The Kings gave the ball to Tyreke Evans and told him to win games against two of the best teams in the NBA over the past week. It didn’t happen. He failed to get shots off in both contests when his team needed a dagger and the Kings ended up giving in during overtime periods.
Against the Nuggets, they didn’t have that option. The Kings were missing Tyreke because of a sprained ankle. The criticism against Coach Westphal and the rest of the Kings during the Cavs and Lakers losses was that there wasn’t enough team ball being played. Monday night against Denver, the only option the Kings had was team ball.
And it worked.
The Kings played a pretty poor game Monday night. They turned the ball over like crazy in the first half, gave a poor effort inside and failed to take advantage of a 7/23 second quarter by the Nuggets. They gave up 54 points in the paint during the game, 20 offensive rebounds and 29 second chance points. And yet, they still won the game. How?
Well, everybody did enough to squeak out a win at home against one of the best teams in the Western Conference. Donté Greene kept the Kings close in the first quarter with his hot shooting and he made Carmelo work for every single one of his 34 points (on 35 shots). Beno Udrih took away Ty Lawson’s greatest asset – his quickness. And even though his shot wouldn’t fall (2/11), Sergio Rodriguez was enough of a pest and distributor on offense to keep the Kings in control of the pace of this game.
But wait, there’s more.
Andres Nocioni finally broke out of his shooting slump. Over his previous 11 games, he was shooting 32 for 89, which is good/bad for 35.9%. But against the Nuggets, he couldn’t find the rim. He made four of his five threes. He made six of his seven shots total and accounted for 21 of the Kings 106 points while playing 25 minutes off the bench. He bailed out the Kings in bad stretches. He kept good stretches going on offense when the Kings needed to keep the momentum in their favor. He was just a perfect bailout scorer for a Kings team that struggled to get continuity out there.
Westphal after the game said, “I told him after the game, ‘Noc, you know how to get out of a shooting slump don’t you?’ and he said, ‘yeah, keep shooting.’”
And then there is Jon Brockman. What can you say about him? He’s probably the most fun King to watch out there when Tyreke isn’t on the floor. There’s a certain buzz in the arena when he’s checking into the game. People know they’re going to see effort out there from him. They know he’s going to annoy the other post players. They know he’s going to play solid defense against guys that should obliterate him. They know he’s going to be a factor on the boards. And he delivered with all of those assumptions about him.
When Brockman came in, he changed the game. His final line reads six points, ten rebounds and two blocks in 16 minutes on the floor but it goes well beyond the box score. Brockman didn’t just block two shots. He swatted two shots and made sure the hoop was protected. His athleticism is deceiving. If he were five inches taller, he probably would have been a Top 15 pick. He’s that good defensively and as a rebounder. When he hits the boards, he soars for the ball. He snatches it out of the air like a thief grabbing a purse on the run. And he gets more tips than a hot bartender near any college campus.
He wasn’t the sole reason the Kings won this game. It was a total team effort without roughly 50 points sitting out with injuries. It was the effort the Kings needed against big teams. Before Evans was being left out on an island. But against the Nuggets, the Kings role players had no choice but to step up. The result was a big win against a tough opponent.
One Final Game Note
I want to get back to Donté Greene’s defense against Carmelo. If you look how ‘Melo scored his points, he was pretty much unstoppable when he got to the basket. He made nine of his 17 attempts around the rim. He also threw up a shot clock beating prayer from about 35 feet that dropped through to everyone’s amazement. So that’s 21 of his 34 points right there.
But for the rest of his scoring, the Kings did a good job of keeping him out of the paint. Some of that was help defense already being set up to deter Melo from forcing the issue. The rest of that was Donté staying in front of Carmelo and getting him to settle for outside jumpers. He was 5/16 on jumpers outside of the key. He only attempted seven free throws because Donté played him about as intelligently as you can. Let him think an outside jumper is a good shot, get a hand in his face, and pray for the best. It was a strategy that didn’t work against LeBron and Kobe because they were just hot. But against Carmelo, he took advantage of a slumping scorer trying to bust out of his malaise without working hard for his scoring opportunities.
Just a great effort from Donté.