As I began writing the recap to this game, I was easily distracted by the movie Training Day. If you haven’t seen it by now, you really should. It’s pretty good. It’s about a by-the-book cop who is trying to join a special task force. While trying to join this special task force (by going through an interview of near hell), there is a moment in which the protagonist (Ethan Hawke) explains his theory on the streets to his potential boss (Denzel Washington).
In this theory, he breaks it down to the streets being about smiles and cries. You have to control your amount of smiles with your amount of cries. I take this as you have to find the balance in life of showing emotion both good and bad because that’s when you’re most vulnerable. Since we need to spice these game recaps up a little bit, I’ve decided to break the following few hundred words into smiles and cries about this game.
- The Kings rebounding was the biggest reason for their inability to close out this road game. This felt like last year when the Kings were abysmal on the board and incapable of grabbing rebounds when they needed to. They gave up 10 offensive rebounds in the second half alone – 17 in the game overall. When they needed a stop against the Thunder in the second half, they got it. The problem was they didn’t secure the rebound, allowed the Thunder to extend the possession and eventually gave up a three that quelled whatever run the Kings were trying to put together. 17 offensive rebounds in a game in which they were -11 on the boards and lost by only six. Sometimes it was Tyreke Evans not boxing out Thabo Sefolosha. Sometimes it was Spencer Hawes and Carl Landry failing to account for Nick Collison. Sometimes it was Beno Udrih losing track of Russell Westbrook on the baseline. But whatever the cause was, it resulted in the Kings giving up too many second chance points.
- Kevin Durant. Wow. He’s good at his job. Really good. He’s so good. I feel like. I can’t type. In complete sentences. But I’ll give. It a try.
Kevin Durant is just the quietest killer in the land. He’s a volume scorer that efficiently gets it done. He’s a high-powered machine that runs quieter than most hybrid cars. You blink and he has 10. You look away for a minute, check the box score and see he has 16. A minute goes by and you swear he’s only scored once but he has 22 points. He ended up with 39 points in this game and that’s after missing a few semi-clutch shots in a row. He could have easily pushed 45 against the Kings and it would have only felt like 20. He’s a ninja assassin in the night who swiftly kills his assignment without ever being noticed. He is IMPRESSIVE.
- Russell Westbrook can do just about anything he wants in the basketball world. When Beno Udrih was guarding him, it seemed like the Kings were playing four-on-five defensively. Westbrook is overwhelming in so many aspects of the game. His speed makes him the most dangerous player on the court. I know Durant is the star and one of the league’s highest scorers but when Westbrook has the ball, he is so explosive that any lapse in focus could mean he’s at the rim or setting up a teammate.
His 30-point, 13-assist effort was completely smothering. It took Beno Udrih three quarters before he could figure out how to shake free of Westbrook in order to be a factor on offense. Four of Westbrook’s five rebounds were on the offensive end of the court and they all resulted in scores (eight points total). The only time the Kings had success in guarding Russell was when they let him shoot a jumper. His jumper is still really bad. In fact, I’d give him the Tyreke Evans-Rajon Rondo treatment in which you back off of him for five feet of driving cushion and let him take jumpers to give your team plenty of rebounding practice.
- Nenad Krstic killed the Kings once again. In the first game of the year, he had a big night against the frontcourt trio of Jason Thompson, Sean May and Spencer Hawes. Tuesday night was no different. 14 points and nine rebounds.
- Kings gave up 56 points in the paint. I shouldn’t and don’t even have to explain how bad that is.
- Tyreke Evans is still the best rookie in the NBA. He attempted 17 free throws in this game. He struggled to get his shot off early against Thabo Sefolosha and he also struggled to get it going for much of the fourth quarter against the Swiss defensive specialist. But everywhere in between and late in the game, he found ways to do whatever he wanted. In a game like this, the Kings would usually put up a good fight in the first half and then come out in the third and give such a poor performance that they’re playing garbage time minutes in the blink of an eye. But Evans didn’t let them do that. He scored 12 of his 27 in the third as the Kings kept pace.
I felt bad for James Harden at a certain point in the game. Harden had no chance in guarding Evans. ‘Reke was too quick and too strong for a very good all-around rookie. One bad thing about the free throw shooting was he missed four of the 17 (76%). It’s not bad but his free throw shooting has been suspect as of late. Perhaps one thing for the Kings to look at with his stroke is he seems to be leaning forward a bit on the free throws he does miss. That could be a product of trying to shorten the distance because his body is getting tired. Other than that, another good game that showed why Evans is clearly the ROY of 2010.
- The Kings really pushed the pace. Early on in the game, the Thunder were able to slow things down, set up in their tough halfcourt defense and dictate how the game was going to go. This resulted in an early double-digit lead for OKC. The Kings didn’t let this last long. They broke through the defensive wall, started running more and took away the Thunder’s biggest defensive strength – their ability to cut off everything against weak halfcourt offenses. The Thunder are the fifth best team in fewest fastbreak points allowed (12.1) but the Kings managed 17 in this game.
- Francisco Garcia and Donté Greene were big off the bench with their outside shooting. The majority of it came in the first half in which they combined for 4/7 from beyond the arc. They were able to cut off runs by the Thunder and keep runs by the Kings going. Cisco also hit a big three in the fourth quarter to make it a two-point game with five minutes left when both teams were struggling to take control of the game.
- I think we can officially pencil Carl Landry in for 17 points and seven rebounds every night. He’s pretty much automatic.