Well, I guess it's payback. The Kings made a valiant comeback effort last week against the Warriors, only to come up a couple key buckets short. The same happened last night, only in reverse. So, I guess it's a wash.
Brad Miller, of course, came up big down the stretch. I won't lie, though - I'm kind of worried about The Congressman. It's nothing actually about B-52 himself, it's about how teams are defending him. Opponents are learning that you have to stay up in Miller's face to keep him from creating. We've seen San Antonio use this defense, and I think New Orleans pulled it, too. But it's becoming so well known around the league that even Mike Freaking Montgomery pulled it out last night. Murphy guarded Miller much of the game, and it generally consisted of staying with B-52 at all costs and sticking a few dancing hands in his face.
The counterattack to this is obviously sticking the ball on the floor and driving. And yeah, you can do that to a Golden State or a Phoenix, where there's no one under the hoop to frighten you. But against teams that rotate perfectly, like San Antonio, or teams with some major shot-blocking prowess, like Dallas - well then Brad has to drive and kick. That's one area of his game that seriously lacks, his passing on the run. (It's funny, because that's a skill Mike Bibby has in spades. But MB10 isn't so great at creating the great pass from out high - he's got to be moving and running and coming off picks to drop dimes. Witness that beautiful no-look wrap-around to Bonzi at the end of the game last.)
So Brad's got to get confident driving and dishing, or else every squad in the league is going to plant a guy in his personal space. (This is when Kenny becomes somewhat of a offensive liability - he's a natural choice to leave open when you need to double-down on an Artest or Bonzi on the block. And Kenny, if he gets the ball on his spot off the double, will shoot. He only hits about 40 percent of those. Yet if he sneaks into the lane when his man leaves home, he's really only there for a putback chance, because Bonzi won't pass in the lane and Ron-Ron can't pass in the lane. All I'm saying is that opponents would be fools to double off of Shareef. Another wrinkle to add to the ensuing KT-Reef debate.)
Also worrying, of course, is the following:
- Mike Bibby is hurt. He had little lift in the second half, little burn left in him. It actually made the above-mentioned no-look wrap-around that much more impressive - he was damn-near limping when he pulled it out of his bag. (By the way, Grant called it the 'most beautiful play of the season.' It was pretty spectacular, and came at a big moment, yes. But I nominate that Artest drive on Kirilenko for 'most beautiful play of the season.' I mean, it was basketball in its purest form.
- Francisco Garcia is not healthy yet. He's healthy enough to be effective in spurts, yes. But should he have to play any major minutes in the next week (which includes a back-to-back in which the most physical team in the league is an opponent), that bum wheel might show a bit more. Kind of frightening, because we all know how valuable the two kids will be.
- No one seems confident when they talk about Kevin Martin's return. Not Sam Amick in The Bee, not Grant, no one. It's worrying. He needs two weeks in the rotation minimum to have a chance at contributing in the playoffs, I think. (He needs some confidence-building minutes, unlike a guy like Bonzi, who is instant energy and an instant ball-hawk.) And as we said above, we all know how valuable the two kids will be.
- Kenny Thomas's offense has disappeared. Eh, it was bound to happen. We all wish it would've happened sometime this summer, but still. Can't complain after the better part of four months of relative efficiency.
- Kobe Bryant, err um The Lakers, are scorching. That team is going to be really tough to catch at this point. (And I'm no longer assuming the Suns would smoke them in four. Kobe is that evilly good.)
- Welcome to Sacramento, Jason Hart. Glad you could join us. Stay as long as you like.
- Shareef has convinced me that he could be the fourth best offensive big in the post in the Western Conference, behind Tim Duncan, Elton Brand and Yao Ming. Convince me otherwise.
- No free Chalupas for the Warriors fans last night. They're already done. But don't underestimate of breaking their fans' spirit completely. I hope they don't score 100 at home the rest of the way.