I promised the piece, so I am delivering. First off, I apologize to anybody that was put off by my antics, as I was bursting at the seams with energy. I stood, I screamed 'defense' even when my section was quiet. My lack of etiquette can be explained by my prolonged absence from Sleep Train Arena, and I was super excited for weeks before the game. So, to anyone who found themselves in Section 222 loathing the hoarse teenager in a black t-shirt, I am sorry.
Moving on, this game was a masterpiece driven by we, the fans. Smart and the players alike where praising our energy, even going as far as to say it got them the win tonight. I usually don't believe that the 6th man can exclusively drive a team to a win, especially in such quality fashion, but that is just about what we did last night.
I know I have mentioned this, but it has been 11 years and 11 months since I last saw the Kings play in person (and we won by 11? Weird.). Mark Jackson was playing for the Knicks at the time, if you want to gain an idea of how long its been. I was nervous at first, I really wanted us to win; however, most of the night I was concentrated on how the fans were acting, because even if the Kings were to have lost by thirty, the fans would remain the most important part of Here We Buy Night. In summary, I came in hoping for a moral victory and got a very real win out of the night.
Throughout the night I made several observations that stuck:
- Isaiah Thomas actually looks smaller in person than on TV, never thought that would be possible. But that man is the real deal. He remains one of our most confident shooters, and by far our most confident ball handler outside of Evans. He tore these Jazz up to the tune of 10-16 shooting for 25 points, and rounded out a pretty complete game with 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals that showed how much he was pestering the other team for the ball. My girlfriend, who had never watched a Kings game before last night said that she wanted a Thomas jersey midway through the third quarter.
- Section 222 loved them some Jimmer. The guys behind me were constantly trying to start Jimmer chants, and I'll be honest there were points where I wanted to join in. Keith Smart managed his lineups pretty decently last night, switching out starters incrementally instead of his typical platoon swaps that have marred our second quarters the entire year. I have never seen people get so excited about a 9 point outing, but Jimmer's 4-6 shooting in less than 15 minutes shows exactly why Smart needs to get him off the bench more. There were several times in the third quarter where I was wondering when Jimmer would finally come in. Despite his -10 +/- for the night, I felt the team was often playing better on offense when Jimmer found himself on the court.
- I don't remember Jimmer and Isaiah on the court together at the same time. Found this odd, because Isaiah was on fire, and Jimmer was playing efficiently with his shots, something we needed pretty badly at times from our backcourt.
- Jason Thompson is not the King of fake hustle, sorry. 21 points and seven rebounds on 9-11 shooting is an all-star level outing, and Thompson is serving as a spark-plug for the offense when it went stagnant in the third quarter. That ally-opp dunk he made pretty much is the cause my voice won't be the same for weeks. Great outing by Thompson, those kind of nights justify his contract, and my growing fandom of him.
- Francisco Garcia! What a night for him on the defensive end. There was a possession in the fourth where he simply would not allow his man through, even when the game was pretty far out of reach. Amassing four blocks throughout the night, at least two of them leading to great transition buckets on the other end. His momentum changing plays were a huge reason the Kings were able to keep composed and maintain the lead that they had.
- I love this team, but there are possessions on offense I just loathe. At one point, four players were walking slowly up the court while Isaiah brought up the ball. Nobody was trying to make the opportune play, it was molasses out there. Terrible basketball. If Smart wants to keep his job 'forever' he is going to have to start making more set plays for these guys.
- Tyreke Evans looks like a whole new player out there. He isn't forcing anything crazy, except for his first layup breakaway in the first quarter. He plays within the offense, and looks like he is playing a smart game most every time he got the ball. He had a quiet game, but was very effective.
- For all the time Cousins has spent off the court this year, he looks so lean in person compared to when he came into the league. I believe that DeMarcus is indeed devoted to playing well, and being successful in this league; however, I often wonder if he cares about succeeding with the Kings in the long-term. It was funny though, every time he would get a foul, the entire arena got tense and stiff, waiting for him to blow up on the officials. He didn't, so that was good. Still, his body language is miles from most players in the league.
- Robinson may be raw, but he is scrappy. I like that.
- On the other side, Burks decided that he would be the King killer of the night. Boasting a 38 FG% through the season, Burks scored a clean 24 on 7-15 shooting, while going perfect at the line 9-9. My biggest knock on him throughout his draft season was his jump-shot, but it looked pretty smooth against us. Sometimes a guy catches, though I guess.
- At the beginning of the game, we booed the other team's players, which I felt odd about. Keep in mind this is a rare occurrence for me, so I felt out of place. I couldn't help but feel bad for Marvin Williams as boos cascaded down on him, because I want him playing for us.
- Enes Kanter had his way with most of our big men, but when DeMarcus came in he wasn't able to get much of anything. Cousins was far superior in the post, and bullied Kanter whenever he got the chance. When Kanter got the ball, he had little success when trying to do the same. I like his style, but for the third pick in the draft he gets a "meh". Also: four turnovers off the bench helps nobody, except us.
- DeMarre Carrol was another guy who I had no idea who he was, while he contended for the prestigious King Killer of the Night award with Burks. He hustled and played smart. Now I'm not sure if that's how he always is, or if that's just a result of our bench unit.
- Al Jefferson scored the quietest sixteen in a half that I have ever seen. He is a very skilled big man, who seems like he's wasting his best years on a middling Utah team. I hope that he is dealt to a better team that can contend with him.
- Was disappointed I couldn't see Gordon Hayward play. I read an article on SB Nation comparing him to Paul George, and I really wanted to see the Butler product in action.
I'll be totally, brutally honest. I expected more from the crowd. 16,000 plus could have been louder. I looked downstairs at some sections, and a lot of them weren't even making noise. The sections to my right were; however, very active and made the night for a lot of people. A big portion of the crowd seemed kind of quiet when they shouldn't have been, but I guess it was okay.
The Tsunami Wave was madness, and I loved it. It completely disrupted the game, and nobody was able to make a shot. I think that we should start doing that whenever the other team has the ball because it totally threw everybody off. I recorded it on my phone, but it didn't save I guess. Oh well, photographic memory serves well in this instance.
I had to leave thirty minutes after the game, sleepy girlfriend was getting irate with me. I didn't want to leave, I wanted to scale down to the lower seats and be a part of that court-side chant group that was there probably awhile after I left. The chants were amazing all throughout, and all TV broadcasts seem to have heard them very clearly.
Tonight we sent a message to the league. This team is ours, and we are going to kick and scream to keep them. At the end of the game, the new friend I had made turned to me and said,
"It was great watching the team tonight with you."
I turned back and simply said, "Let's hope we can do this again next year." He nodded.
I cannot wait for my next live Kings game, but I would rather never return to that arena than have this team leave. I most likely cannot go to another game this season, but this an amazing experience I don't think I'll ever forget.