The Kings had a great chance at beating a very good Orlando Magic team tonight but had trouble executing down the stretch, and eventually fell as the veteran Magic were able to capitalize on the Kings mistakes and seal the victory. Tyreke Evans was a whirling dervish in the lane, scoring 28 points on just 16 shots, while adding 8 assists and 3 rebounds. DeMarcus Cousins was aggressive early, scoring most of his 16 points in the 1st quarter. Foul trouble kept him limited for most of the game though and he only managed 22 minutes, but he still managed to get 10 rebounds as well as 3 blocks.
Orlando managed to win despite Dwight Howard being almost a non-factor due to foul trouble thanks to good performances by Jason Richardson (23 points, 5 assists) and Glen "Big Baby" Davis (20 points, 8 rebounds). Orlando shot a whopping 32 threes in the game, only making 10, but Sacramento just couldn't hit any of their own, going 3-20 despite an otherwise good shooting performance (The Kings finished with a season high 52.1% FG%).
This game came after Keith Smart's first (and only) practice as Head Coach, and changes to the system were already apparent. The team wants to run, and run they did, scoring 19 fast break points to Orlando's 2. The team also seems to be doing a better job of feeding the bigs like DeMarcus and Hickson while they're inside the paint and giving them better chances to score. The ball movement also seems much better, and while we only had 16 assists, a lot of that was due to guys just flat out missing their open shots, particularly from three. There also seemed to be much more defined roles. This is especially noticeable when you look at Tyreke, who is running the offense most of the time now, while under Westphal that duty seemed to have been split between 3 or 4 people.
The three killed us tonight. We did a decent job defending against Orlando's three point barrage, but we couldn't make any ourselves. Marcus Thornton was the only one who did manage to hit any, and that was only because he kept jacking them up (he hit 3 of 9). Speaking of Marcus, he did not have a good game aside from one stretch in the 3rd quarter. He only shot 5 of 16 from the field, had no assists, didn't get to the line, and fouled out. It's hard to win when your best scorer is having a bad night.
Turnovers (17) also really killed the Kings. Some of it was pure sloppiness, some was bad decision making, and others were just timing being off. They did manage to really cut down on their turnovers in the 4th quarter, but they also stopped moving the ball as much.
The Kings had a few chances to win at the end but just executed poorly. Dwight finally played for a while in the 4th quarter and I think his presence kind of threw off our game a little bit after having played so much of the game without him in there. The team also reverted back to too much one on one, and Orlando hit some big shots. When Hedo hit a crazy off balance three off the glass, it was pretty much over.
Despite the loss, there was a lot of good to take from the game. This team is still growing and adapting to their new coach, and now will have to take this show on the road. It is unknown whether the Kings will recall Hassan or Tyler for added depth with Chuck out and Marcus and Tyreke hurting (both went down with injuries tonight, but both continued to play), or even if they look to sign someone else. The Kings can ill afford any more injuries, particularly when this is essentially Coach Smart's training camp.