How do you shoot 32 percent and win an NBA game? You keep your opponent from scoring efficiently, you win a ton of offensive rebounds, and you don't turn the ball over.
The Kings shot 32 percent. Thirty-two of 100, in fact. Nice and round. That's a lot of shots! The Kings must have been running, right? Wrong. This was actually a fairly average paced game (91 possessions). But the Kings only turned the ball over nine times in those 91 possession (for a turnover rate of 9.9 percent, which is magnificent) and picked up 24 of the 61 available caroms on offense. That's a nice, fat 39 percent. (It's worth noting that OKC's offensive rebounding against Sacramento Tuesday night was better. The increased number of opportunities in this game masks that.) Six Kings had multiple offensive rebounds, led by Carl Landry and Ime Udoka with five each, and Spencer Hawes with four.
And while several Rockets still ended up with gaudy rebound numbers (18 for Luis Scola, eight each for Kevin Martin and Chase Budinger), Houston struggled to grab its own myriad misses (13 o-boards in 46 opps) and allowed the Kings to get putback attempt after putback attempt. Many of these putback attempts missed, yes, but a chance at two is better than no shot at all, from the Kings' perspective.
So what about the defense?
It was good! I think. It's impossible to tell with this team, because everything is somewhere between frantic and unrushed. The Rockets shot 5-22 from three ... but a number of those (including Aaron Brooks's final attempt) were pretty open. The Rockets shot 15-29 at the rim (51 percent, real low) ... but a number of those could have been Sacramento fouls, or just popped off the rim, a touch of bad fortune. Some of the defense was undeniably good. In particular, Ime Udoka was a veritable Scola stopper in his brief opportunity to match up with the Argentine. Beno Udrih, I think, did good work to make Martin work for his attempts. Landry handled the pick-and-roll really well. Francisco Garcia was mayhem.
But how much is repeatable, dependable? We have been conditioned to believe this team, this general collection of players cannot defend well consistently. For every taste of success (Sunday's Clippers game), we get blown back by failure (the Thunder game). So, maybe this is a cop-out, but the onus is on the Kings to prove this is indeed a new M.O. I'll believe it when I see it last a few games in a row.
You can't say Tyreke Evans gives up. Three of 11 at the rim, with five of them getting blocked. One of nine beyond 15 feet. And he's still trying to drive on Shane Battier, still taking 18-footers in the final minutes. I'd be cursing at the play calls (really? a high pick-and-roll that results in an 18-footer?) if I weren't so impressed by Reke's swagger.
Udoka shot terribly (3-12), but he might have been the non-Landry M.V.King. His defense was excellent, even as Houston got on a bit of a role. And the rebounding! What a tough dude.
The joy ripping through Landry's face the entire game was something to behold. Sometimes, pro team as family is a facade. Not for Landry and his Houston friends. That brotherhood is real, no doubt.