What a miserable game to watch. With all the hype and energy surrounding the Knicks currently and the way these Kings have stepped up playing in the Garden the last few years, you'd think that they'd come out looking to prove something. Instead the Kings came out flat and stayed that way much of the night.
Jeremy Lin's streak of 20 point games was ended at 6, but his scoring wasn't needed. As expected, he absolutely killed the Kings running the Pick & Roll, and he ended up with 13 assists (to go with 10 points and 5 rebounds) in just 26 minutes of play. Six more Knicks scored in double-figures, and Tyson Chandler had 9. Landry Fields led New York with 15, and Bill Walker and Steve Novak chipped in 14 each. The Knicks as a whole shot 51.3% from the field, and led pretty much throughout, as the Kings never made much noise.
The Kings were led in scoring by Tyreke Evans 19 points, most of which came in the 3rd quarter. New York was giving Evans free reign to shoot as many jumpers as he wanted, preferring to take their chances there instead of at the rim. DeMarcus Cousins had 15 points but just 4 boards, as Tyson Chandler did a very good job defending him. Chandler's presence greatly altered the game for New York on defense. He only blocked two shots, but he altered a great many more just by being in the general area of the hoop or by contesting.
Marcus Thornton started off hot but ended up cooling off late, finishing with 13 points on 14 shots. Isaiah Thomas was the only other player in double digits for the Kings with 14 points, 13 of which came in the 4th quarter alone, and 11 in the final three minutes. Isaiah was getting booed by the New York faithful all game, solely due to his name; Knicks fans do not remember the reign of Isiah Thomas, GM, fondly.
Sacramento really showcased their bad habit of overhelping tonight, and it led to Lin finding the open man more often than not. The Kings do a really bad job of sagging off of really good three point shooters (like Novak) to help on the inside. Players need to realize who they are guarding and make smart decisions on when to stick with their man and when they can sag off and help.
At the 4 minute mark of the 4th quarter, with the game easily out of the way, Coach Smart put Hassan Whiteside in. This was just the 2nd game of Whiteside's NBA career. I could not have been more disappointed. Whiteside's on-court demeanor was as if he was going through the motions instead of trying to play with energy and earn future playing time. He was slow to react on rebounds, and almost turned the ball over on a lazy pass. He also missed his only two shots badly. He did finish with one block shot though.
The biggest disappointments however came from players who have had plenty of time to prove themselves. John Salmons was just 1-5 from the field and got killed by Landry Fields early in the game. J.J. Hickson still hasn't seen a jumper he doesn't like, and Jason Thompson missed all three of his FGA and went just 1-4 from the line. Isaiah may have finished with 14 points, but played lousy for most of the game, chucking shots up and going 1-8 before finishing 5-6. Chuck Hayes continues to be an offensive zero.
Travis Outlaw did have a nice game with 9 points on 4-5 shooting, mostly right at the rim on breakaways. He also did a nice job defending Jeremy Lin. Jimmer Fredette finished with 8 points on 5 shots, but went just 1-4 from three. This speaks to another problem the Kings have, of identifying where players are on the floor and getting it to them in a position they're comfortable. At one point early in the 4th quarter, Jimmer was constantly finding himself open on the wings, but whatever King had the ball (usually Tyreke or Isaiah) would not get it to him. I'm not saying that Jimmer deserves the ball by any means, but he is the team's best three point shooter, and not even looking in his direction just shows poor court awareness. Tyreke finally got the ball to Jimmer, but threw the ball right at his feet, putting him in a bad position to take the shot and causing him to miss.
Another problem the team has is passing up good shots to take tougher shots. Jimmer has done this a bunch this season, and tonight had a moment where he passed up an open two foot shot to kick it back out. Tyreke consistently fades away on his jumpers, whether he's being contested or not. A lot of the Kings players also have the bad habit of doing what I call the "Luther Head special": pump-faking when they have an open shot and then taking the shot as the opposing player closes in and gets a better contest.
Sacramento needs to find a way to play with the same energy on the road as they do at home, or there will continue to be many more nights like this one. They'll get a chance to redeem themselves on Friday in Detroit, against one of the few teams with a worse record than Sacramento. That game will by no means be a game the Kings should expect to win, but it is a game they should be targeting.