This might get a little out of control so I apologize if you’ve grown tired of these types of articles from me. But Tyreke Evans is a force to be reckoned with and I’m not sure there is enough reckoning in this world to do it.
Let me just start out by talking about the fourth quarter and get my gushing out of the way. After closing out the third quarter with a 14-2 run that turned an embarrassing 24-point deficit into a manageable 12-point disadvantage, the Sacramento Kings nearly completed another road comeback by scoring 31 fourth quarter points. 31 fourth quarter points are a nice way to try to close out games. It means the offense is clicking and hopefully your defense is doing the job to go with it. But 31 fourth quarter points isn’t the impressive part of this.
After Donté Greene hit a free throw with 9:26 remaining in the game (which was also the Kings fifth point of the fourth quarter), Tyreke Evans had a hand in the final 26 points scored by the Kings.
Let me restate that on its own.
Tyreke Evans was responsible for the Kings final 26 points.
14 of those 26 points were his own. The rest were the four three-pointers he created with two each going to Andres Nocioni and Beno Udrih. It was a barrage of layups, shots in the key and a jumper at the top of the key for good measure. It was Tyreke Evans taking on the second best defense in the NBA and torching them when his team needed it the most. He’s clearly the best player on the Kings. With all due respect to Kevin Martin, Evans affects the game in a different way.
Kevin Martin is a quite scorer. He’s one of those guys that you look at the box score at the end of the game and are surprised that he ended up with 30-plus points on not very many shots. That’s not the case with Tyreke Evans. With Havoc, you can’t help but feel him changing the course of the game. He saturates the play on the floor with his own will. You can play a man off of him in hopes of slowing him down going to the basket but when he’s in a groove like he was in the final 12 minutes against Charlotte, it’s completely futile. You could set up the Berlin Wall in front of the basket and he’s just going to barrel through it to score a basket and reunite Germany in the process.
With that said, how did the Kings get down in this game?
They played like excrement; that’s how. The interior defense was a complete afterthought for them. The Kings turned the ball over an obscene amount early on. They had three in the first 1:20 of the game, seven after the first quarter was over and had eclipsed their season averaged (15.7) with 16 after three quarters. And the Bobcats capitalized. They had 20 fastbreak points in this game. It felt like they would take long rebounds and turnovers and Usain Bolt their way back down the floor for an easy score. Charlotte plays the 25th fastest pace in the NBA on average and yet ended up with nearly 20% of their points coming from quick strikes.
Gerald Wallace (remember him?) was an overwhelming force, himself. It seemed like he got to the free throw line whenever he wanted (15 attempts). He finished with just five rebounds but it seemed like he had his hand in every Charlotte board. He also seems to play perfectly with guys like Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw and Flip Murray. These four create so much disturbance on the perimeter that it can flood your gameplan and take over the game without you being able to do anything about it.
As for the Kings players, the usual suspects helped erase the lead and make up for the poor play of the recent suspects. Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes were nowhere to be seen in terms of good Kings basketball. You barely saw them in the deficit-erasing second half and certainly not when it mattered most. You can thank the five of Evans-Udrih-Greene-Nocioni-Brockman for the biggest minutes and the near comeback.
Now, the great play of that lineup might have been the ultimate reason for not being able to close out the game. The Kings couldn’t stop Raymond Felton down the stretch – yes, THAT Raymond Felton. Felton scored 11 points in the final quarter by torching Beno Udrih. I wouldn’t be surprised if the fourth quarter advice of Larry Brown was “whoever has Beno guarding him go the f&^$ing hole!” You couldn’t put Tyreke Evans on him because that would leave Beno to guard Flip Murray and that would have been more of a disaster.
Also, that small lineup for the Kings might have cost them a chance at a desperation win or overtime. Flip Murray shooting free throws with one second left and he missed the second one. Even though Brockman was on the court, the rebound went long, Boris Diaw grabbed the offensive rebound and the Bobcats closed out the game. Can you blame Westphal or the lineup on the floor for doing that? Yes, partially. But you can also blame Thompson and Spencer for playing so poorly in this game (and getting dominated inside by Nazr Mohammed and Boris Diaw) that they weren’t put in for potentially the most crucial rebound of the game.
Overall, it was another close game the Kings couldn’t close out. Had they played the first 32 minutes the way they played the final 16 minutes, this probably would have been a blowout road victory for them. Instead, they were asked to pull another Miracle in Chicago and came up short.
Final Game Notes
- Evans 34 points were a career-high. The most impressive part for me? It’s a hybrid of doing so on 13/20 shooting with 10/12 coming at the basket. 10/12! When Tyreke has it going like that, it feels like the other team is playing 4-on-5 defensively.
- Kevin Martin had a bad game. And he really hasn’t been himself in the three games back. I’m going to cover that briefly in another piece but let me just say this. Getting shut down with nine points on nine shots against Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson is nothing to be ashamed of. Those are fantastic perimeter defenders when they want to be. And give him a break. He’s played decently coming back from injury and still needs to find his rhythm, which will happen sooner rather than later.
- Jon Brockman is insane. The Bobcats allow the seventh lowest offensive rebounding rate for their opponents and he grabbed seven offensive rebounds. He finished with 14 boards in 30 minutes off the bench. He had 10 rebounds in the second half. There is flat out no excuse for Westphal to not give him 25 minutes per night the rest of the season. He doesn’t have bad or ineffective games. He comes in, rebounds, and bangs bodies with bigger opponents to wear them out.
- 35 points off the bench between Beno, Noc and Donté. It’s impossible to expect that from them every game but when it happens, the Kings are going to win more games than they lose.
- Hilton Armstrong’s first game as a King was to be expected. 10 minutes off the bench and he blocked one shot. He also didn’t grab a single rebound. He’s basically the opposite of Brian Skinner.