I don't know if it was being on National TV, the team finally clicking, or Denver not caring, but this was a fun game and a quality win against a good team. Did I mention how fun this game was? Other than for a portion of the 3rd quarter during which the Nuggets would come back from 14 down to tie the game, the Kings played some great basketball.
After the Golden State game, Coach Westphal said that the thing this team needed to learn most was poise. They needed to have the ability to not let their mistakes get to them or take them out of their game. Over the past few games, I think that the Kings are finally starting to learn that. Just take a look at how well they weathered Denver's run, and then continued to play well after that. The Kings outscored Denver in each quarter but the 3rd, but after being outscored 22-8 to start the 3rd, the Kings went on a 14-4 run to close it out and regain the lead.
The Kings also did a great job of attacking the basket, getting to the line 30 (!) times, matching Denver, who happen to lead the league in that category. The Reke-DMC duo was in full effect, and they had plenty of help as well. It was just a great all-around game for the team, and even though there are still more growing pains to come, these momentary glimpses into what the future could hold is exciting.
Player Recaps and Kingsflix Video after the jump.
Tyreke Evans: I said in the recap that he'd be the player to watch, and he did not disappoint. He looked so much quicker than he had been all season, and with that renewed quickness was a return to the style of basketball that made him the RoY, with attacking the basket. His dribble penetration was opening up players for wide open shots that we were converting as well, and later on in the game he had a very J-Will like bounce pass through the Nuggets defense that was just beautiful to watch. This is the Tyreke we've wanted to see all season, and he's now put together a solid string of games to go along with it.
DeMarcus Cousins: What great strides this kid has made this year. Nobody on this team learns quicker than him, and it shows. He is a very cerebral player, and combined with his physicality and finesse ability, he can become a force in this league. He also had some very good defensive moments later in the game against Nene, and thats an area where I've been most impressed with DeMarcus so far this year; He's not the defensive sieve I thought he was going to be, and in fact shows signs of one day being a good to very good defender, especially once he gets into proper NBA shape. Also if you noticed, once he got that tech after complaining to the refs all game, he didn't complain at all the rest of the game. This is another thing I hope carries over, because once he starts showing the refs some respect, he'll start getting some too.
Francisco Garcia: Cisco got off to a crazy hot start, hitting 4 threes in the first quarter, and it changed our game so much. With him hitting those threes, the Nuggets had to respect our outside shooting, and thus it opened the paint for us more. Cisco couldn't really handle Melo's size on defense though and got into a bit of foul trouble, although I did think Melo got bailed out a few times.
Beno Udrih: My underrated hero of the night. When the Nuggets were making their run and eventually tied the game, it was Beno who started forcing the issue and making some shots to keep the Kings out in front and eventually to push the lead back. He fulfilled my matchup of the game requirements by more than negating Billups effort.
Carl Landry: Still a bit too trigger happy on those jumpers, but they fell tonight, and he also did a good job taking it inside as well, which led to FTA and easy baskets. This was a good game for Carl, and if he would just attack inside all the time, I think we'd be seeing more and more of these kind of games from him as our designated bench scorer.
Omri Casspi: Another player who was hitting his shots tonight, Casspi also had some solid defensive moments against Melo too (and some not so solid moments during that 3rd quarter run). Omri rebounded well again tonight, grabbing 6 boards, which tied DMC for the lead. Normally that'd be a low number, but considering how both teams shot over 50% thats actually quite a bit. I don't think Omri will take the starting spot from Cisco anytime soon, but that also doesn't mean that he won't play more than Cisco, much like tonight.
Samuel Dalembert: He had a couple great defensive stops, and another one that was bailed out by Billups. But I hope Sammy will stop trying to force the issue offensively. It's infuriating watching him ISO. That's why Carl is in the game to pair with him, so he can be the ISO option. Westphal likes to go Defense/Offense in his C/PF pairings.
Pooh Jeter: A solid if unspectacular game from Pooh. He was hitting his jumpers tonight, and was acting more Bobby Jackson (Scorer) than Tyus Edney (distributor), which is ok, as he was doing his job well. He had a bit of trouble on the defensive end with Lawson and Afflalo, but that was to be expected.
Darnell Jackson: Nice three at the buzzer D-Block! Padding the stats of course.
In conclusion, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Reke Powers Kings Past Nuggets (via kingsflix)
Postgame: Paul Westphal 1/6/11 (via kingsflix)
Postgame: Casspi, Evans and DMC 1/6/11 (via kingsflix)