Somehow, the Sacramento Kings got the job done. Facing a 20 point third quarter deficit, on the second night of a back-to-back on the road against a quality (albeit wounded) opponent, they looked dead in the water. I don’t know where they found the willpower to make this work, but they did.
Game ball definitely goes to Ty Lawson, but the entire bench unit deserves medals for their excellent work against the Jazz. Lawson was absolutely brilliant again, weaving his way in and around the Jazz’s vaunted defense to both score and set up his teammates, ending the game with 19 points on only 11 shots. He only had one assist, but it was Lawson’s pick-and-roll play that was the catalyst for the offense.
But even beyond Lawson, the bench was great. Anthony Tolliver hit his threes and competed for rebounds. Arron Afflalo played tough defense against Gordon Hayward. Willie Cauley-Stein protected the paint and actually crashed the glass, even showing off some slick looking post moves. And Garrett Temple was, as usual, Garrett Temple.
The Kings starters had the Kings in a big hole because they showed no ability to either score or defend against the Jazz. DeMarcus Cousins struggled with his jumper, forcing him to attack a completely packed lane with Kosta Koufos hanging around. Matt Barnes and Ben McLemore chipped in what they could given their limited skillsets on offense, but got burned on the defensive end. And Darren Collison continued to struggle in the world where he is the second option next to Cousins. The group found themselves trailing the Jazz by 20 with 6 minutes left in the 3rd Quarter. Dave Joerger began sprinkling the bench unit, and by the time the 4th quarter came the lead had been trimmed to 11.
The Kings started the fourth quarter with the all-bench lineup and continued to chip away. By the time Cousins checked back in with 6 minutes remaining, the Kings were only down by four points, 79-75, and it was game on. Lawson attacked the basket, Temple and Afflalo hit timely threes, and while Cousins didn’t make a single field goal, he got the benefit of the doubt on multiple calls and converted from the free throw line. The Kings also ratcheted up the defensive intensity once again in the fourth quarter, holding the Jazz to only 20 fourth quarter points on a measly 86.7 defensive rating.
Overall, this was a quality win against a quality opponent on the road. The Jazz are a different team when George Hill plays, but I don’t think the Kings are in the mood to feel sorry for anyone’s injury issues. They now stand at 12-17 on the season, on pace for 34 wins, with the remaining schedule a home-heavy one. The schedule until the end of the year is also fairly soft, with Minnesota and Philadelphia on tap before rematches with the Trailblazers and Grizzlies to finish off the month. Off to the observations!
- This was the second night in a row that the Kings finished the game with Ty Lawson, Temple, Afflalo, Tolliver, and Cousins. The group plays phenomenal defense together and delivered a win. Lawson’s playmaking at the point makes it possible.
- The Kings have been awful in crunchtime this season, losing many, many winnable games because they failed to execute. Its not really surprising. Given a new coach and new system, and given that crunchtime is the most difficult time of the game to cleanly execute plays, crunchtime execution is often the last thing a team nails down. After executing against three playoff teams (Grizzlies, Blazers, Jazz) in crunchtime, could this be a team turning the corner?
- I like Afflalo off the bench, but particularly at small forward. Afflalo doesn’t have the footspeed to chase guards around the perimeter anymore, but he can stick with bigger wings. He did a solid job on Gordon Hayward in the fourth quarter tonight. It would be nice if Arron continues to check into the game in his current role.
- Derrick Favors is now back for Utah and looked rusty as hell. Or maybe it was Cauley-Stein’s defense? Not sure, but I thought Willie forced him into some tough shots.
- This was a hilariously slow paced game, which isn’t too much of a shock given the teams involved. NBA.com has them at 89.96 possessions, but that formula tends to overstate the number of possessions (Basketball-Reference’s formula is better). To call it glacial is to insult to glaciers.
For the opponent’s perspective, visit SLC Dunk