It's never easy, is it?
Behind a huge national television performance from Rajon Rondo, the Sacramento Kings successfully defended their home court, defeating the New York Knicks 99-97, improving their record to 9-15 on the season. Rondo finished with a near triple-double yet again, with 16 points, 12 assists and 9 rebounds.
Despite another sketchy finish, the Kings found a way to win one of those games I would file under 'games they have to win'. The Knicks aren't bad, but they haven't been playing well, and they were coming into tonights game on the second night of a back-to-back set. The Kings were rested, the Kings have superior talent, and the game was in Sacramento. You have to win these.
Prior to the fourth quarter, I had a lot of nice things to say about how the Kings played offensively. I should qualify that a bit - I liked how they played transition offense. I saw a lot of smart snap decisions, they didn't turn the ball over, and it was their best offense weapon for most of the night. In the half court, I saw an increased emphasis on getting the ball to DeMarcus Cousins in the post during the opening minutes, and was frustrated with how that didn't continue throughout the game. Despite my frustration, I'm going to look at it as a good sign overall. I thought we saw more Cousins post-up opportunities than we had been seeing. Not enough, but more.
I want to single out Rudy Gay and Omri Casspi for their strong defensive performances. Carmelo Anthony isn't playing his best basketball right now, but Gay played him tough. Anthony shot just 8-21 from the field and also ended up missing the game winner. Casspi was tasked with guarding Kristaps Porzingis for most of the night, and really dominated that matchup until the fourth quarter when Porzingis started to get his offense going. The Knicks had gone a little small at the point, so Casspi wasn't even on Kristaps when he made his run.
The Kings got beat up on the glass again, which is something we've seen in just about every game since Willie Cauley-Stein went down and the Kings started going small. That certainly helped keep the Knicks in this one long enough for them to really push the Kings in the fourth quarter. While Gay and Casspi had good moments defensively, the Knicks got to the line more than you'd like. I didn't think it was a poor defensive game, but this team can defend much better.
The biggest issue, and it has been an ongoing issue, is that pesky fourth quarter, and the Kings' inability to close out games in general. They got away with some really poor decision making in crunch time that a team better than the Knicks would have capitalized on, but this was, for the most part, a very entertaining game. It's one worth being excited about, despite some of the issues that continue to plague this team. Note time -
- You don't need me to tell you this, but Kristaps Porzingis is the real deal. He had a tough time with Casspi, but he hung in there, and he really battled Cousins hard with the game on the line. He is as advertised.
- Darren Collison had a fantastic game from the bench. Beyond his impressive raw numbers, he was really pushing the pace tonight, catching the Knicks off guard in transition over and over and over again.
- As satisfied as I was with Gay's defense tonight, his offense was not good. He nailed a big three in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, but against a different team on a different night, the Kings are going to need more offense than they've been getting out of that spot.
- We almost lost Quincy Acy tonight, fortunately his teammates were there to bring him back.
- I know you can't get enough of that, so here is a double take, Rajon Rondo dunk included
We're all surprised. pic.twitter.com/DbPyygwX51— Deadspin (@Deadspin) December 11, 2015
Kings' Rajon Rondo dunks and Quincy Acy falls out pic.twitter.com/yWr8E51YYW— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) December 11, 2015