The Sacramento Kings offense had a pretty good night. Against a defense that's ranked #5 in the NBA, the Kings put up 116 points on 47% shooting and 34% from three. They dished out 27 assists compared to only 10 turnovers. DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay both had solid games, scoring 33 and 23 respectively, to power the Kings' offense. Darren Collison and Marco Belinelli both did their jobs off the bench by combining for 29 points themselves.
But, of course, it wasn't enough.
When the Golden State Warriors are in a good shooting rhythm, it takes a herculean defensive effort to even have a chance. The Warriors scored 128 points of their own, burying 19 threes shooting at 51%. 35 of their 49 field goals were assisted. Steph Curry was in one of those zones, scoring 38 points and dishing 11 assists, showing everyone why he's the presumptive MVP of the early season.
But the Warriors certainly had help from the Kings defense. The Kings communicated poorly all night long, losing track of shooters and cutters and giving up far too easy shots, as if the Warriors needed help scoring. The Kings continue to overreact and double-team in awful situations, collapsing their own defense and basically handing the Warriors everything they would want. The Warriors exploited mismatches when the Kings played four guards with Cousins, using their big wings in the post against smaller Kings defenders. The Kings didn't adjust when Draymond Green got hot from three; it seemed as though the gameplan was to let him shoot the ball, but after he hit four in a row that plan should have been scrapped.
In reality, the Kings still defend using poor principles, and it doesn't look like there is an answer in sight until the coach decides to catch up with the way the rest of the NBA defends. The offense is starting to take shape with a definite identity, but if the Kings want to take the next step to move into the upper echelon of Western Conference teams, they need to figure out the defensive end of the court. Onto the observations:
- Cousins has had major issues with both Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli in the past. But today was a different story. Cousins danced around both of the Warriors' stellar big man defenders, showing a composure in the post previously unseen. In addition, Karl's offense has Boogie in motion so often coming off of screens that slow-footed defenders like Bogut and Ezeli can't keep up when he slashes off the dribble when they aren't set.
- Until Belinelli came alive late, the Kings were drawing another complete scratch from the shooting guard position. Ben makes plays every now and then, but you just can't count on him to be a consistent producer. Marco did get hot late and finally converted on some of those open looks he was missing in the first half. But Belinelli made some critical mistakes defensively, including leaving Curry of all people wide open down the stretch.
- The Kings have a BANDWAGON CAM which is a brilliant way to embarrass opposing fans who try to invade Sleep Train Arena.
- I feel obligated to say something about the refs. There's no doubt about it: DeMarcus Cousins, as the last of a dying breed (the post-up center), is simply refereed differently than perimeter players are. He draws a ton of contact that simply doesn't go called. It sucks, but there's really nothing that can be done about it. The only response is to match physicality with physicality. If refs can't see all the contact that Cousins draws, he needs to become more clever in dishing it out too to gain an advantage. Its not something that is insurmountable; both Bogut and Ezeli nearly fouled out of this one. The Kings didn't lose this one because of the refs, they lost because they played poor defense.