How We Feeling?
Sort of feel split down the middle.
The Kings split the weekend games between the Nets and the Hornets (both at home) by playing pretty good defense and offense that ranged from “just good enough” to “OH MY GOD MY EYES IT BURNS SO BAD” type of performance. Against the Nets, the Kings did just enough to gut out a much-needed victory. Carl Landry, Tyreke Evans and Beno Udrih were effective in small doses while the rest of the team seemed to just be mired in some for of execution and overall shooting slump. But they didn’t win the game because of offense; they won it because of defense.
For the first time all season long, the Kings had a defensive rating under 100. They did it by forcing the Nets away from the paint (where they scored at a clip of 92%) and made them live by the long jumper. The Nets were just 2/11 from 3-point range and 9/24 on long 2-pointers. The Kings didn’t bail the Nets out by sending them to the line either. They just played good, physical basketball as the refs allowed. It was good to see the Kings win ugly because that’s the kind of play that corrects losing stretches, rather than some random blowout victory in which everything fell the right way.
Against the Hornets, the defense was once again there after a shaky first quarter. You may look at the 14 points the Kings gave up in the first and think I’m crazy for thinking it was a shaky quarter, but the Kings got away with quite a bit. The Hornets were getting quality, open shots from the perimeter and pretty much whatever they wanted in the interior too. The shots just weren’t falling for New Orleans and the Kings were the benefactors of this luck. But after the first quarter, the Kings defense and defensive results were legit. They swarmed, they swatted and they smothered the Hornets for much of the game.
They just couldn’t get much execution going in any consistent manner because the Hornets were matching them stop for stop. The Kings missed free throws and threw the ball all over the court. They didn’t need much to control this game and eventually win it but they could never get what little they needed moving forward. When crunch time came and they got much-needed stops, they couldn’t secure the defensive board and the Hornets pulled out the game thanks to David West’s clutch scoring.
Ultimately, the Kings split two tough home games in which they had just enough offense to win in one game not quite enough to pull out two wins in two games.
Key Sequence in the Game(s)
In the win over New Jersey, the key sequence of the game was the entire final nine minutes of the game for the Kings. There wasn’t a single stretch by the Nets that didn’t get matched by the Kings. Brook Lopez made a shot and it was answered by a Landry 3-point play. Morrow made a layup and Donté responded with one of his own. Kris Humphries tipped in a missed shot and Cousins answered with a score in the paint. And after Travis Outlaw brought the Nets within two points, Tyreke was inexplicably doubled at the top of the key. He was kicked the ball to Luther in the corner and Luther swung the ball to Beno for the dagger 3-pointer. The Nets scored and the Kings answered every time.
In the loss to the Hornets, the final two minutes were a microcosm for missed opportunities for the Kings. Donté Greene missed a big 3-pointer that would have tied it. When the Kings got a stop the next time down the floor, Ariza kept the Hornets’ possession alive with a rebound and West made them pay with a jumper. Then the Kings couldn’t get another stop and gave up another back-breaking jumper to West again. Finally, they gave up an offensive rebound that led to game-clinching free throws by Belinelli.
Kings simply couldn’t get key defensive rebounds when they needed to and it killed their chances of winning a second ugly game in a row.
A Big Concern
Offense, offense, offense.
Seriously, what is going on with this team? Westphal has dumbed down the plays quite a bit and the Kings still look clueless out there. They’re not moving the ball and they’re getting into their sets way too late in the shot clock. This causes them to rush shots and possessions. This is where the turnovers come from. The Kings have no direction and you can’t just chock it up to Tyreke not being able to find the rolling big man on a pick-and-roll. Beno can’t direct them and neither can Luther Head. The offense is beyond stagnant. It’s simply dead and in desperate need of reanimation.
It’s not even an advanced stat that needs to be addressed. The Kings continue to miss free throws and it killed them against the Hornets and could have buried them against the Nets. They shot a grand total 25/38 (65%) in these two games and missed seven freebies against the Hornets. You have to shoot free throws better if the offense is going to be this stagnant.
Here is where the Kings stack up in the Four Factors after these two games (via HoopData):
Player of the Game
Samuel Dalembert was definitely the player of the game against the Nets. He was so instrumental in holding Brook Lopez to seven points on nine shots. He kept Brook out of position for much of the game and perfectly timed nearly every post move and shot Lopez threw at him. Without him smothering the Nets future All-Star big man, the Nets would probably have been much more efficient offensively.
For the loss to the Hornets, Donté Greene was the most consistent performer. He attacked the basket for much of the game, played fantastic defense all over the floor and controlled the boards most of the time he was on the floor. He put together two nice games after his hiatus from the court. Looks like he’s played himself back into a regular gig for now.
On to the Next One
Kings face the Jazz in Utah Monday at 6pm.
Key Matchup – Tyreke Evans vs Deron Williams