This is going to seem unfair and like I’m picking on Spencer Hawes but when I was watching this game a certain play seemed to stand out to me and sum the entire contest.
Spencer Hawes drove up the right side of the floor and endured a bit of contact and some ball swiping. Hawes lost the ball or was stripped of the ball or lost the ball while he was stripped and instead of fighting for the ball, he just looked to the ref for a foul call. While he was silently protesting the non-call, Mo Evans took the ball the other way, flew up the court and flushed it home.
Why was this play a summary of the game for the Kings? Well, they were aggressive but couldn’t quite execute the way they needed to and in return, the Hawks took the ball and finished strongly inside. This seemed to be how the game was all night. The Kings fought in the paint. The Kings fought on the boards. The Kings fought a better Hawks team in a hostile environment. Well, it would have been a hostile environment if the crowd didn’t resemble an Atlanta Braves home playoff games. And yet they continued to come up short.
The Hawks destroyed the Kings interior defense. The Kings had to work way too hard to get the rebounds they actually secured. The Hawks seemed to score inside whenever they needed to quell a Kings run. They shot better inside than the Kings. They shot better from three than the Kings. They nearly doubled the Kings free throw attempts. They were just the more aggressive team and it paid off for them.
While this was the Kings 12th loss in 14 games, there were some decently encouraging signs for the team. Tyreke Evans and Kevin Martin had really nice games together. They combined for 47 points, 10 assists and only two turnovers.
Martin was his usual self outside of not getting to the free throw more times than the defense is comfortable with. He spread his scoring out all over the floor. He made jumpers from outside, jumpers from mid-range and shots around the basket. He attempted to push the tempo when he could and he even played really solid defense for someone who isn’t known as a solid defender. These are the types of games you’d like to see out of him.
As for Evans, he simply dominated his assignment like we’re growing accustom to seeing him do. He completely shut down what used to be called Mike Bibby when he was on him and he did a great job slowing down Joe Johnson. Offensively, he put his head down, went full steam ahead and got to the basket. He was 7/9 around the basket because he was just too quick and physical for the Atlanta defense to handle.
There were three other bright spots for the Kings out there. First, Omri Casspi came off the bench and gave the Kings exactly what they needed from him. He brought energy, decent defense and scoring. His final scoring tally was a little inflated thanks to a late, meaningless surge but he still finished with 16 points and eight rebounds. He also played solid post defense on guys like Joe Smith and Zaza Pachulia when he was switched onto them. Second, Jason Thompson’s play against Josh Smith this season has been very good. Although he didn’t finish with great numbers (14 points, five rebounds), JT was assertive in the post against Josh Smith and scored on a couple of powerful, decisive post moves when isolated against the shot blocker. He did the same thing in the fifth game of the year when the Hawks came to Sacramento. Third, you should be happy with the overall production of the bench. Spencer Hawes had a good game off the bench with four points, four assists and five rebounds in 12 minutes. Casspi had the aforementioned game and Beno Udrih also chipped in eight points and eight assists.
But there were also some things that didn’t sit well with me. Jon Brockman and Donté Greene were pretty much ineffective in their 39 combined minutes on the floor. Brockman wasn’t the rebounding, defensive machine we’re used to seeing. Al Horford, Josh Smith and company out played him on the boards. Every time he was close to securing the board, someone in a Hawks jersey would tip it away. Donté Greene didn’t score in his 16 minutes and might as well have not even been on the court. His defense was decent but his overall impact on the game was nonexistent. And ever though the bench played fairly well, they missed all of their three-point attempts (0/6) and they didn’t attempt a single free throw among them.
Chalk it up to another road loss by a bad road team. They can’t seem to put together 48 minutes of good play on this road trip. Against the Wizards and 76ers, they just never had a consistent effort. Against the Bobcats, the second half was special but the first half buried them. And against the Hawks, the energy and execution in the first half wasn’t there in the third quarter.
This is a team in desperate need of a defensive presence inside. Since they’re not giving those away for guys like Andres Nocioni, it’s up to Jason Thompson, Jon Brockman, Spencer Hawes and Hilton Armstrong to step up and act like they know they’re larger humans than normal. There can’t be anymore soft play inside. Unless they want to keep falling in the standings.
Final Game Notes
- I know there are better players and better scorers and guys that are tougher to guard but Jamal Crawford is a guy I’d be the most terrified to try to defend. He’s lightening quick with the ball and has a handle that few playground legends have been able to develop. He also scores from everywhere on the court and just keeps coming at you. He’s also very adept at drawing fouls on three-point shots. With his 22nd four-point play of his career, he is now just two behind Reggie Miller for the all-time lead.
- Jon Brockman is a big man. I didn’t know he could move this fast. This was a fun play to watch.
- I would be so much more of a Spencer Hawes guy if we saw more of this. Get in the post and make more plays like this.