George Karl has been emphasizing the process as opposed to the results ever since taking over as head coach of the Sacramento Kings. Lately, even though the defense has largely let down the team, the offense has been generally really good. Tonight, against the Charlotte Hornets, the Kings rode that offense to overcome their shaky defense and win 113-106.
The offensive numbers are solid across the board. The team overall shot 47% from the field, including 40% from three point range, and dished 25 assists to only 12 turnovers. Ben McLemore bounced back from an off game to lead the way, scoring 27 points on 16 shots, including 13 points in the fourth quarter. McLemore's jumper was wet tonight, hitting three three pointers, midrange pullups out of escape dribbles, and leaking out on the fast break. Rudy Gay continued his hot stretch, scoring 26 points on 17 shots, including the backbreaking no-no-no-yes midrange fadeaway that put the game out of Charlotte's reach in the fourth quarter. DeMarcus Cousins overcame a slow start to score 20 points on 17 shots, including 10 points down the stretch in the fourth.
But the defense is... well, still a work in progress. Charlotte, a team averaging 96.8 points per game on the season, dropped 106 on 45% from the field and 33% from three. The Hornets dished out a ridiculous 28 assists and only turned the ball over 11 times. There are still major breakdowns and confusion all over the court when the Kings are defending. Karl historically has liked his teams to switch defensively often, and is training the Kings to adapt to his philosophy and make good decisions about when to switch pick-and-rolls, and when to revert to more standard schemes. The result is that players are miscommunicating, leaving their teammates in no-man's land, and any competent NBA team is going to be able to take advantage of that situation. I mean, Gerald Henderson, a player averaging 2.7 assists per game, had 11 assists on the night for Pete's sake.
But again, process. Its good to see the team making serious progress on offense, even if things aren't perfect on that end. Karl is a hall of fame caliber coach and I have confidence that he will get these guys on the same page. The marathon continues.
- DeMarcus Cousins played some outstanding post defense against Al Jefferson in the post before Jefferson had to leave the game with a strained calf. He used his strength, length and timing to perfection to force some tough misses and turnovers.
- In that same vein I have to give a shoutout to Bismack Biyombo, who erased several easy Kings shots around the rim. Biyombo had no answer for Cousins in the fourth quarter, but he was a huge part of why Charlotte was able to stay close to the Kings with his defense.
- Seriously, Henderson had 11 assists. How does that even happen?
- Andre Miller loves going for the home run pass. Some of them miss their mark, but a lot don't. The Kings also must be ready for Andre's passes. There was a play where Andre zipped a pocket pass that bounced right of Derrick Williams' chest. Have to be ready for those when playing for Andre.
- Ray McCallum's jumper is becoming a cause for concern. He dished the ball well and played good defense on Mo Williams, but he needs to be able to hit open shots. He's shooting 27% from three point range this year after hitting 37% from three last year on similar volume.
- Karl's best contribution thus far has probably been making the team functional when DeMarcus Cousins goes to the bench. A lot of credit to that goes to Miller's playmaking, but Jason Thompson has been great as a backup C as well, and the offense seems to have an identity even with Boogie getting a breather.