Kings 102, Spurs 127: Sacramento Gets A Lesson in Efficiency

April 18, 2012; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas (22) controls the ball against the San Antonio Spurs during the first quarter at Power Balance Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

For the first time in a week, I sat down to watch basketball. After the debacle on Friday, I couldn't bring myself to watch the Kings get annihilated by the Thunder. Sunday, I missed Marcus Thornton's game winner because of Greek Easter. Win or lose, I was glad that for a couple of hours at least, I was once again watching and caring about basketball, and not the ugly business side of it that has darkened my mood this past week.

Well, at least one of those hours was enjoyable.

The Spurs absolutely obliterated the Kings in the 2nd half on way to a dominant effort. It was their third win in three nights, and all victories had a margin of victory of over 20 points. That's just absurd, especially for a team that's supposed to be old and didn't play the legendary Tim Duncan at all tonight.

San Antonio shot 58.8% for the game, getting absolutely everything they wanted on offense. They also were 38.1% from three, and made 80.6% of their 31 free throw attempts. Calling Sacramento's defense poor is an offense to Oliver Twist. Seven Spurs players scored in double digits, followed by three more with at least 8. Tiago Splitter and Gary Neal both had 17 points off the bench for the Spurs, combining to shoot 14 of 17 from the field.

Sacramento on the other hand had a much more top-heavy effort. Isaiah Thomas led the team with 21 points and 8 assists (1 turnover) in 30 minutes, and Marcus Thornton also chipped in 20 points in 28 minutes. The Kings offense wasn't bad, shooting 44.6% and getting 22 assists to 11 turnovers, but it wasn't offense that was the problem.

DeMarcus Cousins had 18 points and 9 rebounds in just 27 minutes. Unfortunately, the reason he only played 27 minutes was because he ended up fouling out. Tyreke Evans was absolutely shut down once again by the Spurs, scoring just 5 points on 8 shots in 38 minutes. For all of Evans' faults, that's still pretty remarkable. Jason Thompson was the only other Kings player in double digits with 10 points and 6 rebounds.

The Kings got off to a brilliant start, running the break and getting easy opportunities. It took San Antonio almost three minutes to get on the scoreboard. After that though, it didn't take long for San Antonio to join the party. Neither team played much defense whatsoever, and it was a back and forth scoring affair. The Spurs won the first quarter by a point, and both teams scored 29 points in the 2nd quarter. Penetration was coming way too easy for both teams, although San Antonio was doing a particularly great job of it, getting to the basket whenever they wanted and also drawing contact and getting to the line.

The Spurs, veteran team that they are, came out with a much more defensive approach in the 2nd half, and it paid off big time. The Kings still managed to score 29 points in the quarter, but the Spurs did even better, scoring 39. A big part was due to fastbreak opportunities started by deflections and sloppy passes by the Kings. Rookie Kawhi Leonard came alive in this quarter, scoring 9 points and playing absolutely excellent defense on Tyreke Evans. It really seems that after having huge trouble with Evans his first couple of years in the league, Popovich and the Spurs have figured out how to stop Tyreke better than almost any other team.

Manu Ginobili also came alive in the 3rd quarter. Everyone talks about how good Tyreke would be if he could develop a jumpshot. If you want proof, look at Ginobili. Ginobili is like Tyreke Evans in the fact that he can get to the basket at will, but Ginobili is also an excellent shooter, from anywhere on the floor. He can pull up for threes, go left, go right, hit mid-range jumpers... he really has no offensive weaknesses. Dirk Nowitzki is easily the greatest foreign player to play the game, but Ginobili is up there as well.

The Kings had an injury scare late in the 3rd quarter when Marcus Thornton seemingly bumped knees with Manu Ginobili when trying to fight through a screen. Thornton had to be taken off the court, and while he started walking himself, it was with a severe limp. Later, the broadcast announced that he had a left thigh contusion (the same injury that has caused him to miss many games this year) and that he would not be returning. I guess nobody told Marcus though, because he came back and played a little bit in the 4th quarter. At this point, with just 4 games remaining for the Kings, I wouldn't mind Marcus taking the rest of the season off and getting some extra rest on that thigh, particularly since it's been a bugaboo all year.

The massacre continued going into the 4th quarter. DeMarcus Cousins fouled out after playing just 27 minutes, and despite a hurt Marcus Thornton coming in, the Kings couldn't find their rhythm while the Spurs just kept on rolling. The defensive intensity stepped up yet another notch for the Spurs while Sacramento's offense went down the drain. The Spurs started the fourth quarter out on a 20-6 run over the first 7 minutes of the game, and then it became garbage time officially as guys like Tyler Honeycutt and James Anderson checked in. Of course, Isaiah Thomas never gave up, but it was too little, too late for the Kings. The deficit had become too large, and the Kings fell to 20-42 on the year with just two home games remaining.

Despite the elephant in the room off the court, it is abundantly clear there are still issues with this team on the court that need fixing. The Kings have spent the last three years acquiring youth and talent. First they only had Tyreke Evans. Now they have added Thornton, Cousins, Thomas, Williams and Fredette and will have another high lottery pick this summer. They need to add quality players around them as well, but until I see it, I doubt the Kings will spend that much money in Free Agency.

Sacramento plays again on Friday night against the Thunder, their 2nd of three matchups versus Oklahoma City this week.

Random Observations:

  • Jimmer becomes a completely different player (on offense) when Terrence Williams is on the court. Partly because Williams rewards Jimmer's hard work of getting open by passing him the ball.
  • DeMarcus, I don't care if it works every once in a while, please don't go full court by yourself. Get the ball to your guards.
  • Did anyone else notice that when they showed Bill Walton and Gary Gerould on the radio side, Gary had almost a pained, forced smile on his face?
  • Jerry talked about PER on the broadcast and said it was a pretty good indicator of how good a player was, and used it to compare Isaiah to other guards. I would agree with Jerry here a little bit, but one thing PER does not value much of at all is defense, because that is so hard to statistically quantify. If it did take defense into account, no doubt Isaiah's PER would be even higher. But so would a guy like Rondo, who Isaiah currently has a higher PER than (mainly because Isaiah is a much better scorer than Rondo).
  • How many freaking And-Ones did the Spurs have tonight? It felt like they were setting some sort of record.
  • I see why Marcus is so shy about running through screens. Every time he tries he gets nailed in the thigh.
  • Last year I though of Gary Neal as not much other than a spot-up shooter. This year he seems to have developed a much more complete offensive game. He was driving to the basket, nailing floaters, hitting mid-range shots, just a spectacular performance by Neal.
  • Only the Spurs could make the addition of Stephen Jackson look brilliant. This organization is amazing, and Spurs fans have to feel lucky. I feel that a lot of it has to do less with who the Spurs acquire so much as the staff getting guys, giving them roles, and letting them thrive in those roles. It feels like no matter who the Spurs pick up, that guy ends up contributing in a meaningful way.
  • Is it just me or has DeMarcus stopped trying to get charges?
  • Is it ok to consider Ginobili and Evans run-in-to-eachother hilarious since nobody got seriously hurt? Tell me someone got a GIF of that.

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