After a strong first quarter, it was all downhill for Sacramento. Deron Williams put on a masterful performance and had a lot of help from his teammates along the way as the New Jersey Nets ran away with this game in the second half. The third quarter in particular doomed the Kings as New Jersey scored 32 points to just 20 for the Kings.
Tyreke Evans was the only player who really got anything going for the Kings. This may have had something to do with not having played the night before, because he looked fresh on his way to 23 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals. 10 of those points came in the 4th quarter as the Kings made a desperate attempt at a comeback, but were too late to make a difference.
Deron Williams struggled from the field, going just 6 for 17, but he got to the line 8 times to finish with 19 points. More importantly he had 15 assists, getting his teammates involved on every play. Watching Williams orchestrate his offense was a joy to watch as a basketball fan. If anybody was open, Williams knew about it and he usually found them. A big benefactor was the sharpshooting Anthony Morrow, who scored a game-high 24 points in 31 minutes off the bench. He was 8 of 17 from the field, but most of his damage came from behind the arc as he went 6 of 11 from three. That's double the amount of threes the Kings hit as a team.
On paper, the Kings had a big advantage in the frontcourt with DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson facing up against the likes of Johan Petro, Kris Humphries, and Jordan Williams. But Cousins struggled after the first quarter, particularly with foul trouble, and finished with 14 points and 9 rebounds in just 27 minutes. Jason Thompson had a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards but didn't make that much of an impact. On the other side, the Nets matched up well, with Johan Petro scoring 12 points, Kris Humphries having 14 (and 12 boards) and Jordan Williams chipping in 7 points off the bench.
Moving and taking care of the ball were again an issue for the Kings as they had more turnovers (18) than assists (17). Just last week it looked like the Kings had taken a step forward here but these last few games have shown they still have some work to do in this department (Oh crap, does having John Salmons actually improve our ball movement???).
As mentioned previously, the Kings fell apart in the third quarter. Sacramento scored just one field goal and 6 points in the first 5 minutes after the break. They managed to get it together a little bit after that, but they weren't able to cut it down to less than 7 from then on. The Kings fell apart again in the final three minutes though, as the Nets went on a 12 to 4 run. The capper was Anthony Morrow knocking down a three pointer and getting fouled by Jimmer to boot to put New Jersey up 15 heading into the 4th.
15 points is a large deficit to have to fight in just 12 minutes, but it's not insurmountable. The 4th quarter got off to an ugly start for both sides, neither team getting a rhythm going. Unfortunately, it was the Nets who got into their rhythm first and it was all thanks to Deron Williams. Deron got to the line, found his wingmen for open threes, and got to the bucket. One big sequence that essentially ended the game was when he found DeShawn Stevenson for a three, and then stole the inbounds pass and got an easy layup to put the Nets up 19 points with a little over half the quarter remaining.
As you can imagine, at this point many fans left and I honestly don't blame them. But the Kings didn't stop playing and the group led by Tyreke Evans went on a 12-0 run over the next three minutes. Evans was a monster in transition, and Terrence Williams, newly signed for the rest of the season, wasn't bad himself. With 3:56 seconds left, Williams found Garcia for a jumper and it was once again a 7 point game.
Once again it was Deron Williams that would save the Nets though, turning from set-up man to scorer to put the game out of reach once and for all. The Nets defense stepped up too, packing the paint better on Tyreke Evans' penetration. In fact, the Kings scored just 4 more points the rest of the game.
Another thing I had a big issue tonight were Keith Smart's rotations. They haven't been the greatest this year, but tonight struck me as worse than usual. Too many times the Kings have had lineups without a legitimate rebounder out there. Also, our bench is not nearly good or deep enough without John Salmons (damn am I starting to miss him or something?) to be out there by themselves. Isaiah Thomas didn't play at all in the 4th quarter, and Cousins played just a minute before picking up his 5th foul.
Jimmer Fredette again saw significant playing time, with 14 minutes off the bench. It was a bit of a mixed bag for Jimmer. I liked what I saw from him to start the game, as he drove to the basket and hit the floater I've wanted him to take so bad all year. He followed that up with a three as well. Defensively he obviously couldn't handle Deron Williams (nobody could), and he was too small to deal with Anthony Morrow or Gerald Green. I also find it curious that the Kings management and coaching staff keeps calling Jimmer a point guard, but always end up having him play off the ball. Previously it was John Salmons running the point forward, and now it's Terrence Williams. I see flashes with Jimmer, but we really need him to become consistent. Fortunately, consistency is not something usually seen in rookies and he still has plenty of time to prove his potential.
Terrence Williams continued to show why this team is so high on him. He's a pest defensively and he might just have the best court vision on the team. His decision making sometimes is iffy, and his shot isn't great, but he's got talent and the Kings need talent.
Isaiah Thomas had his hands full with Deron Williams and I thought he did a better job than anybody in trying to stay in front of him, but Deron is just too big and strong for him. At one point the Kings switched Marcus Thornton onto Deron and put Isaiah on Morrow. I didn't like this for a couple of reasons. First, Marcus isn't that great of a defender. Second, Isaiah at least can stay in front of Deron, while Morrow's strength is the catch and shoot, where he could really take advantage of Isaiah's height.
Chuck Hayes' weaknesses are being greatly exacerbated by the fact that so often he is left as the only big man on the floor. He's also kind of useless when he doesn't have an elite big man to guard. His greatest strength is guarding post-up players, and the Nets didn't have a go-to post player. Their big men score by getting free and having Williams find them for easy looks. Hayes' height also really hurts him on the glass. He didn't grab a single board in 13 minutes of play, and a majority of that time he was the Kings only big on the court.
Donté Greene has been playing the de facto backup fours since Hickson's left, and while he has really improved in the rebounding department, he just can't physically match up with the stronger bigs. The Kings HAVE to get another rotation quality big this summer. You'll be hearing this mantra from me a lot the next few months.
For those of you that care about this, one bright spot from tonight's loss is that the Kings lottery odds improved. The Nets got a game on the Kings in the ping-pong ball race, which in this game, is not a good thing. But that's if you're still clinging to the false hope that the Kings might actually jump up in the draft for the firs time ever.
This was the first of a four game homestand for the Kings as the Timberwolves come back into town on Monday. Hopefully the result will be different than tonight.
- DeMarcus has a lot of fun with his teammates in the pre-game warmups. Chemistry is developing on this team.
- Seriously, I don't get the boos for Kris Humphries. So what, he married and then divorced a Kardashian. Why do you care?
- It's games like these that I look at what Tyreke can do and realize he's still just 22 years old and well away from his prime. We treat this guy way too harshly sometimes, but only because of our "we want it now!" mentality.
- Gerald Wallace still gets a bunch of cheers whenever he's announced. He has to be the most celebrated ex-Kings player that barely did anything while in a Kings uniform.
- Marcus Thornton had 8 boards. For a little guy, he does attack the glass hard.
- Francisco Garcia 15 minutes, +/- of -18 if you care about such things. Donté was at 16 minutes and -17. Single-game +/- isn't all that valuable of a statistic though. Small Sample Size and all that.