Entering last night's game the Charlotte Bobcats had the 29th ranked offense in the league, but the 4th best defense with a defensive rating of 99.9. That's in spite of the fact that Charlotte has guys like Josh McRoberts and Al Jefferson playing heavy minutes in the frontcourt. Charlotte as a team has embraced defense, and if their offense could catch up, they would be a dangerous team night in and night out.
The Kings are not a good defensive team. In fact, they are one of the worst in the league, and it showed last night, particularly during the first quarter. Charlotte was able to get out to an early double-digit lead thanks to extremely porous defense from Sacramento. Gerald Henderson and Kemba Walker got into the lane, and Sacramento continuously left open three point shooters, which has been a problem all year. Even the Bobcats, the worst three point shooting team in the league, will hit their threes if you give them enough space.
Sacramento's offense wasn't doing much better than the defense to start, as the Kings missed a lot of their own open shots, but also couldn't get anyone aside from DeMarcus Cousins going. Gerald Henderson did a great job on Rudy Gay, sticking with him whenever he drove and making every shot tough. Gay was never able to get going, and eventually left the game with knee stiffness and did not return. His status for tonight's game and the rest of the road trip is unknown.
The Kings finally managed to get their offense going somewhat in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, mainly thanks to DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins dominated Charlotte's big men, scoring 30 points on just 13 shots to go with 17 rebounds and 6 assists. He was the only option that Sacramento was able to go to consistently for points, which is why it was so baffling when in the 4th quarter, the Kings barely gave him the ball.
Charlotte realized it couldn't stop Cousins, but it also figured out a good way to prevent him from doing much. The Kings were routinely setting up DeMarcus on the left block and then spreading the court. Charlotte would immediately send another man to double Cousins. Now, that means someone is open, but the way the Kings were situated on offense meant the lone man in the paint could effectively guard two men if nobody moved to help Cousins out. Instead, Cousins would try to throw a cross court pass to the open man, the Bobcats player who was in the paint was able to anticipate it, and Charlotte would get a steal. This happened about three times late in the 3rd quarter and instead of trying to figure it out, the Kings just stopped going to Cousins. In other words, they played right into Charlotte's hands.
Isaiah Thomas, as he so often does when the Kings need points, tried to go into attack mode. But his shot wasn't falling, and Charlotte did a great job contesting his shots around the basket. This is where he should have tried to feed the monster in the middle (someone get me a DeMonster in the Middle photoshop) as much as possible.
In another case of playing into Charlotte's hands, the Kings passed up several open shots throughout the night to instead take tougher ones. Jimmer Fredette and Travis Outlaw were especially bad at this, and it's no surprise they finished a combined 2-16 from the floor.
Then we get to Ben McLemore. Ben is going through a serious shooting slump right now, shooting sub-30% for the last five or six games. For the year he's at just 34%. I still think he needs to slow his game down, especially when he attacks the basket. We've made a lot about his shooting struggles from beyond the arc, but he's absolutely awful around the rim when he's not dunking. If Tyreke Evans was the Layup King as a Rookie, Ben McLemore is the French Knight from Monty Python & the Holy Grail who farts in the rim's general direction.
I'm not giving up on Ben yet though and don't think there's a reason to. He's got a very bright future ahead of him and I think he'll eventually figure it out. As Tom pointed out on Twitter yesterday, take a look at Bradley Beal's shooting splits for his first couple months in the league. They're remarkably similar to Ben's.
Sacramento is a more talented team than Charlotte, especially offensively. If the Kings can ever figure out how to play even average defense over a large stretch of games, they'll be dangerous. Until then though, the losses will continue to outnumber the wins.
- Quincy Acy is a ball of energy. He's fun to watch, and I like him in the backup PF/C role.
- Derrick Williams should probably be getting more minutes than Travis Outlaw, especially if Gay is out.
- Kemba Walker, sub-30% shooter from three for the year, nails 4-8 on us. Of course.
- The Bobcats played good defense, but the Kings also missed a lot of their own open shots. Just a bad shooting night overall.
- I thought I saw Pete D'Alessandro watching the game in Charlotte. I'm not sure, but does anyone recall Petrie traveling with the team during road trips?