How We Feeling?
Probably pretty frustrated but a little moral too.
That’s how Paul Westphal seemed after the game. And he should be frustrated too. Games like this for the Kings are a great way of proving just how far they have to go in getting back to contention. No, you can’t win the Pacific division title in the fifth game of the season by beating the Lakers. However, you can give yourself some much-needed confidence by upsetting the great teams early.
When Westphal was asked about the idea of a rivalry being renewed, he responded with this. “The Lakers don’t even know who we are right now. We would like to build a rivalry with the best team in the league. We’ve got to win some games before it’s a rivalry.”
There isn’t a better team in the NBA than the Lakers right now. They’re playing near-perfect basketball. The Kings took on this near-perfect basketball team, got smacked in the mouth with outside shooting and interior passing, and still kept coming back for more. The Kings showed a lot of fight during the first half of this game. But going against the Lakers, you just can’t have lulls in which the offense isn’t clicking.
Well, you can do it if you’re a great defensive team and considering the Kings have given up at least 60 points in the first half in four straight games, I don’t think they qualify for that moniker. Once the second half came, the Kings couldn’t execute and the Lakers were just too good on offense. Kobe Bryant picked the Kings apart all night with his passing and really didn’t force any of his offense (sooo many jokes).
What I loved about this game though was the fight the Kings put up. Early on, DeMarcus Cousins went right after Pau Gasol (his favorite player). DMC was getting taught a clinic in finesse and how to play the post by Pau on one end and he’d come right back at the other end and try to counter. But it wasn’t really forced early on. It was just an aggressive and physical post player trying to assert his dominance in the paint. And he did a pretty good job of it.
Guys like Cisco, Beno, Luther Head, Darnell Jackson all found ways to contribute. Jason Thompson only played 12 minutes on the floor, despite having a hugely positive impact at the 3 and 4 spots on the floor, but he made the most of it and helped keep this team hanging with the back-to-back champs.
The only thing that troubled me was the Kings inability to get Tyreke the ball in good scoring spots on the floor. With Ron Artest hounding him, he had to wait until the Lakers hilariously put Matt Barnes on the assignment before Reke could get much going toward the basket. Part of that was because Artest denied the ball and the Kings gave up early trying to get it to Evans. Not that he should dominate the ball but it took him a long time to get going in this game and by the time he got much momentum going to the basket, it was way too late.
A lot of that should be attributed to Artest doing a good job of denying the ball. When Evans could get the ball, he was pretty good with it. But overall, the Kings offense in the second half was just too disjointed due to poor decisions, poor execution and good Lakers defense.
Key Sequence in the Game
The 10:32 mark in the third quarter to the 5:15 mark in the third quarter proved to be the key moment of this game. The Lakers went on an 18-4 run during this time to extend the lead to 20 points.
During this stretch, the Kings shot just 1/8 from the field, missed two of their four free throw attempts and Tyreke turned the ball over twice. The Lakers on the other hand made two 3-pointers, made three baskets around the hoop and knocked down all four of their free throw attempts. It was a matter of execution for the Lakers who were just too good on both ends of the floor. They were blocking shots and rotating perfectly on defense. Offensively, the ball movement was sublime and they just made shots.
Kings put themselves in a deficit they couldn’t climb out of, even when the Lakers had a significant stretch in the fourth quarter playing Steve Blake, Shannon Brown, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom and Theo Ratliff.
A Big Concern
Kings are pretty terrible at guarding the perimeter. Last year, all of the defense was a concern but the interior defense was pretty putrid. This year, the interior defense is vastly improved (but still in need of a lot of work) and the Kings just can’t avoid giving up 3-point shots. Tyreke is still bad at closing out on shooters and the rotations are just slow.
Lakers knocked down 11/21 3-pointers in this game, which raised the Kings’ opponent 3-point shooting to 44% on the season. That’s second worst in the league ahead of Oklahoma City Thunder. This has to be addressed better and corrected.
Defensive rating is sort of an issue right now. And by “sort of an issue” I mean it’s really troubling for the Kings. Other than the loss to New Jersey, the Kings haven’t had a single defensive rating below 110.5, which was against the Wolves on opening night. In fact, they’ve been progressively worse the last three games. 116.7 nights are going to happen against the top teams in the league but it doesn’t mean the trend isn’t disturbing.
This team is not good enough to have such poor defensive efforts.
Here are the Kings Four Factors standings as of right now after the loss to the Lakers (via HoopData):
Player of the Game
I’m going to go with a co-player of the game. Jason Thompson and Samuel Dalembert were the two best Kings in this game. Both grabbed 10 rebounds off the bench and gave the Kings a much-needed toughness inside. Even though the Lakers were shooting well from 3-point range, the Kings were getting killed on the interior when these guys weren’t in the game.
I know it’s early and the rotations are going to be all over the place but Jason Thompson deserves more playing time than this. He’s been great playing three different positions this season and should get more than 12 minutes in a game in which the Kings need toughness and production inside.
On to the Next One
Saturday at 7pm PT, home against the Grizzlies. Memphis is 2-3 with back-to-back losses to the Warriors and Lakers.
Key Matchup – DeMarcus Cousins vs Marc Gasol
He battled with one Gasol brother already and now has to deal with the more physical one. Keeping Marc honest on defense and keeping him off the boards will be a huge mission for DMC.