In a sleepy AM game on the East Coast, with the entire nation focused else, a storm is brewing in the Kingdom. Amid a flurry of rumors that the Kings were considering relieving George Karl of his duties, the Kings had the chance to stave off the impending doom by playing inspired basketball against a red hot Boston Celtics squad.
Well, that didn't happen.
Its hard to change your entire philosophy in a day. But it didn't look like coaching staff even tried to implement the beginnings of any change. The offense was still a hodgepodge of chaotic free-for-alls, random pick-and-rolls, and maybe the occasional post-up or Princeton elbow split. The defense is still using sorely outdated concepts, letting the offense go wherever it wants to on pick-and-rolls, overhelping badly at awful times to leave the three point line wide open, and the terrible switching left players badly mismatched on their assignments.
To be fair, its not like the Kings players fought with all of their muster to help their beleaguered coach keep his job. DeMarcus Cousins looked completely checked out early, disappearing completely on the glass, leaving Jared Sullinger wide open on the perimeter, and picking up a technical foul. He rumbled his way to 31 points by getting hot from three point range late in the game. Rajon Rondo was engaged offensively and basically carried the team, but on the defensive end he did his typical disappearing act trying to chase Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley around. The Kings were whipped 49-32 on the glass.
On the other hand, there is no indication that this defense will stop anybody even if all the players play it exactly how they are supposed to. The Celtics erupted for an unheard of 46 points in the first quarter, scoring from every point on the floor. The Kings fell down by 20 points, but made a comeback because the Celtics began turning the ball over and, frankly, its hard to score that many points in a quarter even in an open gym. But that shouldn't be confused with the Kings playing better defense. The Celtics still scored 30+ in two of the other three quarters, and down the stretch when the Kings were breathing down their neck they were able to get practically whatever shot they wanted. The entire comeback was completely illusory. Onto the observations!
- I was very impressed with Rondo's offense. It seems as though he had been slumping recently, but tonight he carved up an elite defensive team with his shooting and passing. He scored 14 points, dished out 15 assists (with a nearly 4:1 A:TO ratio). He sniffed out some impressive steals based on pure instinct. My only complaints were that he was a ghost on defense and that at times his pass/shoot zen is nonexistent. There is a lockdown PG somewhere in Rondo; he has to be held accountable and can't be allowed to freelance as much.
- Separating Darren Collison from Marco Belinelli has had a wondrous effect on the former. Collison has been absolutely lights out from the bench the past few games; without Marco, Collison gets majority of the focus offensive touches and he's killing it with them. Meanwhile, Belinelli didn't shoot all that efficiently (2/8 from the field, 7/17 overall to produce 16 points) but I felt like the passes he was getting weren't crisp into his shooting pocket. He was forced to track down the ball and fire or try to do something off the dribble.
- The Kings still are terrible at guarding bigs who can shoot. There was one play where Boogie just forgot to cover Sullinger, but the rest were late contests because he's being asked to sag so far into the paint. Kelly Olynyk also came off the bench to bomb away from long range.
- James Anderson got the start tonight in place of Rudy Gay because, well, hell if I know. Naturally he was nearly useless out there and just out of his league talent-wise. Meanwhile, Omri Casspi had a productive game, even if he didn't shoot the ball well from three, because he got into the teeth of the Celtics defense and finished his patented little shots.
- We saw another sweet looking jumper from Willie Cauley-Stein today. In fact, Boogie was really good finding the rookie with passes when the defense sold out to stop him. 15 points on 7/9 shooting in only 23 minutes is great stuff. He does have a tendency to get stuck with foul trouble, but that's typical. Its a combination of having to adjust to the league and refs picking on rookies more than others. Really excited for this kid's potential.