For the first time in a gazillion years, the Sacramento Kings have swept the Los Angeles Lakers in the regular season series. True, its come in one of the worst seasons in Lakers history, but its still satisfying kicking around the folks from down south. This season has been maddeningly frustrating, but sweeping the Lakers gives Kings fans at least one thing to smile about.
Tonight, the story of the game was the Kings running full-tilt in transition. The Kings scored FORTY of their points in fast breaks, a truly ridiculous proportion of their total offense. The Lakers did their part to help grease the wheels with their 22 turnovers, directly leading to THIRTY points off those turnovers. I did think the Kings did a pretty solid job defending the Lakers. The Lakers aren't exactly running a ferocious offense, but the Kings didn't defend the Lakers all that well the last few times the teams met. This time, the Kings did a good job defending using their new principles, holding the Lakers to a 91.2 overall offensive rating, which included only 44% shooting from the field and 19% from three. They are still using ICE defense to force ballhandlers to the sideline, they are running shooters off their catch-and-shoot rhythm, and they are rotating on the front end. Its not perfect but its good enough to stop the Lakers.
The Kings were led tonight by Darren Collison's 22 points, a lot of which came after turnovers and in transition. DeMarcus Cousins had a quiet 22 points, but that was mostly because the Kings were scoring so easily in transition. Cousins did draw plenty of fouls to help him earn a tidy 66.7 TS% mark on the night despite his struggles scoring from the field. Rudy Gay also showed out with some highlight-worthy dunks on his way to a 20 point outing.
In the fourth quarter, it looked like the Lakers were going to catch the Kings, who had been sitting on a comfortable double-digit lead for most of the evening. This was mostly on the back of some truly atrocious halfcourt offense on the part of the Kings. George Karl still seems insistent on an offense-less offense when the Kings aren't streaking in transition, which is leading to some ghastly offensive production. But, with the Lakers cutting the lead to six points with three minutes remaining, the Kings went to a solid set that got them two consecutively good looks: Cousins popped out to the three point line after setting a screen, receive the ball and then immediately revers it to Gay coming from the opposite wing for a quick screen and roll that got Rudy going downhill in the middle of the paint. It isn't the most elaborate set ever, but its nice to see the Kings using some motion and movement as opposed to their drab pindown or straight isolation plays. Rudy got two great shots out of that set, making one while Cousins cleaned up the other miss. Those two plays kept the Lakers at arms length by pushing the lead to 8 with two minutes remaining.
The Kings next play the Pelicans tomorrow on a back-to-back. New Orleans has had the Kings' number this year, so it'll be interesting to see the Kings' response.
- Marcelo Huertas is annoying simply because he brings joy to Lakers fans (yes I'm a major hater), so it was satisfying to see him turn it over again and again despite all the fancy passes he was trying to make. O
- Rajon Rondo's all-or-nothing mentality this season was on full display. Rondo had no conscience throwing high-risk, high-reward passes all over the court. Many of them connected (12 assists), but many were picked off too (6 turnovers).
- Byron Scott had one of the most bizarre timeouts you'll ever see. With 0.7 seconds left in the third quarter and the Kings up 12, he calls a timeout to draw up... a 60 foot heave. Apparently he thought he was going to be able to advance the ball, but even so that was a wasted timeout for no reason.
- Omri Casspi had one of the worst nights I could remember. He scored 12 points mostly just off of running in transition, but he couldn't hit anything tonight. He even airballed a free throw. Unfortunately, his early season three point shooting is looking a bit flukey as its come crashing back down to earth. That shootout with Steph Curry seems ages ago.
- Next time you don't feel good enough at doing what you do, remember that Ron Artest/World Peace/Panda Friend is still in the NBA. What an inspiration!
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