Not even the return of Tyreke Evans could cure the Kings’ issues of playing complete games on the road.
Usually when the Kings lose – especially on the road – it’s because of one bad quarter that essentially does them in. That quarter Tuesday night was the third period in which the Kings were completely dominated. During the first half, it looked like the Kings were going to run away with the road win. Tyreke Evans wasn’t able to get his shot to fall early (mainly because Pacers kept blocking them) but he did everything else the Kings needed.
Tyreke seemed to hit the floor running early on in the game. He pushed the ball extremely well and created opportunities for his teammates to score. He created a three-pointer for Donté Greene (this first assist clinched Tyreke averaging five assists per game for the season, which is pretty impressive considering he could get zero over the last seven games and still finish with five per game), a dunk for Landry and another jumper for Landry. He created three more mid-range shots in the second quarter to give him six assists in the first half. He grabbed boards, stole the ball and played solid defense.
And most importantly, the team seemed to be clicking like he had never missed a game. Jason Thompson fueled a 14-5 run to open the second quarter and helped push the Kings lead to 15 points. Thompson had eight of those first 14 points in the second quarter and showed good energy against a frontline that should give him trouble. Even though Roy Hibbert is just an above average defender and Troy Murphy is a saloon door on defense, their height is something that tends to bother JT when he’s in the post.
After this run, the Kings seemed to relax a bit and you can’t do that against a fast-paced team that plays above average defense. They didn’t necessarily let the Pacers back in the game in the first half but they let them get into a rhythm on both sides of the ball to cut the lead to nine at half. In the third quarter, all hell broke loose and by “all hell” I mean Danny Granger.
I normally don’t say this about other team’s stars because I think it’s sort of stupid to fantasize about having another team’s star just put on a different team but with Danny Granger, I can’t help myself. How fun would it be to see Granger on the Kings with Tyreke and Landry? He’s a number one guy that seems to fit seamlessly into any offensive set or flow. It’s not like you just isolate this guy and hope he makes a bad shot. He actually plays good team basketball without hijacking possessions. In the third quarter, he showed a glimpse of just how good he is and in the fourth quarter he showed that it wasn’t a fluke.
The Pacers took control of the game for good with a 22-4 run to begin the second half (first 8:32 of the third period). Here’s what it consisted of:
- 2/14 shooting in this run for the Kings
- 9/16 shooting for the Pacers
- Five turnovers for the Kings
- Kings missed all five of their shots inside
- The Pacers had more made shots inside (5) than the Kings had total points (4).
All in all, Danny Granger nearly outdid the Kings in the entire third quarter by himself. The Kings had just 14 points to Granger’s 13.
The difference between the second half and the first half was a matter of defending and making shots. Sounds simple, right? Sometimes it is just that simple. The scored and shot the ball well in the fourth. They rebounded well throughout the game. They turned the ball over a lot (16 times) but not a crippling amount. They’ve certainly been sloppier with the ball before. They just weren’t as aggressive in going to the basket in the second half as they were in the first.
The Pacers defended the paint well – seven blocked shots in all. And I think it got in the heads of the Kings. Sacramento settled for a lot of jumpers on the perimeter. They took the ball inside a lot less as the game progressed. They had just five free throw attempts in the second half after having six alone in the second quarter. The Kings also didn’t really get any production from the role players.
Since Spencer Hawes was so ineffective and played a lot fewer minutes than JT in the game, let’s just sub him out of the starting lineup for this game and act like JT was the starter. Nobody outside of the “starting five” had more than five points, except for Andres Nocioni who needed 12 shot attempts to get to nine points. With Tyreke struggling to score the ball before the fourth quarter (he rallied late for 13 poins on 5/5 shooting in the last period) the Kings needed someone on the perimeter to step up. Beno did a good enough job of scoring but the offensive flow was ruined (just four assists after halftime for the team).
Chalk it up to just another frustrating performance on the road for the Kings this season in which they let an entire period ruin the rest of a good effort.
Final Game Notes
- Tyreke was clearly struggling with his mouth piece in his first game with it. He kept taking it out in hopes of better breathing while the ball was in play. Should this be a continuing problem? No. He’ll either get used to it or get rid of it but it will probably never be as uncomfortable and restricting as it was in this game. It was good to see him rally his effort and performance for a nice run in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, the Kings couldn’t stop anybody on the Pacers during this stretch.
- I think it’s safe to say that Jason Thompson is getting back to his early season form. In his last four games, he’s averaging 13.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. His activity and effort are consistent. He’s still struggling to score the ball because he gets too low in the post. He completely takes away his natural ability of being tall because he crouches so low on his post moves. Hopefully this off-season he can learn how to play taller.
- Ime Udoka was in there during key stretches of the third and fourth quarter to try and slow down Danny Granger. It’s been established at this point that Ime is extremely detrimental to the Kings’ offense this season (TS% of 47%, offensive rating of 100, PER of 10). But you allow this discrepancy in offensive competency because of his defense. Well, if he’s getting abused by Granger over and over and over again, why do you keep Udoka in there? He played nine straight minutes from the last part of the third until halfway through the fourth and was horrible. If he’s not shutting a guy down, he has no business being in the game over Donté Greene. Give the young guy some reps. At least he has a CHANCE of scoring the ball.
- Even though the offense sputtered and the defense in the second half was basically non-existent, the Kings did win huge on the glass. While the Pacers aren’t necessarily a good rebounding team, they are long enough and active enough to where they could give the Kings problems. Instead, the Kings dominated with a 49-35 win on the boards. JT and Landry were just too much to keep them off the glass.