The loss to the Blazers dropped the Kings to 10-13 on the season and 1-10 on the road.
And it’s seemingly the same old story on the road: certain guys show up, other guys don’t and the Kings can’t get a full effort out of their regular rotation guys. First, let’s get the guys who did step up out of the way.
Jason Thompson had a really good game, nearly matching the superb effort of LaMarcus Aldridge on the night. JT showed the Kings fans a lot with some toughness inside, a nice turn around jumper, and a certain ownage of the defensive glass. He attacked the boards in order to end possessions for the Blazers. When Spencer Hawes couldn’t slow down Aldridge initially (surprise, surprise), JT stepped up and made the game more difficult for LaMarcus. He really didn’t get beat a whole lot on the defensive end of the floor unless Brandon Roy was penetrating and creating defensive rotation problems.
Beno Udrih continued his sweltering shooting by putting in a 17-point performance on 7/15 shooting. He also had five assists and zero turnovers off the bench. He did a nice job of bringing the Kings out of some offensive funkiness in the first half with 15 points on 6/10 shooting in the first 24. He was good at finding space in the Blazers defense, especially when they were in a pseudo-zone. But in the second half, Portland took away those spaces, cut off his penetration and challenged his attempts.
And of course, there is Tyreke Evans. How do you keep finding ways to describing him on the court? You saw in this game two things: 1) how scary efficient he can be scoring the ball as he gets more comfortable finishing his attempts inside and 2) his composure on the court is kind of intimidating. He never looks rattled. When the Kings had Donté Greene in the backcourt with ‘Reke, he was able to use his everything to get past Blazers point guards. But in the second half and more importantly the fourth quarter, the Blazers slowed him down and pretty much neutralized him by giving Brandon Roy the Tyreke defensive assignment.
Now for what didn’t work in this game.
The rotations on defense make or break this team on the road. When they’re rotating succinctly, they do a good job of keeping the other team from adding to the scoreboard. In the second quarter, they created turnovers, challenged shots, and hit the boards by being in the right defensive spots on the floor. But early in the first quarter and late in the game, the King seemed very confused with what they were trying to accomplish defensively on the floor. They would lose guys off the ball inside. They wouldn’t close out on shooters. They would meander in the middle of the floor, allowing the Blazers to get to the basket. They’d fail to cut off the baseline. It was a mess.
The Kings also received poor performances from Spencer Hawes, Donté Greene, and Andres Nocioni. These three guys hung Evans and Thompson out to dry in the starting lineup by combining for just 15 points on 7/24 shooting. Donté had a tough assignment of trying to slow down Brandon Roy when he was on the court and other than a nice bucket in the final minutes of the game, he wasn’t a positive factor on offense for the Kings. Andres Nocioni was completely transparent on the court and often blended in with the game so well that you forgot he was even on the court.
And then there is Spencer Hawes. I’m still attempting to be diplomatic with him but I just don’t see what hopeful Kings fans see with him. He was embarrassed by Al Jefferson in the last game against the Wolves and continued that play against the Blazers. He’s just not playing well. He’s had far too many games this season in which he’s a complete non-factor. By my count, he’s been pretty much useless in 11 games this season and the Kings have gone 2-9 in these games. His post defense seems like a practical joke and he doesn’t even go after rebounds. Other than two nice post scores tonight, he was inconsequential on offense.
Ultimately, this was just another close road game that didn’t end up bouncing the Kings way.
To cheer you up, I’ll leave you with these quotes by Nate McMillan on Tyreke Evans (thanks, Blazers Edge):
I think that kid is really, really good. I watched him on tape and just how he moves, I think he has some — this is, you hate to compare players like this — but I think he’s got some Magic in him. He’s a big guard that can see the floor. He’s unselfish. He gets to the rim. He uses his body very well. He’s good in transition. He can rebound and push the ball. A small or big guard doesn’t really faze him. He sees the floor extremely well. That team is where they are because of Coach Westphal of course. Evans, he plays 3 positions — 1, 2 and 3 — who knows, when they get some of their guys back, you may even see him at some 4 because he’s got a big body. He’s going to be a very good player.
He’s strong. He’s confident. He’s under control. What you saw out there was a young guy just taking a game over. He never looked out of control. It wasn’t a selfish thing. Taking advantage of opportunities. Defensively he’s not bad. He can defend too. He’s a good player.