It wasn't basketball perfection, but damn was it fun. The Sacramento Kings had new life breathed into their formerly rotting corpses, roaring onto the court with a frenetic energy that hasn't been seen in these parts for a long time. The Boston Celtics were shorthanded and scrapped hard for the entire 48 minutes, but the Kings rode the feel-good vibes on their way to a 109-101 win.
George Karl insisted that he wanted to emphasize an aggressive style of play, one that highlights ball movement and parlaying defense into offense, and the Kings did their best to deliver. The Kings dished out 26 assists tonight, a number that they have rarely touched this season, shooting 48% from the field and 38% from three. They attacked the rim over and over again, running on any opportunity they could find, scoring 54 total points in the paint. DeMarcus Cousins was a monster in the post, scoring 31 points, grabbing 15 rebounds, dishing 3 assists, and collecting Jae Crowder's NBA soul. Rudy Gay was right there with him, tallying 28 points of his own on 18 shots. Gay was getting to his spots with ease in Karl's offense, playing both the SF and PF positions at times.
It was far from perfect. The Kings have had turnover issues all season, and tonight installing a new offense combined with a Boston team aggressively looking to attack the ball led to 24 turnovers on the night, 9 coming from Cousins alone. The Celtics were shorthanded on the night, but still were able to hang around on the back of Avery Bradley's strong 28 point effort, getting open and draining midrange jumper after midrange jumper to keep the game interesting.
But down the stretch, the Kings found a way to clamp down defensively while executing their offense as necessary, ending the game on a 16-9 run. A big component of this effort was the play of newly acquired Andre Miller, whose veteran savvy was a welcome sight for a team that previously struggled with its basketball IQ. Miller directed the offense beautifully, controlling the pace, scoring opportunistically, and set up Boogie and Rudy repeatedly to help them get into a rhythm. I'm really looking forward to having Miller mentor the Kings' younger guards Ray McCallum and Ben McLemore, who both struggled tonight. Omri Casspi, Derrick Williams and Jason Thompson all came off the bench and sparked a run when the Kings were struggling in the first quarter, which is amazing because we hadn't seen that kind of impact from the reserves all season.
All-in-all, it was a great way to launch this new era of Kings basketball. You can already see the attitude that Karl is emphasizing taking form on the court, and its something that should make Kings fans giddy. Hang on Kings fans, its gonna be a wild ride.
For the opponent's perspective, visit Celtics Blog