The post-Cousins, post-trade world has seen the Kings focus much more on developing young talent, learning lessons, and resting veterans. That shift in priorities and the gap in talent left by the moves made at the deadline have caused Sacramento to struggle mightily on the defensive end of the floor. Prior to tonight’s win against Memphis, the Kings were giving up 110 points per game after the All-Star break, but tonight Dave Joerger’s squad was able to hold the Grizzlies to just 90 points on 34% shooting.
With Marc Gasol sitting out of the game due to a foot injury, the matchup evolved into a battle of the point guards. Darren Collison was the much more efficient leader of his team, scoring 23 points on 8/13 shooting, grabbing 4 rebounds, and dishing out 7 assists while Mike Conley had to take 23 shots to get his 22 points, along with 3 rebounds, and 9 dimes. Zach Randolph also had a solid game for the Grizzles, scoring 17 points and recording 15 rebounds and Willie Cauley-Stein filled the stat sheet with 12 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal for the Kings.
In the back-and-fourth affair, each team attempted to impose their gameplan on the other throughout the entire contest. Memphis tried to slow the game down in the half-court through set plays and hustling after every possible rebound. The Grizzlies pounded the Kings on the glass, outrebounding them 45-36 overall and 19-8 on offensive rebounds. That focus on each loose ball enabled Memphis to keep the game close, even though they shot a full 12% worse from the floor. On the other hand, when Sacramento made a stop, they pushed the ball as quickly up the floor as possible, outscoring Memphis 18-4 on fastbreak points. In the end, the Kings were able to make one more offensive play than the Grizzlies and were able to secure the victory.
After an impressive comeback win against the Clippers last night, it’s encouraging to see the Kings win in a less dramatic, start-to-finish manner over another playoff contender.
- Willie Cauley-Stein affected both ends of the court throughout the entire game. He was grabbing key rebounds, running the floor in transition, attacking the rim, and bothering Grizzly players all night long. I don’t know if it’s sustainable for every game, but an engaged WCS is almost unstoppable on many levels.
- Buddy Hield had a very “okay” game. He scored a perfectly acceptable 14 points and snagged 4 boards, but he did not have any assists and shot only 2/7 from 3 point range. Tony Allen was on the other side of the ball for much of the night, so Hield’s slight struggles are understandable.
- Skal Labissiere had a rough outting to start and never got the chance to redeem himself. After recording double digit minutes in his last 11 games, the Kings rookie only played 9 minutes and didn’t look great in his time on the court. I would have liked to see Joerger give Skal some more time to try and make an impact.
- Georgios Papagiannis recorded his first DNP-CD in eight games. Zach Randolph, JaMychal Green, and Brandan Wright may have been too challenging a matchup for Joerger’s comfort level.
- The Kings won tonight, and I want to be annoyed because of draft positioning and because it feels like they secured the win on the backs of veterans instead of young guys, but WCS and Hield both played over 33 minutes tonight. Right now, it’s important for Skal and Papa G to get playing time, but it’s also valuable for Cauley-Stein and Buddy to share the court with guys who know how to play the right way. In the end, I’ll try to never complain about a win!