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Kings 92, Spurs 108: Spurs strangle Kings

The Spurs are a great defensive team and the Kings are a deceptively bad offense. There wasn't much suspense at what was going to happen

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Sacramento Kings' offense is deceptive. Notching a high points per game average (107.1), most commenters on TV and analysis shows don't ever think about the offense as a problem. Even among stat-heads, who like to tout the Offensive Rating metric that ostensibly "adjusts" for pace, the Kings' 11th ranked 108.47 mark doesn't get flagged as problematic.

But here's a secret that not even some of the nerdiest of stat nerds know: even Offensive Rating and Defensive Rating don't do a great job at "adjusting" for pace. Fast break possessions are inherently more efficient than half court possessions and a high number of those kinds of possessions will naturally skew the statistic upward. Basically, the offensive rating stat is still heavily influenced by pace and a rather poor proxy for how good a team's halfcourt offense is.

The truth is that the Kings, when they're not blasting down the court on a fast-break or leakout, struggle to score in the halfcourt. When the shot clock passes the 15 second point, their offensive efficiency drops to 22nd in the league. Their playbook isn't very deep or creative; the defense is usually going to know exactly what the Kings are going to try to do at the beginning of each possession. A disturbing amount of the time, the Kings won't even run a play, going straight into an isolation eerily reminiscent of the days of Tyreke Evans 1-4 flats. This is all intentional, by the way. George Karl preaches freedom; in practical terms, that means no set offensive system, for good and for bad.

Now, the San Antonio Spurs sport a great defense. Historically great, even. They are five guys on a string moving in concert, fundamentally sound and making few errors. Not only that, but they scout the hell out of you and will know exactly how to make your players uncomfortable. Pitting this defensive juggernaut against the Kings' overrated offense was almost unfair. The Spurs swallowed the Kings offense and the ugly numbers just underscored it. 92 total points scored. 40.6 FG% and 33.3 3P%. An offensive rating of only 86.3. Make no mistake about it, it was total lockdown from the Spurs.

The Kings' players are largely on their own in this offense, and their numbers tonight showed it. DeMarcus Cousins was almost completely shut out for an entire half. The Spurs swarmed him with defenders coming from all over the court, and in Karl's "freedom for all" systemless offensive system he largely had to create everything on his own. On pure talent alone he exploded for a 14 point third quarter, but the final numbers are still pretty ugly: 22 points on 23 shots with 3 turnovers. Rudy Gay was a ghost tonight, getting stranded on Kawhi Island. And Rajon Rondo, when he wasn't throwing hail mary touchdowns, could not put the ball in the basket to save his life. In fact, that was the only consistent offensive production the Kings got all night, just pure leaking out and Rondo tossing full court passes down to the other end.

Meanwhile, on the other end, the Spurs danced around the Kings defense and got good looks on a fairly consistent basis. I don't have any stats to back this up, but from my observation when the Kings stayed home on their men, the defense was solid; when they fell into their zone, they were eviscerated. The Spurs shot 51.8% overall from the field and 42.1% from three, and with how open most of those shots were the Kings should count their lucky stars that it wasn't worse.

Not ideal, but again if the Spurs weren't uncharacteristically off from midrange it would have been much worse.

In reality, the Spurs are just in a different class of quality than the Kings in every manner, whether its talent, coaching, whatever. Especially on a back-to-back. The Kings may as well have been coached by Steve Kerr and it wouldn't have mattered much. So its not too much to get worked up about; chalk it up as a schedule loss and get ready for the universally beloved Los Angeles Clippers to come to town on Friday.

Random Observations

  • Darren Collison, my man, ever since I unveiled the Collison Brainfart Tracker™ in January its been completely dead. Collison's been on fire and I haven't noticed any weird turnovers.  But I had to brush the cobwebs off the tracker earlier tonight when Collison dribbled it off his foot with no defender anywhere near him. This coming on a night where he was nearly perfect from the field (7/8 shooting) for 15 points off the bench. Never change, DC!
  • The Marco Belinelli revenge tour was canceled. 0 points, 0/5 from the field, not a single point, assist, or rebound, but he did have a lonely turnover to round out his boxscore. But it wasn't like Ben McLemore was all that much better. Ben was active, but when he was shooting 2/9 from the field you kind of wish he dialed it back a bit. Have to wonder how much worse Seth Curry can really do at the SG position.
  • Willie Cauley-Stein had the highlight of the night in my mind, going coast-to-coast and finishing with a euro-step over David West.
  • Omri Casspi continues to inexplicably struggle at things unrelated to making three pointers. Tonight it was making layups he was being spoonfed from his teammates.
  • Tim Duncan went scoreless tonight for the second time in his career.

Tweet of the Night

For the opponent's perspective, visit Pounding The Rock