First things first: It feels good to get that monkey off our backs and end that losing streak at six. It sure wasn't pretty though. But we won, and a big reason was much better defense (it still wasn't great, but it was much improved). Holding a team to 81 points any night is a big feat, especially for a team this young. Adjusting for pace, the Kings had a Defensive Rating of 100.4 tonight, 13 points better than their league worst rating of 113.4 before this game. I looked it up, and we've only held a team to 81 points or less twice in the last four seasons (a March 3rd victory against Houston last year).
Another great thing about our defense tonight is that we played without fouling. Talking to James before the game, he mentioned that Westphal is really trying to get the guys to cut down on fouling, because it ends up bailing opponents out, and giving them free points with the time stopped. In this game we only had 17 fouls all game, and no player with more than three. I'm not saying our defense was perfect though (Westphal said postgame he thought we only played 44 minutes of good defense, which sounds about right, but thats still way better than the 10 it has been the last six games). There were still a lot of moments where the Kings got caught on bad rotations, and also simply allowing too much guard penetration. I'm a little worried that Chris Paul might have a career assist game against us on Sunday with all the shooters we leave wide open for long periods of time after a guard penetrates.
The offense was the really ugly part of the game though. For one, the team took a really long time to get into their offense, even longer than usual. They played the game at a snails pace (80.7 possessions, when they've been averaging about 94 so far) and the ball movement was pretty bad (13 assists to 15 turnovers), with way too much dribbling going on. There were several times the Kings had a player wide open and failed to see him or get him the ball. Poor decisions abounded, and we also seemed to have the worst luck in the world. Every single roll or bounce did not go our way tonight it seemed, while New Jersey was getting some of those bounces. We were also once again missing wide open shots. They have to start going down sometime right?
Game and Player Recaps after the jump.
The First Quarter started out terrible. For starters, we started our offense the first few possessions by posting Dalembert three times. All three times he failed and I couldn't help but think how stupid that plan was compared to feeding the ball down low to Carl. Coach apparently agreed as well because he called a timeout about 5 minutes in, and immediately after, they went to Carl three times in a row, and Carl was successful all three times, and got the Kings back in it, to where they were leading by two at the end of the quarter. The team started off slow again in the second, trailing by as many as six thanks to the hustle of Kris Humphries and just poor offensive execution by Sacramento. This was definitely our worst quarter defensively as well, getting caught on switches, being in poor position for rebounds (Kris Humphries only had 4 offensive boards? Feels like should be so much more...), and other little things. Thankfully we were able to cut into the lead a little bit at the end of the quarter, entering the half on a good note.
The second half started with Luther Head and Tyreke Evans filling it up for the Kings (They only combined to score 16, but at the pace the game was going, that was like 30 points in another game). Tyreke was hitting his jumper, and Luther was hitting his shots and free throws (another 3PA free throw for Head, that has to be his fourth of the season already), with an especially nice play coming when Dalembert had the ball in the high post and passed to a cutting Head for an easy layup. I envision this play being a possible staple of the future between DeMarcus and Tyreke. The Kings couldn't get rid of the Nets in the final quarter though, making some costly mistakes down the stretch (Tyreke especially, for the 2nd game in a row) that kept the Nets in it. Donté (steal) and DMC (ORB on his own missed FT) both had big moments though, and the Kings iced the game with a Beno three at the end. It wasn't a thing of beauty, but I'll take it.
- Tyreke Evans to me is probably hurting more from his ankle and the Plantar Fasciitis than he lets on. Its affecting his quickness and lift, and I now sort of wish I had stayed and asked him about it after the game. One thing it doesn't excuse though are his silly turnovers, quite a few of which have been happening in crunch time. Bill Walton's right, he needs to stop leaving his feet and trying to make a play in the air. He also needs to be more aware of his teammates, because he was probably the biggest culprit of the "not finding wide open teammates" bug that seemed to infect everyone tonight. Still, its clear he's a special talent for all his faults, and I for one cannot wait till it all clicks for him. It hasn't yet though.
- Donté Greene was the player of the game. His defense on Travis Outlaw made a big difference (Outlaw only scored 13 points on 12 shots this game instead of the 18 on 9 shots he had the last game), and there were several other moments where he came to help on the weakside and saved sure baskets. His steal at the end of the game was huge too. He didn't have the best shooting night from outside, but I wasn't unhappy with any of the shots he took. He still needs to get back into game rhythm on offense so I'm not worried. His trips inside were surprisingly successful as well, making some shots that utilized his athleticism and hustle. Good game from Donté, whose definitely making the most of his opportunity.
- Beno Udrih was exactly what I wanted off the bench. He only played 22 minutes, but he hit timely shots, passed the ball, and best of all didn't turn it over. His defense is really bad though, so I think around 20-25 minutes is what we're going to be seeing from Beno for the "foreseeable future". Still if he can simply do what he did tonight, that'd be perfect.
- Samuel Dalembert... I must say I'm a bit conflicted. For one, I don't ever want to see us going to him in the post so often again like we did in the start of the game. But he does have some value on offense. He's a better passer than I thought he'd be, and his offensive rebounding is tremendous, and kept us in the game. His man defense is also superb, and he was a big part of holding Bro-pez (who murdered us last time) to a mere 7 points on 9 shots. There were a couple things that bothered me though. Late in the game with the game at 83-79, the Kings didn't want New Jersey to score quickly. Out of the timeout, Landry lined up with Outlaw and Dalembert took Humphries, but while everyone was still setting up, Sam went over and told Landry to cover Humphries while he took Outlaw. Immediately, (James can attest to this) I thought this was the dumbest thing ever. Sure enough, Outlaw recognizes the fact that Dalembert simply can't keep up with him and gets open for a wide open 15 foot jumper which he nails. It was an extremely poor decision by Samuel, and judging by Coach Westphal's gesturing during the ensuing timeout, he agreed with me. Dalembert finished with 19 minutes. I can live with that.
- Things Carl Landry should do: Score in the post, hit the occasional midrange jumper. He did that, hitting 7-12 shots. Things Carl Landry should not do: Dribble or have the offense run through him from the high post. Unfortunately he did that as well, and had 6 turnovers to show for it. I think we could make Landry a consistent 20+ PPG scorer if we simply fed him the ball down low every other play or so. He's so good down there. I'm really glad the team is starting to put him into a position to succeed as of late. His rebounding still needs a bit of work though, and he lost a few rebounds on the defensive end to the much more tenacious Kris Humphries, and it cost us buckets. I mean Kris Humphries scored 18 points. Credit to Rob Small (you may know him as rc360) for being the one to call him having a big game against us.
- The more and more I see him play, the more and more I like Luther Head. He's a pesky defender, probably the best individual defender on the Kings, and he played a major role into holding Devin Harris to 10 points on 12 shots with 7 turnovers. The same Devin Harris that killed the Kings in New Jersey down the stretch. His offense isn't bad either, although I don't really like him trying to run the offense, as he tends to run out the shot clock trying to make a decision. At least he doesn't make very many poor decisions though. Only 5 turnovers (none in this game) in 177 minutes so far this year.
- Francisco Garcia is probably the best player on the Kings at moving without the ball, and the team needs to do a better job of following his lead there. He does seem to me to be a tad overrated as a defender though, as Morrow seemed to do a better job when Cisco was in the game. Cisco gets blocks and he gets steals, but he does tend to mess up some basic rotations. Still, thats what you get from Cisco. Good shooting, alright defense, a few bonehead plays a night. It is what it is.
- Jason Thompson also didn't see much playing time, but I think he did a good job while he was in there. He played a bit at the Center position next to Landry, and thats the position I think he'll have the most success in the long run. JT had some great moments defensively I think, and he was able to keep Humphries off the glass during his stint. Unfortunately he got into a bit of foul trouble because I think he would've played some more.
- DeMarcus Cousins did not have the best shooting game at 2-8. A few of those were unlucky bounces. A couple were poor decisions. But this guy is something else, even when he doesn't put up the gaudy stats. He's able to get to the line almost when he wants to. He can rebound. He gets his hand on a lot of sloppy passes and dribbles. He can even play some defense and I think he had another good defensive night (although his team defense does need some work, he got caught napping a couple times by Lopez, that'll come with experience). I am loving what I'm seeing from him, and I think he's getting more and more comfortable with the NBA game. I'm 90% certain that he'll re-win the Starting role before the season is up (perhaps helped by the trade deadline). I don't care that DeMarcus won't win Rookie of the Year (he won't). I'm just glad he's on our team.
- Darnell Jackson's sole purpose in the game was to win me a bet with James on the number of players in the rotation tonight. James said 9, I said 10. He didn't even see 50 seconds of playing time.
- Omri Casspi was the odd man out. On one hand, I was sad because I love Omri, but on the other, this team needed defense way more than it needed offense, and Omri's defense needs a lot of work. I think he's a hard enough worker that that is probably what he'll spend his time improving though.
- For what its worth, I like Westphal as our coach. He doesn't have to just be a coach with these guys, but also a teacher and a parent really, given their youth. For what its worth, he tightened the rotation today to essentially nine men, and I think he's going to stick with it for a while. I know we rag on him all the time for having inconsistent lineups, but its hard to be consistent when you don't have consistent players.
- Anthony Morrow is the smoothest shooter I have ever seen. Its almost effortless. I'm pretty sure that he could win the 3 Point contest at the All-Star Game every single time he was in it. He got signed by the Nets for 3 years, $12 million. I think I wouldn't have minded if the Kings had spent a little bit more to get him on the team.
- Marv Albert was in the building. I guess he does the Nets broadcasts, which is cool for them, because Marv calls a great game. I didn't get a chance to talk to him at all unfortunately.