The Sacramento Kings could use some consistency – even after just three games.
After an embarrassing opening night in OKC and a bit of a redemption loss in New Orleans that looked extremely encouraging, the Kings were brought back down to Earth by getting manhandled 113-94 in San Antonio. They finished the early road trip 0-3 and look to get their first win against the Memphis Grizzlies.
The strange thing about Saturday night was that the Kings were able to match the Spurs for much of the first half and seemed to be lingering for a possible upset. The problem was they couldn’t close out quarters. They would play tough for eight minutes in each of the first three quarters and then the Spurs would flip a switch and close out the period with great execution and a nice run. At the end of the first quarter, the Spurs closed out on a 9-2 run to push the lead to seven.
But the key stretch was towards the end of the second quarter in which San Antonio really created some breathing room for themselves by closing out the period with a 12-2 run. They took advantage of four missed threes and four missed Andres Nocioni jumpers in the final three and a half minutes and knocked down back-to-back threes of their own. It was the moment in this game in which you realized the Kings were not going to be much of a challenge for this Spurs machine.
And it really was a machine-like effort. The Spurs have always built a reputation by executing on offense and REALLY executing on defense. They seemed to run every pick and roll to perfection, as the Kings couldn’t find a way to slow it down. In the Hornets game, Tyreke Evans was able to match Chris Paul’s quickness to take away his play-making ability. But against the speedier Tony Parker, he wasn’t able to stay with him at all. Parker blew past Evans pretty much whenever he wanted to and there wasn’t much ‘Reke could do about it.
Parker was clearly too quick for Evans and every time he ran the rookie off of a screen, he took advantage of a soft interior presence by going right whichever Kings big man was acting as the safety valve. Nobody ever stepped up to slow down Parker, which either means the rotation and scheme was poor or Parker is just too damn fast for anybody in the NBA. It helped lead to a lot of open shots by the Spurs and a very impressive shooting night for the team. San Antonio shots 58% from the field, made half of their 16 three-point attempts and had a True Shooting Percentage of 66.
Where the inconsistency comes in is the defensive and individual performances. Against the Thunder, the Kings looked completely overmatched and incapable of slowing down any attack. They were weak inside (highlighted by poor interior efforts from Spencer and May) and allowed OKC to get a lot of open shots. But against the Hornets, they were active inside and on the boards. They challenged shots and played with a lot of heart that we didn’t see in the first game. Spencer Hawes was still pretty bad compared to what his expectations are and Kevin Martin was completely night and day from game to game.
And then last night, the Kings got another solid performance from Kevin Martin and had a great, aggressive showing from Spencer Hawes and yet, couldn’t get the same results from Tyreke Evans, Jason Thompson, and Andres Nocioni. The problem is with bad teams this is often the same story from game to game – a lack of consistency. Jason Thompson was in foul trouble once again. Nocioni took good shots against the Spurs defense but they just wouldn’t fall. And Evans had issues scoring before he left the game with an ankle injury.
The injury to Tyreke didn’t look too bad on the replay because it wasn’t a real hard roll when he stepped on Bonner’s foot. But the fact that Evans came out of the game and didn’t even shoot the free throws concerns me a bit. I’m sure it’s completely precautionary and with the game already out of hand at the time, there was simply no reason for him to try to play through it or even shoot the free throws. Sam Amick tweeted that Evans said he’d play Monday night so hope that he’s able to channel his inner-Wolverine and heal quickly for the home opener.
There really isn’t too much else to say about this game (other than the player evaluations that will be out later today). So I’ll leave you with the bat incident. It probably changed the entire momentum of the game, much like a huge hit by Ray Lewis. The Spurs were fired up after Manu did what the Joker couldn’t finish and it completely intimidated the Kings.
Now imagine that you’re listening to Benny Hill music and speed this video up in your mind.
Player evaluations for both the games against the Hornets and Spurs coming later today.