd quarter to see we had surpassed the Suns in rebounding and was shocked. The Kings continued to chip at the lead throughout the half and at points got very close. But the Suns never let us take the lead. The Kings really never let themselves take the lead. Every time they had a chance to go ahead or tie, they either turned the ball over or had a poor offensive set. The thing is, this game was in our grasp and a lot of things didn't go our way. Amar'e and Nash got some Superstar calls from the Refs as well, but I'm not going to blame the officiating too much for the loss because there were quite a few bad calls against the Suns as well that we lucked out on. The critical possession to my eyes was the one in which Evans took it to the rack to either tie it or take the lead (can't remember which off the top of my head), missed, JT tips it and it rolls all over the rim and just out, Tyreke rebounds that miss and shoots it back up and misses as well. That was 3 great opportunities that would have changed the course of the game in my opinion. As soon as we had to put Nash on the foul line, I knew the game was over. Nash is just too good of a free throw shooter and he's so clutch.
Now for Individual Player Recaps:
- Tyreke Evans: There were 2 things I noticed about Tyreke tonight. The first was that he was definitely looking to distribute the ball. He should have had a triple double, but a few wide open shots were either passed up or missed by the player he passed to. The 2nd was that Tyreke was definitely trying to get his jumper going tonight, and although he actually hit quite a few of them, I would still prefer him to take it to the rack 9 out of 10 times. At one point in the 4th quarter as Tyreke was going to shoot free throws that would tie the game up at 97, the crowd started to chant M-V-P. It was great to hear, and even better when Tyreke knocked down both free throws. The kid wants the ball in his hands with the game on his line. He wants to make the decision to pass or shoot. And he was so close to winning this game for Sacramento tonight too. We have to remember he's only a rookie. That's scary to me. Scary, but awesome. Oh and before I forget, he left the game with an injury in the 3rd quarter. I believe he had a cramp in his calf. When he came back he was massaging his calf. I thought it was his ankle again but thankfully it wasn't.
- Jon Brockman - Brockman really changed the energy level of this team in a good way. He also played some pretty darn good defense, although his reputation has preceded him to the officials and he got a couple bad foul calls against him. He was a beast on the offensive boards tonight as well, but the one bad thing about that was that I think he turned the ball over on 3 of his offensive rebounds. He would get the ball, try to dribble or pass out and get the ball stolen which would lead to a fast break point for Phoenix. Friends who went to the game with me and sat near the bench told me that they heard Westphal yelling at him "We work to hard for the ball to give it away like that". And I agree. One last note on Brockman: during the shooting drills at halftime and before the game, it seems like he's developed a very respectable jumper. He made at least 90% of the ones that I saw him take from about 15-18 feet.
Omri Casspi - During the first half his shot seemed off, but when they weren't falling he simply took it to the basket and it worked. Omri has turned into my favorite Kings player. He plays with such a great passion for the game and is slowly becoming a very clutch player. In the 2nd half he caught on fire, and hit a few huge threes. I would not be surprised to see Omri break 40 points sometime this year. I can't wait until we have him and Martin and Evans on the floor together. That's a recipe for success in my opinion. Also, I remember a while ago somebody said that they thought there was something between Omri and Tyreke because of their "negative body language toward one another". This is complete hogwash. Omri got wacked across the face going to the basket once, and the first person to go over to see if he was ok was Tyreke.
- Jason Thompson - JT had a very confusing game. Yes his boxscore looks alright (14 points, 10 boards, 2 steals, 2 blocks) but it was the turnovers and missed gimme buckets that killed us. That automatic jumper that had been rolling for him has seemed to disappear and I think he only hit one of them tonight off a lucky roll. And he missed a huge tip in after a missed Tyreke layup in the 4th that would have given us the lead. But by far my biggest complaint about JT is the type of fouls he gets. The one that particularly comes to my mind is when he fouled Jared Dudley as he was going to the basket by pulling on his shirt. This ended up being a 3 point play. JT, if you're going to foul someone whose taking it to the basket, don't do it in such a way that they're going to even have a chance for a 3 point play. Make them earn 2 points at the line. Put your hands up and wrap them up. Noc can teach you to do it, he does it all the time. Bad game for JT in my book, even with the decent stats.
- Donté Greene - Donté was having a good all-around game in my opinion before he left the game with what looked to me to be a twisted ankle (didn't hear any reports). Only 2 points, but 5 boards, 4 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks in only 17 minutes (about 5 were after which he got hurt). What's really impressed me about Donté's offensive game this year has been his passing. He's turned into a remarkably good passer. On the play where he got hurt, last year's Greene would have tried to dunk the ball. This year's Greene passed the ball up to Casspi to avoid the defender and get the easy lay in. Hopefully he's not injured too bad, and it doesn't look like it since he came back, because he's becoming a very nice player.
- Spencer Hawes - Not a good game for Spence. He didn't match up well with Phoenix and Frye punished him by parking himself on the 3 point line, and in the minutes he did play, he could not protect the defensive glass at all. He needs to take it up stronger up close too. Not Spence's best game.
Ime Udoka - Bad game from Ime. His defense was alright, but his shot wasn't falling at all. It didn't help that there was a Kings fan sitting behind me constantly heckling Udoka over his missed free throws in LA.
- Beno Udrih - Beno and WaBeno both played tonight, Beno in the first 3 quarters, and then WaBeno simply took over parts of the 4th and got the Kings back into the game. WaBeno is simply amazing to watch. If Casspi is my favorite player of the Kings, WaBeno in the clutch is definitely up there as well. Oh and whats with Slovenians and spinning? Dragic looks exactly like Beno on the court, except right handed. Spinning to get out of trouble, stop and popping his shots. He's not nearly as good as Beno although he has the more badass sounding name.
- Noc - I honestly think Noc knows when I'm coming to ARCO so he plays well in front of me so I can't bitch about him live. Yes, Noc had a good game. 19 points on only 10 shots. But since its Noc, and since its me, I have to bitch about something. He doesn't pass. Noc wants to shoot, each and every time. Well Noc, sometimes you need to make that extra pass.
- Kenny Thomas - Had one good defensive possession while he was in that I noticed. Otherwise, just Kenny Thomas for 3 minutes.
- Sergio - Westphal was going to put Sergio in the game midway through the 4th quarter but sat him back down when the Kings started to make their run. I would have maybe liked to see Sergio play instead of Udoka tonight. But who knows, maybe Nash goes for 40 if Udoka isn't in there.
Anyway it was another fun game and tough loss. The Kings are proving they can hang around with the best, even without Kevin Martin. I think they'll be able to beat the best once he comes back. There were definitely times, especially in the 1st half, when they could have used someone to get them guaranteed points. And Tyreke is good at drawing fouls, but having Kevin in there would really help. The Kings are not getting to the line nearly as often without Kevin. Anyway, on to Golden State and Denver. I'm calling the Golden State game a Must Win game for team morale, because thats probably the easiest game they have all month.