When the TrueHoop Network started, I was introduced to the writings of John Krolik.
If you don’t know who John Krolik is, he’s the guy that run Cavs: The Blog for the THN. He’s also probably the most impressive young writer I read on a daily basis. Aside from my NBA obsession, I really don’t care about the Cleveland Cavaliers. I love watching LeBron (well, it’s kind of a love/hate thing with me and LBJ) but outside of Delonte West the rest of the team is extremely uninteresting to me. But I read every single word John Krolik writes about the team every day because he’s just an exceptional writer (much like with Rob Mahoney and the Mavs blog, Two-Man Game). I recommend throwing him into your RSS feed reading device if you can.
Anyway, I was reading him this morning because I wanted to get his thoughts on the game and he wrote a lot of good analysis on the Kings. Here’s a snippet:
Tyreke Is Young: Right when LeBron took the Tyreke matchup, you could see LBJ was in Tyreke’s head a little bit. The first time Tyreke saw LeBron guarding him, he launched into some elaborate shake-and-bake moves on the perimeter to try and show LeBron that he belonged on his level, but ended up getting forced into a fallaway 20-footer for his efforts. Later, when Tyreke actually did ditch LeBron with a beautiful (and much simpler) pivot move in the lane, he rushed the shot so much that he ended up missing the resulting open four-footer pretty badly.
And finally, when LeBron missed a jumper with fourteen seconds left and Tyreke got the rebound, Evans dribbled into a trap and forced up a hopeless shot instead of calling a timeout when he recognized he had nowhere to go. And while Tyreke’s teammates could’ve tried to help him a little more, Tyreke seemed to have few misgivings about challenging LeBron over and over again down the stretch, even as the results got increasingly worse. Overall, the effect this game will have on Evans’ maturity level will probably pay huge long-term dividends for the Kings, but it’s a lesson that cost the Kings on Wednesday night.
First of all, John is pretty much spot-on here. Tyreke Evans became a one-on-five show throughout most of the fourth quarter to the point that people in the stands seemed dumbfounded by what was going on. The Kings after this game were playing up the “we’re one of the youngest teams” angle for their loss. I think that’s fine if you want to lump all of the criticism onto birthdays but I’m not completely buying it.
You can blame things like the last possession on youth. Spencer Hawes instinctively came up to set the screen against LeBron because that’s what you should do at the end of games when you need a score. Young guys have fallen into the LeBron-Pierce-Kobe habit of dribbling out the clock and then taking a terrible step-back jumper from 22 feet away. Tyreke Evans isn’t making that type of shot against LeBron James. He just isn’t. You give him that shot 100 times against LeBron and he might connect five times.
And since the Cavs are one of the worst pick-and-roll defensive teams in the NBA and you’ve opted to keep that final timeout in your pocket so the Cavs can’t get Zyndrunas Ilgauskas out of there defensively, why not run a pick-and-roll? Sure, you’re probably giving the ball to Spencer Hawes for the last shot but with as slow and off as the Cavs players are with pick-and-roll defensive rotations, you could easily end up with a kick-out pass from Hawes to Omri or Beno or anybody. Whatever that shot was, it had to be a better shot than what Tyreke Evans didn’t even get off.
So you can blame the final possession on youth with them panicking a little bit (everyone except Spencer here because he was trying to do the right thing) but what about the rest of the fourth quarter? Youth isn’t letting Tyreke Evans get into a pissing match with LeBron James. I understand the notion to want to give Evans the ball and have him go beat the best player in the NBA. After the week Tyreke had with the steal against Gilbert, the domination against the Bucks and the fourth quarter comeback against the Bulls, you’re inclined to ride that wave until he crashes into the beach. But at some point, it was obvious the Kings were asking too much of Evans and it wasn’t going to work.
Yes, it was still a close game and you still had ample opportunities to win the game even with Evans wasting possession after possession. But imagine if you ran pick-and-roll plays with Beno a few times instead or let Thompson and Hawes take advantage of the terrible inside defense the Cavs were playing. You probably score a few times in those final possessions and put the Cavs on their heels offensively. And maybe you end up with a .500 record after 28 games and a huge home victory.
That didn’t happen but not because of youth. At a certain point, they got caught up in trying to make Evans a star. If he beats LeBron one-on-one a couple of times, you might lead off SportsCenter and get every national blog linking to you for the fourth time in a week. You might convince people to keep coming to the games (great crowd at the game last night by the way). Take a lesson from what LeBron James did: find your teammates and make the smart play when the offense isn’t going your way.
John Krolik was dead-on. This was a lesson that cost the Kings a victory Wednesday night.