If one general sentiment stood out from the season-opening win for the Sacramento Kings, it was that of a collective effort and spirit, the feeling that no one player was trying to do it all himself. It ended up a rather balanced performance, despite both Carl Landry and Francisco Garcia going for 22.
It worked out that way in other categories, as well. The team didn't rely on just one player to rebound; Landry had a big 11 (a whopping seven on offense), but starters DeMarcus Cousins and Donte Greene came up with eight and seven, respectively, and Jason Thompson added six in relief. Beno Udrih was the lead playmaker with six assists, but Cousins added five, Garcia four, and Landry and Luther Head three apiece.
Four Kings took at least 10 FGAs; if you add in shooting possessions resulting in free throws, then Thompson and Greene can join that club (with Head and Omri Casspi just outside). That's really, really balanced work on offense from the Kings.
That isn't to say it's always good to be balanced; my FanHouse pal Michael Katz and I have joked that Philadelphia, lacking a lead scorer, should be known as having a "balanced attack." You need a ringer to be a top offensive team in this league. Thankfully, the Kings have said ringer in Tyreke Evans, who will be back Friday and will make this offense a little less unbalanced. But that's OK -- everyone contributed to a win, and even without 10 shots apiece on Friday and beyond, these players can continue to contribute.
Some player notes from the game:
DEMARCUS COUSINS. If there's an immediate concern on defense for Boogie, it's one familiar to Kings fans: getting out on jump-shooting big men. The league is FULL of them, and DMC didn't show the quickness required to make shooters think twice and (hopefully) play with fire by putting the rock on the floor. In post situations on defense, Cousins looked fairly strong. Of course, he was marking Darko Milicic, Nikola Pekovic and Kosta Koufos. So, you know, we'll see Friday when that becomes Brook Lopez in the pivot.
On offense, Cousins had a couple of bright, bright stretches: in the second quarter, with his thunderous (and possibly goaltending) putback dunk, a nifty runner in the lane, some beautiful and easy passes and some foul-drawing, and in the fourth quarter, with that great 5-point run with five minutes left, which included a strong half-hook in the lane. The five assists were great -- he hit Landry in smart spots repeatedly, and wouldn't hesistate to give his wings love on those back-to-the-basket give-and-gos. I dig it.
Strong debut for a strong fellow.
LUTHER HEAD: Did anyone else see a shorter Kevin Martin out there? Just me? OK.
Head was a model of efficiency, scoring 14 on five FGAs and eight FTAs. That's a one-game True Shooting percentage of .821, which makes Stephen Curry look like Antoine Walker. In the other facets of the game, Head had some tough defensive plays, knocking the ball away from Wes Johnson in transition at the rim and getting a monster block a Wolf (I can't recall who). Overall, the Wolves' backcourt scored too easily no matter which Kings were in the game; at no point should Sebastian Telfair be allowed to carve you up.
One concern going forward: if Head is the current back-up point guard to Udrih (Pooh Jeter played just four minutes in the first half), and if Garcia is going to soak up third-guard minutes with Evans back, can the second unit survive in those stretches when both Udrih and Evans sit, or will one of Udrih and Evans have to be in? The Head-led Kings survived, I suppose, but he's pretty clearly uncomfortable running the offense unless the offense is "Luther Head Creates Shot for Self, or Kicks It Out." Not knocking Luther's great performance; it just looked a little "Francisco Garcia or John Salmons at Point Guard" out there for me.
CARL LANDRY: Landry was the clear focal point of the offense; so good was Landry that Kurt Rambis pulled Kevin Love for the fourth quarter. (Unconscionable.) Landry had all of his bread buttered -- the outside jumper, the dribble-drive out of the triple-threat, the post work. But most lovely to see was the work on the offensive glass. Landry fought for the ball consistently, and was rewarded with seven offensive rebounds. I don't want to say Carl didn't fight for the ball toward the end of last season, but he certainly didn't have many tremendous rebounding performances like this one. Great to see, considering it's what he did so well for Houston.
That he had seven of those boards on offense means he had just four on defense in 37 minutes. Paul Westphal may have an explanation for that. Interesting topic to consider.
FRANCISCO GARCIA: That was Garcia realized, one that we probably won't see in the smaller doses Evans' return will demand. El Flaco had a team-high three turnovers, but none of them made you choke on your cashews. That fourth quarter block on Wayne Ellington damn near did, though! Garcia managed to be completely in control despite his optimal game personifying the phrase "out of control." I'm telling you, he'd be the guard version of Josh Smith if Russell Westbrook wasn't the guard version of Josh Smith.
Westphal believes in Garcia; if we weren't certain of that, I would have argued that this was a huge game for El Flaco in terms of cinching up minutes as Evans returns. Head played great, but Garcia was electric. They both will have a role going forward.
DONTE GREENE: Greene had a rough night from the floor (1-7, missing a couple open looks and forcing a few others) and especially the stripe (3-7). But he hit the boards, and shut down Michael Beasley for three quarters. Here's the quarter-by-quarter breakdown on Beasley's scoring.
In the end, Beasley scored 10 points on 3-7 shooting in 22.5 minutes on Greene, and seven points on 3-7 shooting in 12 minutes on Casspi. Beasley shot less frequently against Greene; whether that was due to Greene's defense or the lineups Rambis used is a whole 'nother question.
OMRI CASSPI: We covered Omri's defense above; he happened to shoot the ball well (4-6 floor, 2-2 line). He was what Westphal wants him to be: an energetic bench scorer. Well done.