The Blazers and the Thunder are the two teams the Kings will have received a heavy dose of after Sacramento plays them once more on Friday. It will be 57% of a seven-game stretch and with the disparity in team success there is between the Kings and those two ball clubs, a lot of people have the feeling it will end up being four losses. But that’s no reason to hang your heads about the Kings. They’ve competed and given those two teams hell in the first three games of this stretch and will most likely give Portland a run for their money even if they don’t win.
But to see the way these two teams are constructed is something the Kings need to pay attention to. These are the archetypes of building a young successful NBA team with patience and meteoric rise in the standings over the years. It’s not an easy thing to do either. We saw the Bulls toil away for years as they tried to infuse their organization with youth after Michael Jordan retired. They saw the Atlanta Hawks fail to figure out how to turn their young talent into a playoff contending team until recently. They saw the Clippers… well… be the Clippers. But this is the model you want to follow.
You need patience in the youth, which is what the Blazers have shown over the past couple of seasons. They have added key veteran pieces here and there but for the most part, they have watched their youth blossom together. You could see it too when you watched the Kings play them last night. There was a definite chemistry on both ends of the court and an understanding of how things should and would be run. And it all centers around a do-it-all guard who is the main component of their offensive attack.
Tyreke Evans and Brandon Roy are different types of players but they’re still quite similar. Both seem unstoppable going to the basket when they are dead-set on getting there. Roy is obviously a much better shooter from just about everywhere on the court but it’s something that Tyreke Evans can evolve into someday. Both do a great job of facilitating the offense and getting looks for their teammates. And both can play some very good defense. The difference with Roy (outside of the shooting) is the experience. He just knows how to play in the NBA. Evans isn’t there yet and shouldn’t be expected to be there after 60 games in the NBA. Roy knows how to manipulate the game to his liking.
In this game, the Blazers did a better job executing and playing defense than the Kings. Since they’re the much better team, that shouldn’t really be a shock but it should still be noted how they got through this game. They forced the Kings into jumpshots that the Kings simply couldn’t knock down. They were 13/45 (29%) on everything outside of 10-feet.
The way they guarded Tyreke Evans was a perfect example of the way they defended. For the most part, ‘Reke did a good job of getting to the basket. He attempted 12 shots at the rim and finished seven of them (58%). Considering he finishes at a rate of 60% this year, that’s about on par for him. But when their length and help defense forced him into jumpers, he couldn’t convert. He was 1/7 from outside of 16 feet. He also didn’t get to the line much (three free throw attempts) because the length of the Blazers made it hard for him to get much momentum when he did drive the lane. The Blazers were able to stay back on him instead of having to make contact with him because they knew guys like Martell Webster and especially, Nicolas Batum were long enough to make up ground whenever they got beat off the dribble.
At the end of the game, there was a clear distinction between the way the Kings ran their offense and the way the Blazers executed theirs. The Blazers seemed to be calm and collective with the ball. They slowed the pace and made sure to find Brandon Roy in positions he could score with relative ease (you know, anywhere inside of halfcourt). They didn’t really rush anything. The Kings weren’t the same way. While Tyreke has been a savior far more times than you could ever dream a rookie guard could be, there still is an uncertainty of whether or not he can pull any given game out for them. It’s not a knock on him either. You can’t expect the third youngest player in the NBA to just come out and dominate at the end of games. He’s going to have lapses. He didn’t necessarily have bad lapses last night but it wasn’t the Chicago game all over again either. And it wasn’t just his fault.
With the slow pace of the game (and the Blazers play a REALLY SLOW PACE), there just weren’t a lot of chances to push the tempo and get extra shot attempts for the Kings. When they did have the ball, it didn’t move well whether Tyreke, Cisco or Beno were running the show. Carl Landry didn’t have a single field goal attempt in over seven fourth quarter minutes. He got the free throw line for two chances and that’s it. Beno only attempted one shot. Sean May, Garcia and Reke each had five points in the final quarter and that was pretty much it for the scoring.
One thing that should be taken away from this game is how well the Kings defended the Blazers overall. The Blazers only scored 15 points in the fourth quarter. That’s it. They were 5/14 shooting (35.7%) in the period and turned the ball over five times. For the entire game, the team defense was pretty solid. The 88 points they gave up in the entire game initially looks good until you remember how slow the game was. So maybe with the amount of possessions, it wasn’t so great after all. Looking at the numbers though, the 88 points given up looking like a good thing holds to be true.
The defensive rating (points they would give up in 100 possessions) for the Kings this game was pretty spectacular. They finished with a 98.9 for the game. Considering their defensive rating for the season is 110.3 (25th in the league), seeing them register a 98.9 against a playoff team is pretty encouraging. And since the Spencer Hawes-Coach Westphal blow-up a couple weeks ago, they’ve been much better defensively outside of the two games against the Thunder and the game against Dallas.
Watching this team be more active defensively and play more as a team on most nights shows a light at the end of a defensive tunnel and it’s not a train barreling towards them either. Hopefully, they paid special attention to the team they lost to in Portland. That’s where they want to be in a couple of seasons.
Final Game Notes
- Brandon Roy gets calls. He just simply does. It’s the star factor that he’s earned through consistently brilliant play in the NBA. The majority of the calls were legit too. One that comes to mind, which wasn’t legit, was the foul against Francisco Garcia late in the fourth. He pump-faked and got Cisco to bite a little bit. But Cisco pretty much landed and held his ground before Roy decided to jump into Cisco and create the contact. Cisco had decent separation even, was able to raise his arm and block the shot. But they still called a foul. It’s a call I can’t stand in the NBA and they love to make that call. But you can’t really get too mad at it because later, Tyreke Evans benefitted from the exact same type of call.
Tyreke Evans is the Rookie of the Year. Shut it down. That said, the Blazers did a much better job against Evans than they did earlier in the year, although his statistical lines were similar. In December, he went for 19-7-3. Tonight he went for 18-6-6. The biggest difference tonight was the extra shots Evans needed to get his points (19 field goal attempts tonight compared to just 9 attempts the last time around). Going bigger against Evans with Nicolas Batum and Martell Webster was really the only option with Roy “conserving so much energy” on defense. Evans is already at the stage of his career where he can do unstoppable things. Batum and Webster both worked valiantly to reduce the number of situations in which Evans could become unstoppable. His shot chart is littered with perimeter misses which is exactly what you want to see. Force him to shoot over the top of a defender because he turns the corner like Gale effing Sayers. It’s possible that Evans gives Roy a serious run for his All Star money next season.
- I loved this move by Tyreke Evans when he was isolated against Jerryd Bayless. Bayless gave up and didn’t want to defend Reke on this play and just decided to flop. But look at the footwork Tyreke shows here. Maybe he got away with a little travel but he definitely avoided the blatant travel by having smart footwork.
- The Kings bench was pretty bad overall. Cisco had a nice contribution but they need more consistency from the role players off the bench. You can’t hope that Sean May is the one bringing the energy off the pine. At this point in the season, the starters can’t be handcuffed into those kind of minutes without any help from the bench.