Holy Crummy Defense! Spurs 115, Kings 113

Is Joe Maloof really on suicide watch after that? Sam Amick is there, knows better than I, and paints a dire portrait of the Kings' spirit following another loss, this one an eventual flame-out against a much better team. The Kings lost this game because of one bad offensive stretch (the first half of the fourth quarter) and a game-long exercise in awful defense. But in fairness to the Kings, the Spurs also played poor defense most of the game! The Spurs were just able to avoid a quick shooting slump. (Getting all their shots within three feet of the rim or without a Kings within 10 feet seemed to do the trick.)

For those who didn't view: this game was both not as close and as close as the final score indicates. Through three quarters, the game was this close. The lead changed hands numerous times, and neither team got comfortable until the Spurs pulled away early in the fourth with an 8-0 run. So when the deficit reached 11 late, that wasn't a real accurate summary of the game. It was tighter than that. But it also wasn't exactly a 2-point game. The Kings scored on some ridiculous baskets late (including Tyreke Evans's three at the horn) to tighten it up while playing the foul game. It's all fair in the end, as Sacramento missed plenty of open, makeable shots during that fourth quarter skid. What Kevin Martin missed in the fourth, Evans hit at the end.

For those keeping track of Martin-Evans Vs. Planet Earth, by the way, Evans looked just fine all game, Martin looked invisible in the first quarter (0-1 in six minutes, two early fouls), brilliant in the second (10 points on 4-6 shooting in 12 minutes), iffy in the third (five points on 2-6 shooting in 12 minutes) and just plain bad in the fourth (0-4, including a blown open but off-balance lay-up and three missed threes, in nine minutes). In the end, for the pair: 47 points, .543 eFG, 13 FTAs, nine assists (eight of them from Reke), five turnovers (four of them from Reke). That sounds OK to me. Not what we're looking for from the pair, but I'll take it.

But neither Evans or Martin played passable defense. Both looked really bad there, in real-time and on slow-motion replay. George Hill's 23 points agree. (Martin never really got burnt, but he was rarely in good position, at least from my vantage point. I'm not sure how much blame he deserves for that, but his lack of positive impact on that end was noticeable. Quite.) No one on the team played good defense, really, though I saw a fairly stable Spencer Hawes ... again. Ime Udoka played all of 11 minutes but got burnt like toast by Manu Ginobili. Donte Greene wasn't bad, but he was usually guarding Antonio McDyess, who is the opposite of featured in the S.A. offense. Omri Casspi had some very strong possessions guarding Richard Jefferson, but he also had a couple bad defensive possessions. Sergio Rodriguez, potentially as good as I've seen him on offense, was a defensive disaster. (Paul Westphal agreed, entering the rare time-out tirade against Sergio after a blown pick-and-roll on defense. From what I gather from reading Westphal's lips and watching Jon Brockman gesture, Sergio, guarding George Hill, chased over a screen while Brockman briefly showed before retreating with the screener, which of course allowed Hill his most liberating path to the basket all night, which is saying a lot, because Hill basically played with a 5-foot force field around him all game.)

According to Hoopdata's box score, the Spurs shot 24-27 within five feet. Twenty-four of twenty-seven. And the Kings still outshot them in total! (Sacramento shot .576 eFG, San Antonio .548.) At some point, there's nothing Hawes, Brockman, Greene, or Andres Nocioni can do. They are just not good enough to handle Tim Duncan (6-6 in the paint) or DeJuan Blair (6-7) in the paint. Maybe the coaching staff needs to come up with a strategy to prevent so many interior attempts, maybe the team just needs to play a big line-up and stick with it. (Hard to do without Jason Thompson, as Sean May proved in two quick minutes.) It's an impossible situation right now, hardly surprising but still deflating.

I guess, in the end, I'm like Of Course They Lost!, not Oh My God! Another Loss!. The team overachieved for a bit, and it's certainly underachieving a bit now. But we all know it's not about this year. It's about tomorrow, always tomorrow. I saw enough good in Evans, in Hawes, in Greene, in Casspi to keep off the ledge. If you're building a castle and a band of marauders steals some lumber in the cold of night, you don't throw your hands up and cry for mercy. You get some more coddamn lumber, and you assign a night watch, and you build that ufcking castle.

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