I have not been on board with "lose every game but compete" mindset, mostly because these Kings will lose (almost) every game without our help, and because this team really competes quite infrequently. More than all that snark, I really don't like watching kids we will depend on in the future suffer blow after blow. We don't want to see Jason Thompson hang his head, Kevin Martin look at his feet, Spencer Hawes curse up a storm. Even polarizing players like Beno Udrih -- I don't want to see him suffer continued defeat. So ta' hell with "competing" -- win these things.
That's where my head is on games like the previous Bucks game at home, or the Wizards game. The team didn't compete for three quarters in either game. The late surge isn't enough. It's never enough for the Kings. I can't live with a series of Custer's Last Stands. We wouldn't allow that for a good game, and we shouldn't just shrug it off with a really bad team.
But this -- a complete effort, tip to buzzer -- this I can live with. The Kings never went a moment without some expression of urgency, and the energy came from more than your typical suspects. Brad Miller beat himself up about the two late misses, but obviously he should be proud of his activity level and attention from start to stop. Spencer Hawes continues the battle the refs, but he found a way to free up for a few terrific plays (on either end). You might think Kevin Martin was quiet, and the turnovers were tough. But I'll take 20 points on 13 shooting possessions every day. (But seriously, cut the turnovers.) Jason Thompson, you know he'll do it -- 16/9, a +8 in 29 minutes. (More on Thompson below.) Beno Udrih's shot wasn't flawless, and the bad attempt on a set play late, the one in which Luke Ridnour knocked it loose on Beno's way up ... awful. But overall, Beno played smart and fresh. When he got ditched on a pick or off the dribble, he continued moving. The defense overall ended up looking poor, but that's because the team has poor defenders. For once, it wasn't because the team doesn't care.
The worry here is that the team knew this game was the sole opportunity for a win on this trip, and thus spent it all gunning for the W. Toronto's certainly beatable, but with the back-to-back and the early start ... and hell, even the weather -- it's going to be a rough go. Let's hope this level of interest from the players continues, because losses are infinitely more acceptable when it's interesting for 48 minutes.
* On Thompson: I don't think Kenny Natt trusts him at all, which is both understandable and a shame. Shock fouls a little too much; he still doesn't realize the zebras won't give him any benefit of the doubt until he loses the "R" next to his name. His offense, while more efficient every day, is still behind most of the other Kings (especially the wings). BUT ...
... he's maybe the second-best defender on the team, all things told. Already. His hands are fantastic, his rotations usually quick. Look at the gameflow. When Thompson and Charlie Villanueva were on the court together, the Kings lead. Charlie V. scored efficiently, but Thompson (when assigned) kept up with him and limited the shots Villanueva could get off. And that's just shot defense. What about rebounding? Thompson is the team's best rebounder (besides Shelden Williams). In the fourth quarter, in which Shock played only five minutes despite Milwaukee keeping two bigs on the court almost the entire time, the Bucks had six offensive rebounds. The Kings had ... six defensive rebounds. Not good. Those second chances, matched with Sacramento's overall poor defense .. that's death. Francisco Garcia's big three kept the team alive, you can't very well yank Martin or Salmons, nor would you want to pull Beno or Miller when they are at their best. But Thompson's got to be on the floor. Eeenie meenie miney mo, or something.