The Sacramento Kings kicked off the preseason on a high note with a win, but it was as preseasony as preseason gets. The two teams combined for 43 turnovers and a lot of them were really ugly. Turnovers were a big problem for the Kings last year going all the way back to the games Mike Malone coached, but its not quite time to sound the alarms yet. Some preseason jitters are expected.
DeMarcus Cousins was dominant in the minutes he saw the court, showing off some exciting new wrinkles in his game. The Blazers actually have a decent bit of size defensively in Mason Plumlee and Meyers Leonard, who are 6'10 and 7'1 respectively. Boogie was forced to improvise several times and it was impressive. He flashed ability to put shots over their length and also slither around them using his quickness and strength. His midrange jumper looked solid. One not-so-exciting new wrinkle was his three point attempts; there's been whispers that Boogie is going to take that shot more often, but last night's 0/3 showing didn't look too promising. Still, its preseason, and I don't mind Boogie firing away to see what the team has there for the time being.
The offense from the starters in general sputtered to say the least. Rudy Gay and Ben McLemore both had nights to forget. Neither was able to space the floor with their jumpers or contribute off the dribble. Well, that's not true, they helped contribute to the Blazers offense with their two turnovers each. We've seen Gay have some clunkers during the season and know he'll bounce back, but McLemore needs to be more consistent to keep his starting role.
Rajon Rondo debuted with a decent showing. You can see how his court vision and ability to pass the ball will help the team. He only had three assists in 19 total minutes, but if any of his running mates on the wings could hit a jumper that would certainly be higher. In particular, two pocket passes to a rolling Boogie looked like a deadly weapon for the future. He also showed no fear attacking the rim, as his two field goals were both layups off the dribble. Rondo was also hustling for rebounds and loose balls as if this was a regular season game; its clear that he's going to be motivated this season to reclaim his place among the NBA's PG elite.
Kosta Koufos (a.k.a. 2K) got the start tonight alongside Boogie and had a good outing. He played the most minutes out of all the big men and its easy to see why. He's a solid defensive presence in pretty much all respects; he defends the pick-and-roll intelligently, and is a rock in the post. On offense, he sets good screens and the first possession of the game showed he even has a decent hook he can go to. With about seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, George Karl went to him on the court to get some rebounding stability, and Koufos did ok. However, you can see the defensive limitations of a Cousins/Koufos frontline. Meyers Leonard frequently got open for jumpers because neither Boogie nor Koufos were too adept at challenging perimeter shots. Boogie in particular got lucky getting away with a few fouls (and Leonard was lucky he wasn't injured) because he didn't give the shooter space to land.
The starters were thoroughly outplayed by the Blazers in the first half, but managed to gain a foothold in the third quarter. Although they were visibly outplaying the Blazers, they could only finished the quarter cutting the lead by one point because they kept turning the ball over leading to Blazer fastbreaks.
But really, the main story of this game were the bench guards. Although Omri Casspi contributed nothing (besides turnovers because of course), the Kings reserves outscored the Blazers bench 65-51. The stars on the night were Darren Collison and Marco Belinelli. Collison was money as usual from the corner three, but made some really tough runners in the lane and contested midrange jumpers. He pushed the pace in transition. And he notched ten assists on the night, many of them to a sizzling Belinelli.
Speaking of Marco... wow. He was quietly sitting on five points at halftime, but erupted from deep in a way I don't think we've seen since Kevin Martin. The numbers speak for themselves; 32 points and 4 assists, going 12/18 overall from the field and 4/10 from deep. And none of those were easy; I don't recall him hitting a single layup, and he went 4/8 from the free throw line ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I mean, look at this:
What is this even?!? He hit shots in every way thinkable. Off-the-dribble getting a pick, curling off a pin-down screen, dribble hand-offs, spot-ups... It was spectacular. He scored 13 of the teams 29 fourth quarter points and 10 of the team's 12 overtime points. Lets save some of that for the regular season, eh Marco? Grazie.
We also got to see Willie Cauley-Stein's first stint in an NBA uniform and it was mostly good. He was a menace blocking shots and even grabbed a steal to go coast-to-coast. On the other hand, he was muscled off of rebounds far too easily by Noah Vonleh, who single-handedly kept the Blazers in the game in the fourth quarter and overtime with his NINE offensive rebounds. Cauley-Stein and Quincy Acy might just be a combination that does not work off the bench for this very reason. Acy looks energetic on the court but is a poor rebounder, and Cauley-Stein needs a lot of time in the weight room to battle in the paint night-in and night-out. James Anderson had a short stint in the fourth quarter and overtime, playing some solid defense but missing everything he put up. But Anderson laughs at you all because he ended the night with the highest +/- in the game with a +18.
Overall, a fun-filled evening with a lot of work to be done. Collison and Belinelli *probably* won't be so hot in the future, so we need more from the starting lineup. Last year's wing trio of Gay, McLemore, and Casspi all need to bounce back strong to revive the offense, and will have plenty of opportunity to do so. Ultimately, its one preseason game down and a long road ahead, but it looks like its going to be a fun one. Onto Phoenix.