There are two things that can help a young team win on the road: 1) some good ole fashioned defense and 2) a young star taking over the game when they need it most.
First, let’s talk about the Evans-Jennings matchup. On paper, it looks like Tyreke Evans won this battle with a 24-15 scoring advantage, a 9/19 to 4/11 shooting advantage, and Tyreke’s game-winner outlasting Jennings’ clutch play. But if you watched this game you didn’t necessarily walk away thinking Tyreke Evans is hands down the better player. They’re just extremely different players.
We all know about Evans. He’s an unstoppable force when he wants to go to the basket. It seems like the only player in the NBA that has stopped Evans from going to the basket this season is Tyreke. He tries to keep the defense honest by shooting jumpers. If he makes them, it makes the defender inch up on him, which gives him even more of an unfair advantage going to the basket. But there are times you wonder if he should shoot jumpers at all because he’s SO good at going to the hoop. Seven of his nine makes from the field were layups or around the basket. He also missed five or six layups. He just simply gets into the lane and gets quality shot attempts.
But he didn’t do a great job of running the offense in terms of taking care of the ball. It was actually fairly fluid and flowed decently but he turned the ball over six times. His first two possessions in which he made moves towards the basket, he threw a pass out of bounds and lost the ball dribbling it off his leg. It wasn’t as smooth as watching Brandon Jennings run the Bucks. Jennings doesn’t seem like a legit scorer if you’re playing fundamental defense against him. Going hard against screens and having a decent help line from your teammates seems to limit his ability to create a shot for himself. Teams have figured out to limit his scoring quite easily. But that doesn’t stop him from running the Bucks and getting them scores.
Maybe the most important score was the layup Jennings found for Ilyasova with five seconds remaining in the game. Jennings tried to inbound the ball to Bogut in order to get it back and strike towards the defense. But like most people, he couldn’t estimate the length of Tyreke Evans. Evans tipped the ball and then was pushed aside by Bogut during the scramble for the possession. Jennings grabbed the ball and made a quick decision to get the ball up the halfcourt and fired a solid pass into Ilyasova, who was wide-open due to the scramble and defensive breakdown. It seemed like an obvious simple play but there was a certain calmness with Jennings that most rookie point guards wouldn’t have.
But then there was Tyreke Evans. So far this season, I’ve compared his moves around the hoop to Manu Ginobili. However, the move he put on Andrew Bogut to get an easy game-winning layup was straight out of Dwyane Wade’s Wonder Emporium. A hard jab step right to get Andrew Bogut away from his path and then a nice little reverse layup on the left side of the basket was all that the Kings needed to win this game.
However, they didn’t necessarily win this game because of Evans’ layup. They won this game because in the second half of this game, they played much-improved defense from the first half. While the Kings shot well in the first half, the Bucks shot very well with 54% shooting. The Bucks were moving the ball well and getting easy scores. The second half though was much different. The Kings closed out very well on jumpers. They attacked shots and did a good job of making the Bucks work much harder for the scores they made.
The Kings kept Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings from making a single basket in the fourth quarter. In fact according to Jeremy at Bucksketball, Bogut and Jennings missed their final combined 13 shots in this game. The Kings snapped their losing streak on the road because they took away the other team’s two best players (combined 10/31 shooting). When’s the last time you could say that about a Kings team? They forced Hakim Warrick, Charlie Bell, and Ersan Ilyasova to win this game and made sure they had their ace in the hole with Tyreke Evans to give them a chance of pulling out this road victory.
While the Evans-Jennings debate may never be completely decided, Tyreke took the first showdown by doing what he does best: bothering teams with his lengthy defense and getting to the basket. Evans is probably not a pure point guard but the people that say he can’t play point guard don’t pay attention to the way he turns the game into one big mismatch. Jennings is probably better at running a team but Evans is going to give you baskets and wins when you need them.
Evans – 1, Jennings – 0.