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The Invisible Presence

Ron Artest was invisible for about 75% of that game. Not contiguously -- he popped up here and there with a dramatization of a crime or a turnover or a steal. He took seven FGAs in 40 minutes, with 4 FTAs and 4 TOs. That's 13 offensive possessions. In the Boston game, he ended 24 possessions. The Milwaukee game? 20. The Denver game: 21. Against the Clippers, 27. He was roughly half as engaged in the Kings offense as usual (so far as usual means 'without Mike Bibby and Kevin Martin'). And it was perfect.

Artest ended with a game-high +20. Why? Partly because the Kings offense was tremendous, led by point guard Brad Miller. Without Artest posting up from 18 feet and without Artest contemplating the triple-threat stance from 25 feet, the ball moved. Only John Salmons stopped the ball much; when he did, though he nearly immediately got his bearings and drove, which resulted in some nifty finishes and some nifty drops off/drop-offs. Miller and Beno Udrih fed Mikki Moore with a freaking spoon, and Moore's become one of the best interior finishers I can remember amongst our recent bigs. No lay-ups, no flips. Just dunk after dunk after dunk. It's nice.

The other reason the team was so effective even while Ron-Ron mostly stayed away from the ball? Artest's defense. He absolutely stifled Andre Iguodala, played him perfectly through the first half. That's what we usually see teams do to Kevin, only they do it with two players or a scheme. But Ron by himself is plenty enough. You underrate having a lockdown defender; it'd freed up the rest of the team to pay attention to the other Philadelphia guards. Without Ron, I'm not sure Salmons is keeping Dala under wraps in man defense... and Salmons is a strong defender. Philadelphia had an average or worse offensive night because of Ron's defense on Dala, it all started there.

Give the Kings credit for overcoming a terrible 10 minutes to start the game and an uneven bench effort. Like I said in the preview, this is an opponent in which you must play perfect from wire to wire in order to win. The Kings didn't, certainly. But they got the win. Udrih bounced back, Salmons bounced back -- the defense on Andre Miller even bounced back with a dash of zone and some extra attention. It wasn't the team's best defensive effort, but it was plenty good.

If the Kings play like this against Washington, it'll be a close one. Don't overrate the victory too much -- Philadelphia's not good. But when the Kings are on the road, it really doesn't matter. A win is a win.