The Kings haven't beaten the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas since February 27th, 2003, when Keon Clark tipped in the game-winner in overtime. That streak will continue for the foreseeable future, as the Mavericks weathered a hot start by the Kings to beat them 110-100.
No one player really stood out for the Mavericks, and it was a definite team effort. Dirk Nowitzki had 15 points and 8 rebounds, but shot just 4 of 14 from the field in a very sub-par performance for the future Hall of Famer. Rodrigue Beabuois also chipped in 15 points off the bench in just 21 minutes. Ten Mavericks players scored 7 or more points for the ballgame, and six finished in double digits.
Sacramento also saw good contributions from several players, but none more so than DeMarcus Cousins. DeMarcus finished with 25 points, 18 rebounds, 6 steals (a career-high), 3 assists and 2 blocks in nearly 38 minutes. According to our friend Alex Kramers (and confirmed by Basketball-Reference), DeMarcus joined the likes of Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and Karl Malone in having those kind of numbers in a game since 1985. That's nothing to sneeze at, particularly since DeMarcus did it age 21.
The Kings also saw Marcus Thornton return after a 4 game absence. Marcus looked a bit rusty at times, but still managed to notch 16 points in a game-high 38 minutes. He did have 4 turnovers though and was particularly bad on the defensive side of the ball. Tyreke Evans and Isaiah Thomas also had 16 points and 5 assists each for the Kings. Jimmer Fredette added 13 points and 4 assists in 21 minutes off the bench, his third straight game scoring in double-digits.
Sacramento and Dallas both shot exactly the same from the field: 41 of 92. The Kings even hit a couple more triples than Dallas (9 of 25 to 7 of 14). The difference in scoring was largely from the free throw line. Sacramento got just 17 attempts to 28 for Dallas. More importantly, the Kings failed to convert their chances at the line, hitting just 9 of them, while Dallas hit 21. The Mavericks also killed the Kings on the offensive boards, getting 17 offensive rebounds for 20 second chance points. Considering the Mavericks are among the worst offensive rebounding teams in the league (28th coming into tonight), that's unacceptable. Shawn Marion was the main culprit on the offensive glass, snagging 8 of his 14 boards on that end.
Sacramento's offense, sluggish in the past few games, looked better throughout tonight's contest, and it was clear from the outset. The Kings came in with energy and looked to get out in transition at every possible opportunity. The Kings ended up with 24 fastbreak points to 20 for Dallas. They also moved the ball much better and rarely went into isolation mode. The end result was 24 assists to 14 turnovers, the first time they've broken the 20 assist barrier since their last win. Every Kings player who played meaningful minutes had an assist except for Marcus Thornton.
Having Marcus really helped the Kings offense just in terms of having another consistent threat on the floor. Opposing defenses have to respect Marcus, and that improves spacing for the team. Marcus is also probably the best Kings player at moving without the ball, which results in easy bucket opportunities.
Keith Smart changed his starting lineup to deal with Dirk Nowitzki, opting to put the more athletic Donté Greene on Nowitzki to begin with over Jason Thompson. Smart has done this a few times this season, most notably with Nowitzki and Channing Frye. Greene ended up playing 23 minutes, and finished with 4 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists, 1 steal and a couple blocks. His defense on Nowitzki was decent, although Dirk's struggles seemed to lay more with himself than what the Kings threw at him. He did not have the best season series against Sacramento, and this 15 points actually ended up being the most he scored on the Kings this season.
Jason Thompson shared the PF role for the most part with Greene, playing 25 minutes off the bench and contributing 8 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks. He did have 5 fouls however, some of which were very ticky-tack. JT had trouble scoring through his post-moves tonight, but did do a good job of getting to the line, leading the Kings in attempts with 7.
Jimmer Fredette again saw extended minutes, and for the good reason that he's finally earned them. He's playing more confidently and with more consistency now, at least on offense. Tonight he did a little bit of everything, dishing to his teammates and hitting his shots, basically doing exactly what the Kings needed him to do. He got burned a few times by Beaubois and Terry, but that's to be expected. Kings fans have been mostly down on Jimmer for his play this year, but I still think he has a chance to be a very good NBA player. He's smart and a hard worker, and those are two big keys to improving your game.
The game was pretty competitive throughout. The Kings jumped out on the Mavericks early but Dallas was able to answer back thanks to Kings turnovers and second chance points. The Kings may not have turned the ball over much for the entire game, but when they did, the Mavericks punished them for it (25 points off turnovers). The 2nd quarter in particular, Dallas was able to get wherever they wanted on the floor and gain some separation. Beaubois was getting to the rim all night, but especially in the 2nd quarter, where he scored 7 of his points. Yi Jianlian also had a big 2nd quarter, knocking down 4 long jumpers towards the end of the half to help give Dallas a 7 point lead going into halftime. Yi certainly looked like the "Chinese Nowitzki" he was touted to be when he was drafted during this time.
The Kings were able to gain some momentum back in the 3rd quarter thanks to an aggressive Isaiah Thomas, who scored 12 points and dished 3 assists in the 3rd. Isaiah really looked like he wanted to will the team back and he did so. He was getting into the lane, spotting up from three, and finding guys like DeMarcus Cousins right at the rim for easy scores. Aggressive Isaiah Thomas is my favorite Isaiah Thomas. Isaiah cut the Dallas lead to 4 with 37 seconds left in the quarter on a three ball, but Dallas's Beaubois answered back with yet another layup.
Dallas really blew open the game at the beginning of the 4th quarter, going on a 9-2 run over the first four minutes to open up a 13 point lead, their largest of the game. There was still plenty of time though, and the Kings went on their own 8-0 run in response, capped off by a Jimmer Fredette three pointer to cut the lead to 5 points. That was as close as the Kings would get though, as Dallas pushed the lead back up to 10 and were able to trade buckets with the Kings from then on.
Offensively, the Kings have proven that they can hang with some of the best teams in the league already. The next step will have to come on the other end of the court though, as it doesn't matter how much you score if you give up more on the other end. Some of it has to do with personnel, and some of it has to do with experience. If the Kings can make a leap on defense while still playing this type of offense, they'll be a threat to win every night.
The Kings continue this three-game road trip tomorrow night when they visit the New Orleans Hornets, looking to complete a season sweep of their own for once. This will be the healthiest Hornets team the Kings will have faced all season, if Eric Gordon plays.
- Terrence Williams has amazing court vision, and probably the best understanding on this team of feeding guys when they're in great positions.
- DeMarcus was as active on defense as I've seen him in the first quarter. After the first quarter though, he was terrible, particularly in coming over to help after a Dallas guard penetrates. Normally that's how he gets all his charges, but he wasn't helping often tonight. Fatigue? Laziness? Who knows.
- Speaking of DeMarcus he had a couple of beautiful one-handed outlet passes that were just right on the money. The level of skill in this guy is just obscene.
- Tyreke's jumper looked good when he didn't hesitate, but if he does or takes one of the dribble, it's noticeably worse.
- I think Jimmer could be a candidate for the Most Improved award next year, I really do. A normal schedule, summer camp and pre-season will really help him. Showing improvement down the stretch of this season.
- Just looking at the boxscore... I really like the minute splits tonight in terms of the rotation.
- Jason Kidd may have lost a step, but he makes up for it with veteran savvy. He had a couple of really nice defensive stops in transition today.
- Brandan Wright is still in the NBA? Looks like he's finally starting to live up to some of his early promise in Dallas. Good for him.
- Shawn Marion might have a better post-game than anyone on the Kings.
- Who would have thought Lamar Odom would have been this disappointing this year? It looks like the Lakers got the better end of that deal, jeez.
- Lottery Implications: Cleveland won tonight, putting them at 19 wins, tying them with the Kings for 4th-worst in the standings. Toronto is the next closest with 20 wins. New Jersey and Detroit both have 21 wins.
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