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When Magic Inevitably Fails: Bulls 101, Kings 87

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Honestly, given the injury to Kevin Martin, five wins by the end of the November is a minor miracle. And there will be more on the next homestand (which includes the 1-9 Knicks and the 0-11 Nets), so let's not shovel dirt on the .500 Sacramento Kings just yet. But we knew the team was a bit over its head, specifically in a few key areas, and Tuesday's loss to Chicago reaffirmed that.

Sacramento's frontcourt is still in a bit of trouble, despite the fantastic growth of Jason Thompson's game. Joakim Noah dominated the game without a single play drawn up for him. He did a great job on the offensive glass, getting easy tips when the Kings bigs didn't box him out. At the other end, he helped force J.T. into 3-7 shooting (with none of those FGAs outside of five feet). Thompson and Kenny Thomas still led the Kings to a good overall showing on the offensive glass (13 rebounds in 42 opportunities), but that resulted in few points because the Kings shot terribly (31-60 on twos, a disastrous 4-21 on threes) and had more turnovers than an Austrian bakery. (Patissierie metaphor! Like what!)

Exactly two Kings scored efficiently, and if I told you one of them is named Donte Greene you'd burn me at the stake. Sergio Rodriguez -- ! -- was the other. Yes, this team's offense depended on superlative efforts from Donte Greene and Sergio Rodriguez. I don't mean this expression of surprise as a dismissal of the extensive talents of either -- I'm the biggest Donte supporter around -- but with all the other options, it's surprising that the young Greene and the denotative Sergio were the models of balance. Tyreke Evans had some monstrous drives and exclamatory defensive stands, but was too often unbalanced and uncomfortable. Spencer Hawes was an abject disaster in evert facet of the game, and his confidence is readably horrible. Beno Udrih wasn't awful, and in fact last season this type of performance would have registered as above average. But without Martin, the Kings need Udrih to be excellent, and he (13 points on 13 FGAs, five assists) was not near excellent.

One could chalk up the loss to a perfect storm of shooting woes, as in, the Bulls shot wonderfully and the Kings shot woefully. But the Bulls consistently got the shots they wanted. Paul Westphal and his staff know that Luol Deng wants that mid-range jumper, and you know he imparted that knowledge on his players. Yet possession after possession, Deng took open mid-range jumpers. Jannero Pargo may be a bit more difficult to account for, because at times you'd prefer he look to shoot than let someone else take the play, but when you see him with the glint of a thousand bonfires in his eye, and you know a spree (good or bad) is coming, you keep on eye on him. The Kings didn't, the Bulls ran away, and that was that.

I can't stress enough how badly the Kings need Hawes to perform better. He knows this too -- he can't not know it. Effectively, he has been no better than Sean May was in the same spot. Since the Memphis game (Hawes's last off the bench), Spencer's offense has been mediocre. His defense comes and goes, and it just wasn't there against the springy Noah and the crafty Brad Miller. Many of us (guilty, I am) have extraordinary expectations for Hawes, but we don't need all that right now. I can take ordinary. But subpar ain't working, as Tuesday so cleanly elucidated. The Kings have survived the struggles for the most part (4-2 with Hawes off his game), but that won't work in Dallas or Houston, and heck, maybe not in Memphis. The Kings may not compete in Dallas even if Hawes draws upon the Myth of the Next Dirk Nowitzki, because the Mavericks are good and the Kings are average, but without Spencer there is no shot. No shot. (Double emphasis! That means I really meant that! Plaschke like what! Oh, wait, actually that'd be ...

... but without Spencer, there is no shot.

No shot.



, right?)

The Donte Greene Show, ladies and gentlemen: 24 points on 19 FGAs, five rebounds, a steal and zero turnovers. Dirk is going to do some mad recruitment for the German national team on Friday.