I know there was some defense in this game. I really and truly believe that. But for the most part, it didn’t feel like this was a game won by the Kings defense as much as it was an exercise in setting professional basketball back 60 years.
Outside of Carl Landry, Francisco Garcia, Luis Scola and Shane Battier there was not a single player in this game that resembled an actual professional basketball player. The Kings missed an obscene amount of shots – a lot of them wide-open too. The Rockets in turn missed their own fair share of field goal attempts in order to keep the game close and relieve it of the pressure of having any sort of enjoyable flow. Early on, it was simply a matter of the Kings missing their opportunities and the Rockets turning theirs over.
When the Kings would miss a shot, grab the offensive board and miss another shot, the Rockets would finally secure the defensive rebound, start to move it up the court before either throwing it into the hands of a Kings player or letting the pass sail out of bounds. This wasn’t just ugly; it was ugly like that batboy from the National Enquirer.
Let’s check out some of the ugly numbers from the game before we go a bit more in-depth with what we saw:
- Kings took 100 shots. 100!! Normally that would be a very impressive feat except they made just 32 of them. I checked on a calculator: that’s 32%.
- Only three Kings players shot above 50% in this game and one of them was Joey Dorsey (1/1 thanks to his big dunk). Carl Landry was 7/13 and Francisco Garcia was 4/7. The rest of the team was 20 for 79 (25.3%).
- The Rockets gave up 24 offensive rebounds to the Kings, which allowed the Kings to attempt 23 more shots than Houston.
- Rockets were 30/77 from the field for 39%. They were 5/22 from three (22.7%) and 16/26 from the free throw line (61.5%).
- Tyreke Evans was 4/22 from the field. Actually, let’s get to this later
Even though it felt like it, this game wasn’t actually all that bad. The Kings effort on the boards and playing defense was pretty incredible. Their last three wins have been wins based on defense. They held each opponent to under 100 points. After watching the first 57 games of the year, this is a new, odd and welcome oddity for this Kings team.
Part of this has been what I like to call the Carl Landry effect. Carl Landry is one of the most active and skilled post players the Kings have ever had. No, he’s not as good as Chris Webber but in terms of skilled big men, he’s one of the most energetic and all-over-the-place post players in the Sacramento era. He’s really good and you can see his activity being a big part of that. He doesn’t quit and he makes direct moves with a purpose. That can be infectious with young players who are trying to find consistency to take away constant scrutiny amongst fans and media (i.e. – Spencer Hawes). Spencer Hawes has been infinitely more active on defense and on the boards since Carl Landry came and there was a momentary fallout between him and Coach Westphal.
Speaking of Landry, the battle between him and Luis Scola was really fun to watch. Scola is a very accomplished international player who knows how to use his body inside and create space for his post moves. Landry has clearly learned some of those tricks from practicing with him in Houston for years because they were beating each other with the same type of moves in the post. Landry was able to knock down key jumpers and get to the free throw line while was able to knock down half-hooks and get easy shot attempts inside.
Landry’s 22 points and 10 rebounds was a great return for him to Houston. Even after the first score of the game, which appropriately went to him, he seemed to have a little extra energy in everything he did. And when it came down to him needing to make two big free throws to make overtime a worst-case scenario he seemed to truly relish the opportunity. He knocked them both down and let out some pent up emotion.
As far as Tyreke’s horrific night, you can thank everything to Shane Battier. I’ll have more on this later today but you can clearly tell that Battier’s reputation for studying his opponents and finding ways to make them take the toughest and lowest percentage shots is completely valid. He knew every move that Evans was going to move before he made it. If Evans took a side step or made a spin move, Battier already saw it coming. When Evans was just quick enough to get by Battier and get a shot off, Battier was close enough to recover and challenge or block the shot. By the second half, Evans was completely broken down and settling for jumpers instead of continuing to work for better shot attempts.
Overall, he was 3/13 around the rim and 1/9 on jump shots. Shane Battier was perfect defensively. Curious how to play better defense? Watch Shane Battier and study his tendencies. Look at the way he tricks offensive players into settling for bad shots. He brings his wealth of knowledge and pre-game scouting to the contest and puts it to work with his natural athletic ability and good defensive instincts. He’s the best defensive player in the NBA and if you think otherwise, you’re wrong.
The Kings needed a win like this. Winning ugly for a young team helps the coach hammer home that things like defense, rebounding and taking care of the ball (only nine turnovers) can be the difference between winning and losing, even when your offense is in the toilet. And being able to do this on the road against a team with playoff aspirations is even better. Now if the Kings can play the same type of defense against the red hot Mavericks in Dallas on Friday, then they’ll really be on to something.