The Sacramento Kings were in Brooklyn tonight for game one of their potentially-season-deciding six game east coast road trip. Despite a huge second half lead, the Kings managed to Kings their way into a tight game that was ultimately decided by a late 4th quarter push. Kings win, improve to 7-10 on the season, and will start the east coast trip 1-0.
A win is a win, right? And any win on the road is a good win, right? Basketball tropes, right?
Dave Joerger went back to his fan-favorite, center heavy starting lineup consisting of Kosta Koufos, DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Arron Afflalo, and Darren Collison. Kosta Koufos and DeMarcus Cousins, together again, because it worked out so well the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd time.
You could make the argument that starting Koufos on Brook Lopez would dramatically reduce the risk of any DeMarcus Cousins foul trouble, and if that was the sole goal, mission accomplished. Outside of that positive, the Kings got off to an incredibly slow and disappointing start.
Shout out to the Nets’ fantastic broadcast team for this stat; the Kings have the worst first quarter defensive field goal percentage in the entire NBA. In other words, they are allowing opposing teams to shoot over 50% from the field in the first quarter, and it’s good for worst in the league. If Joerger is starting Koufos with Cousins for defensive purposes, you can’t say that it’s working. To make deficiencies even more glaring, the Kings defend much better in the second quarter. Opposing teams are only shooting 41%, which puts the Kings near the top of the NBA in terms of second quarter defense, but I digress.
The Kings got their acts together in the second quarter. Omri Casspi came in and played well. Same goes for Ty Lawson, Matt Barnes, Garrett Temple, and basically the entire bench crew.
That positive second quarter momentum would carry over to the second half where the Kings just out-skilled the Nets for 12 straight minutes. In fact, DeMarcus Cousins matched the Nets’ second quarter output with 18 points all by himself.
The Kings were cruising towards a double digit blowout when Matt Barnes unnecessarily drilled Sean Kilpatrick in the face on a hard foul, resulting in a flagrant 2. Matt Barnes was appropriately ejected, the Nets found a little motivation, the Kings were playing quasi-garbage time ball at this point, and before you knew it, the big lead was gone.
Now, if you want to look on the bright side, once the Kings brought some of their starters back in, they squashed the Nets run with relative ease. Glass half full, they closed out a tight game on the road. Glass half empty, they blew a major lead and struggled against a team they probably should squashed handily.
A few quick notes:
- It was nice to see Omri Casspi get substantial minutes for the second game in a row. With how often Joerger shuffles the end of his rotation, I don’t know if this means that Casspi is now actually part of Joerger’s rotation, or if this is a trade showcase, or if this is just a matchup thing, but I like it. To Casspi’s credit, he’s played well since Joerger reintroduced him to the hardwood.
- Why am I so pessimistic that Garrett Temple can keep this up? His defense was absolutely stellar again tonight. He’s such a pest, he’s been so good on that end, and yet I won’t allow myself to believe that the Kings finally found a defensive stopper on the perimeter. If this is the Garrett Temple the Kings are going to get, he’s a bargain at that contract.
- Ty Lawson looks a lot better coming in off the bench than he did as a starter to begin the season. I’m not sure what it is. Is it the lower level competition? Is it the chip on his shoulder from losing his starting spot? Is it the freedom to do a little more scoring offensively? Whatever it is, his improvement has been noticeable.
- Shout out to Omer for laying this knowledge on me, but DeMarcus Cousins is shooting 40.8% from three point range this season. I don’t expect it to stay that way, but I’m very pro-Cousins shooting that three when he’s open. If the Kings were consistently getting better looks, I’d pass on Cousins’ threes, but this offense isn’t firing on all cylinders right now, and truth be told, this offense on all cylinders has a pretty low ceiling. The talent isn’t quite there. In a lot of cases, an open Cousins three, and most of them right now are open, is better than a lot of the shots the Kings are getting in their standard offense. Cousins’ shot selection is the key to all of this, if he generally limit’s his three point attempts to the ‘open’ variety, fire away. It’s a fine line, though, certainly.