Ronnie Price? No.
Ronnie Brewer? Didn’t work.
Deron Williams? Not a chance.
Kings fans have been up and down a lot in the first two games. There was the embarrassing opener against the Thunder. There was the near-win in New Orleans that they should have won. There was the blowout in San Antonio in which Tyreke Evans turned his ankle. And there were the two good games at home, which resulted in a win and a very disappointing loss. Throw in Kevin Martin missing the next two months and morale definitely took a hit going into this game.
Well, Tyreke Evans decided to give Kings fans the breakout game they’ve been craving from him. He went off. I mean, HE. WENT. OFF. His first 30-point game came on a 32-point, 7-assist game with 7/15 shooting from the field, 2/3 from three, and 16/19 from the free throw line. He was +11 on the court and helped spark a huge run from about halfway in the second quarter through the end of the third quarter that turned a 15-point deficit to a 20-point lead.
But it wasn’t just Tyreke Evans; the entire team played incredibly. Beno Udrih continued his solid play over the past three games with a nice contribution as the Kings off-guard. Jason Thompson played 39 minutes despite having five fouls and finished with his second straight double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds (don’t forget the five assists either). And even Donté Greene made an appearance and made the most of it with 10 points on 4/4 shooting off the bench.
This Kings team showed their youth and exuberance can earn them big leads in a hostile environment and it can also help them almost blow a big lead in the fourth quarter of the game. After Wednesday night against the Hawks, it was evident this team had trouble closing out fourth quarters. It was no different in the game against the Jazz.
Sacramento had 25 possessions in the fourth quarter, thanks to some foul-and-chuck desperation from the Jazz at the end of the game. During a good portion of the fourth quarter, the Kings got into their offense way too late and often found themselves down to the final ticks on the shot clock before hoisting up a hasty shot attempt. In fact, the Kings took 11 shots in the quarter with four seconds or fewer left on the shot clock, four shots as the shot clock was expiring, had two shot clock violations and three turnovers. It definitely wasn’t an efficient scoring quarter. They missed four of their ten free throws in the quarter. And even with all of this bad I’m mentioning here, they still pulled out a win.
Tyreke Evans proved that he can be THE MAN for this team when need be. He locked horns with one of the better perimeter defenders in this league (Ronnie Brewer) and one of the best point guards in the NBA (Deron Williams) and came out the victor. He held his own and even imposed his will throughout much of this game. He played so well that he ended up getting the Top Performance of the Day on NBA.com:
My favorite sequence in this game came from Evans in the second quarter when the Kings started to build momentum. The Kings were playing a nicely rotating zone in which Evans and Ime Udoka (what a debut!) were creating chaos by deflecting passes and forcing bad decisions. Well, on back-to-back plays, Evans found himself with breakaway dunks. On the first steal, Udoka and Evans converged on Carlos Boozer at the top of the key, Udoka knocked the ball away and Evans motored up the court for a nice swooping one-handed dunk.
Then on the next play, there was some miscommunication between Andrei Kirilenko and Ronnie Price. Kirilenko threw the ball away as Price started to make an unexpected cut. Evans hustled to the ball, flew up the court, and measured his steps to ensure he would dunk on the recovering Price who was trying to channel his inner-LeBron to block the transition dunk. Instead, Evans put a little extra mustard on the corn dog and swaggerishly threw down on the former King. He got the dunk plus the foul and completed the three-point play. It was the first time in his young career Evans showed he had a nasty streak in him. It was cocky and confident. It was just what this Kings needed in the Kevin Martin sabbatical. It was what helped spark the win.
One more not before I get back to you on Sunday about this game. Spencer Hawes, Andres Nocioni, and Jason Thompson deserve a lot of credit in slowing this very good Jazz frontcourt. This Jazz isn’t a great rebounding team but they’re very respectable as a rebounding team. Last year, the Jazz was +17 rebounding against the Kings in four games. Tonight, the Kings matched them 38-38. The effort on the boards was something this team should be proud of.
How many times did you say that last year?