The Evaporation of Determination: Warriors 108, Kings 101

The Kings, the players, were outsmarted time and again in the second half by the Warriors. The Warriors.

That's a trapping of youth and inexperience, no matter how tired of hearing that you are. There has seemed to be a need over the past week to reject the excuse, that a team of 20-, 21-, 22-year-olds just doesn't has the court savvy and mental stamina to keep a lead for 48 minutes, or to stay within a dozen at all times. But the excuse is valid. When Tyreke Evans gets a steal and rushes to make a play, ignoring the swarming defense of Golden State and eventually losing the ball, how else do you explain that? Evans is basketball mature for a rookie, and for a 20-year-old. But that doesn't mean he's never subject to bad decisions.

You can't exactly blame inexperience on Beno Udrih's two unconscionable 24-second violations in the fourth quarter. But Udrih clearly made the case during the game and in his post-game comments that ball movement and off-ball motion were to blame. On review, he's right. And the problem wasn't limited to those two possessions. Throughout the second half, the motion offense gummed up, and the team relied heavily on high screen-rolls and basic post set-ups. (There were some nice possessions, but they were rare.)

Most frustrating, to me at least, is that this is the type of team we expected -- a hard-working but overmatched club -- coming into the season. Five-game losing streaks would not have been surprising, were it not for the spirited run of wins through November and December. This is the Kings as it should given current circumstances -- not losers of five straight, but 14-21, 13th place in the conference, on pace for 30something wins. This is the situation laid bare, and to me there's no use getting distraught over it. We've seen some highs, indications of the highs to come. And, as I keep reminding myself, Kevin Martin will be back next week. We'll be OK.

Jon Brockman played 12-1/2 minutes in the first half. The Kings were +9. He played 4 minutes in the second half. The Kings, leading, played the Warriors even. (As in, Brockman started the third quarter with the Kings up 15. When he left the game 4 minutes in, the Kings were up 15.) Of course, once Brockman sat, the Warriors went +19 the rest of the game. Perhaps keeping Brockman in for more second half minutes wouldn't have helped. But the team performed better with him in the first half, and has performed better with him in the game all season. Nessie can be foul machine, but he had only one against Golden State, and in fairness to him the Warriors will drawing fouls on everyone.

Tyreke Evans is purported to be the best Kings defender, but Monta Ellis absolutely scorched him all night, from tip to whistle. That's fine -- Ellis scorches almost everyone -- but the Kings defense never really adjusted to slow Ellis. A few pick-and-roll shows forced Ellis into long jumpers ... but the showing defender never really got up on Ellis, and he sank a few. Eight points in the first, 10 in the second, eight in the third, 13 in the fourth. All day. Similarly, Omri Casspi had trouble keeping up with Stephen Curry in the first and third quarters. It's a lot to ask, sending a rookie forward to chase a rookie point guard with an unbelievably quick trigger and range. Omri fought, but didn't win his battle. That has happened only rarely this season, and the same can be said for Evans. But again, expecting as much as we have gotten out of the rookies would have been foolish at season's start.

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