I can’t believe I’m about to say this but... what a fun week. The Kings went 3-1, all on the road, and had a legitimate chance of going 4-0. They beat the defending champions at full strength, they played the young guys and the young guys produced, and the team as a whole played more like a team than they have all season. This week’s performance is one which all fans can be happy about.
The High Post
Unlike last week in which I could barely find anything nice to talk about, there’s almost too much good to talk about this week. The Kings played like a real team this week, moving the ball well, finding the open man and just overall being really patient and efficient with their offense. Sacramento had 25+ assists in each of their wins, and still managed 22 in their loss to Indiana. DeMarcus Cousins (6 assists per game on the week) especially did a really good job of finding his teammates when double teams came, including the crucial assist to Arron Afflalo for his game winner against Cleveland.
Coach Dave Joerger also put more trust in his young guys this week, and they rewarded him with excellent efforts. Malachi Richardson saw his first real playing time and he looked extremely confident in his short stints on the court. He’s still got a lot of things to learn defensively (which most rookies do), but on offense he already looks like he’s been in the NBA for years which gets me excited about the type of growth he can have going forward. Willie Cauley-Stein was also pretty great this week, playing more aggressive on both ends of the floor and well enough that Coach Joerger has trusted him to play down the stretch of big games. This is the Willie we had hoped to see after last year’s promising rookie year.
Others have stepped up as well. Darren Collison (my player of the week) and Arron Afflalo in particular have picked up some of the scoring slack in Rudy Gay’s absence. Ty Lawson continues to be aggressive. Garrett Temple continued to do Garrett Temple things.
Most of all, the Kings were actually fun to watch this week. If this is the the Kings team we had been watching all year, the playoffs wouldn’t sound so ludicrous. But we’ve seen short stints of good play before. Let’s see if this can have a lasting effect.
The Low Post
There’s not much bad to say this week, but the Kings are still struggling mightily on the defensive end of the floor. Much of the improvement we saw from the Kings this week was on offense, where they were incredibly efficient. Their offensive rating on the week is right up there with what Golden State’s has been for the entire season. But the defensive rating has been the worst in the league aside from their performance against Detroit. Winning by outscoring the other team can happen from time to time, but for more consistent success, the Kings will have to learn how to stop their opponents as well. Part of that is personnel; The Kings simply don’t have a ton of great individual defenders on the team. But they can be better on this end than they have been.
One of the biggest reasons for Sacramento’s struggles on the defensive end, particularly this week, has been the fact that they’ve been fouling a ton and letting opponents get to the line on a regular basis. Against Indiana, that was essentially the reason the Kings lost, as they were in the penalty from the 9 minute mark of the 4th quarter. Paul George alone went 16-17 from the stripe in Sacramento’s lone loss of the week. Sacramento got pretty lucky with Cleveland going just 17-34 from the line overall in that game. The Kings are the best in the NBA at getting to the line themselves (in big part due to DeMarcus Cousins) but that advantage gets negated by the Kings giving up free throws to opponents at the 4th highest rate. I imagine Sacramento’s defense would look a lot better if they could somehow slow down their fouling.
Kimani’s Photo of the Week
No home games for Kimani to take photos this week, but here’s a great photo he took from earlier this year:
Highlight of the Week
One of the best plays I've seen...— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) January 26, 2017
by Garrett Temple. pic.twitter.com/jcEX2AM7C9
Player of the Week
19.5 PTS, .617 FG%, .579 3P%, 3.8 AST, 2.8 REB, 1.5 STL in 35.6 MPG
Darren Collison wasn’t Sacramento’s best player this week (that honor, as almost always goes to DeMarcus Cousins) but he was second best and I want to make special note of him as he’s stepped up his game big time in Rudy Gay’s absence. The Kings guard has rediscovered his offense and has been very aggressive in looking for his own shot. He’s also been incredibly efficient as well, nailing almost 60% of his own three pointers and an even higher percentage of his other shots. Collison won’t maintain that type of efficiency all year, but if he keeps being aggressive on offense, that will really help the Kings make up for Rudy’s scoring.
Jan. 30th at Philadelphia 76ers at 3 p.m.
Jan. 31st at Houston Rockets at 5 p.m.
Feb. 3rd vs. Phoenix Suns at 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 4th at Golden State Warriors at 7:30 p.m.