Was lucky enough to be at the game tonight (thanks to a generous STR member who gave me their tickets when they couldn't go). Took my Dad with me. A quick background for those of you who don't know me. I grew up in Sacramento and my Dad took me to my first Kings game in 1987 (I was 6). Went to games with him and friends for years. I went to UCLA in '99 and have lived in LA since. Took a week off work though and took my Dad to 2 Kings games this week, which was really special.
Enough about me. The game tonight was incredible. As I described in another thread, when Reke dunked the ball to put us up by one. The 1/2 full stadium started going nuts. People were chanting DEFENSE as loud as I have heard since the elite teams we had. The crowd could smell blood in the water. When Mayo hit his shot, there was a sickly silence in Arco. After Reke's game winner, the areans was as loud and boisterous as I have heard in years. And if you've never been in the building for a buzzer beater, it is an adreneline rush like no other.
With that out of the way, player observations after the jump.
Ø Cousins had the quietest big line I’ve seen in awhile. 21 and 16 is huge, but he wasn’t forcing the issue as much tonight. He popped a couple of jumpers in rhythm instead of doing his normal jab steps first and was hitting them. He will be able to take over games more as he matures, but I was happy to see him forcing less tonight. He also played nice defense on Gasol and was really bothering him.
Ø Despite the line and heroics, Evans still doesn’t look right. His improved jumper and a couple of layups created by others padded his line. But he still isn’t exploding to the hoop like last year and is content to drift too much at times. He also got chased down on a couple of fast breaks. Hopefully his PF clears up soon.
Ø Thabeet is garbage. He was lost on the court. At one point, Udrih was driving and I said to my Dad, "Thabeet is out of position, this will be a foul." Sure enough, Thabeet tries to take a charge in the circle. And 1 for Beno. Oden over Durant will be more talked about, but at least Oden was a consensus #1 pick and derailed by injuries. Thabeet over Evans, Curry and Jennings was an abysmal pick at the time and is really looking like one of the worst picks in NBA history at this point.
Ø Casspi is improving rapidly on defense. He is truly earning his court time. Not only is he our most deadly 3 point shooter, but his defense on Gay tonight was outstanding. Couple that with some good help D that netted him 2 steals and I was very happy with his play.
Ø Cisco in the starting lineup is helping as well. He shoots the corner 3 very well and is a good veteran presence. This one was a good call by Westphal.
Ø I really wish Dalembert would just accept his role of dunking and shooting the occasional 15 footer on offence. I cringe every time he tries to create for himself or others. It has to be one of the most automatic turnovers in basketball. My Dad and I started shouting no, every time he got the ball and faced up. It resulted in 1 made fade away and at least 5-7 turnovers/bad possessions. His unwillingness to accept his limitations sadly negates a lot of positive qualities he bring to the court.
Ø I won’t belabor this, but Zach Randolph is legit. He’s wasting away in Memphis, but I’ll really enjoy watching him fill the ole Antoine Carr role off the bench for a contender the next couple of years. I really hope he goes that route too. Will be sad if he chases the money to win 30 games a year in Cleveland or Toronto.
Ø 1-legged Evans >>> Conley. And as others have noted before, when Evans wants to play D, he is a beast. He was fighting through screens tonight, contesting shots and overwhelming both Conley and Mayo at times. It was fun to watch.
Ø Why did Arco stop selling those mini-personal pizzas? The one slice of pizza is garbage. Almost as bad of a pick as Thabeet.
Ø I love the energy Pooh Jeter brings. He’s got fan favorite written all over him, just like Michael “Yogi” Stewart back in ’98-99. But just like Stewart, he doesn’t belong in the rotation of a serious team. We need a better backup PG next year. Although, Pooh seems like a great 11th or 12th man you can bring in when the team’s energy is low.
Ø Finally, on the issue of Paul Westphal. I hate to criticize a coach after a win, so let me start off by saying, at least this team is playing hard and has been competing. However, Evans heroics covered up for some suspect coaching. First, with 26 seconds left and us down by 1, Westphal had us trying for the steal instead of fouling. Worked this time, but once the ball is inbounded, we need to foul. Second, when he called our last timeout, I looked at my Dad and said “we’re probably going to need 2 baskets, we need to save a TO for late.” Considering Westphal diagramed a quick 2 pointer, we were putting ourselves in a bad position. Again, before Memphis inbounded the ball for their final shot, I told my Dad we would regret burning that timeout if they scored and we couldn’t advance the ball. That’s exactly what happened, but PW is very lucky Evans converted or else we would all be talking about how he wasted a timeout earlier.