The Kings were listless and didn’t really compete against the Bulls on Monday night. The Bulls created turnovers and took advantage of a poor defensive effort. They shot the lights out, attacked the basket and outworked this Kings team on the boards.
This was going to be the general theme of the game recap when the Bulls went on an 11-0 run with just under 21 minutes left in the entire game. It left the Kings down 79-44 and I started to think a few things. Why am I watching the Kings get their teeth kicked in right now? Why can’t the Kings figure out this road thing? I wonder if Point Break is on right now? It’s a shame Tyreke Evans is playing so terribly; this was a bad road trip for him outside of the game against Milwaukee. Should I even finish watching this game?
The last question to myself was odd. I pretty much never watch blowouts like this. I never finish them and even though I’m covering the Kings now, I still was so close to turning the game off and just using the first 27 minutes and the final box score to write my recap. I didn’t want to watch another bad effort for 48 minutes like had just happened against the Wolves in Minnesota.
But then Tyreke Evans scored on a layup to cut it to 33. And Sergio Rodriguez scored in transition to cut it to 31. Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson became extremely active on the defensive end of the floor and the tempo was pushed a little more with a lineup of Hawes-Thompson-Greene-Evans-Sergio. The Kings cut it to under 30 with back-to-back JT jumpers and the Bulls seemed like they were the ones coasting. You can’t really blame them either. They were up 30+ in the second half. But they made a huge mistake – in allowing a young team to get a little confidence and momentum their way.
When Jon Brockman checked in with 2:11 left in this game, the Kings were still down 26 points. However, he was playing with the energy of a backup forward on a team down just one or two possessions and hungry to help his team gain control. The Kings ended the third quarter on a 9-2 run to cut it to 19.
In the fourth quarter there were a few factors as to why the Kings came back and had such success in turning around one of the more embarrassing losses in Kings history into the greatest comeback this franchise and the league has ever seen:
1) Jon Brockman was willing to outwork the other team’s big men without worrying about the score of the game. He was tireless on the boards and annoying to Noah, Gibson and Brad Miller. He didn’t score a single point in this game but he played the entire fourth quarter and grabbed four rebounds in the final 12 minutes of this game.
2) The wing defense by the Kings was incredible. You can chalk this up to Ime Udoka and Tyreke Evans playing lockdown defense on John Salmons and Luol Deng during the fourth quarter. With the active Brockman inside and Jason Thompson challenging shots and playing tall, Derrick Rose had nowhere to go for his offense. Beno Udrih played amazing defense on Rose knowing he had to check him with Rose having no other options. The result was a 10-point quarter and seven turnovers in the final period. Udoka and Evans didn’t even let Salmons and Deng get shots off during this final push. It was just good ole fashioned lockdown defense.
3) More defense to talk about here. The Bulls offense during the fourth quarter was really confusing. They only made two baskets and those were by Kirk Hinrich with the second one coming with 10:15 left in the game. After that, the Bulls shot 0/6 in the final 10:15. They only attempted six shots in 10 minutes? The Bulls were basically playing a prevent offense in which they dribbled out the clock, fired up a bad shot or turned it over, and prayed the Kings couldn’t make enough shots to win this game before the final buzzer. And for a while it was working. The Kings were still down 12 with a little over four minutes left until…
4) Ime Udoka happened. While his defense was HUGE in this turn around, his offense was even bigger. Udoka scored eight straight points from 4:13 to 2:28 left in the quarter to cut the deficit to four. Where did this come from? He’s not a scorer and he’s really not that good of a shooter. He isn’t Desmond Mason bad at shooting but he’s not Jon Barry either. But he calmly stepped up on back-to-back threes when Beno drove and kicked to the corner and then on a scramble and broken play, the ball ended up in Ime’s hands with the shot clock running down and the Bulls crapping their pants. And that paved way for…
5) Tyreke Mother^$&*ing Evans. He scored nine straight points in a two-minute stretch to help this team win the game. There isn’t a player I remember watching on this team or any other that I feel assured they will come through when you need him to. He gets the ball at the end of these games and I honestly feel sorry for the guy trying to defend him. He has no chance of stopping Evans. And the help defender is hopeless too because even though he’s bigger, he’s not strong or quick enough to keep Evans from getting into the lane. He finished this game with 23 points on 8/19 shooting. But when you factor in that he missed six shots around the basket in this game, it starts to look a lot more dominating than the numbers suggest. He just got wherever he wanted on the court. And he did this against solid defenders in Salmons, Rose, and Hinrich. He’s not even ‘Reking Havoc anymore; he just is Havoc.
This was a big win for more reasons than just “they came back from 35 points down to win.” They did it on the road, which is a big thing for a young team. Now, Coach Westphal has this experience in his coaching pocket and he can bring it out at any point in the season and remind them of the great things they can do. There isn’t a single contest the rest of the year the Kings should give up during because they know they can come back with good defense, active play on the boards, and relentless offensive aggressiveness.
One final thought on this game and it’s about Westphal. It’s amazing what having a real coach will do for the growth of a young team. We’re now about 1/3 of the way through this season and the team looks night and day compared to last year’s debacle. A lot has to do with the acquisitions Petrie made this off-season but even more has to do with what Westphal does for this team. Here’s what Evans said after the game:
“One thing I like about Coach Westphal, he’s a great coach. At halftime he didn’t come in and curse us out like we were little kids. He talked to us, we weren’t playing our best basketball, keep fighting. We went out and did that. I think that kept our confidence up instead of just coming in and yelling at everybody.”
Not many coaches would do that after their team was just shellacked for 24 minutes and found themselves down 24 at halftime. Only the really good ones know how to keep their team motivated and confident. For those of you who badly missed Rick Adelman over the past three years (and justifiably so), how do you like having Paul Westphal as the coach of the Kings now?