Game 16 Recap: Kings 112, Hornets 96
It was clear the New Orleans Hornets weren’t going to let Tyreke Evans beat them. In the first matchup between these two teams, Evans carried the Kings on a night in which Kevin Martin couldn’t find his shot. Evans took Chris Paul mano-y-mano and played him to a virtual standstill. He got to the paint when he needed to and took away the playmaking ability of arguably the best playmaking point guard in basketball.
With Chris Paul shelved due to the bad ankle, this was not going to happen in game number two against these two teams. The Hornets took away the middle of the floor, packed in the paint and shifted everything towards Tyreke’s direction on the court. So it was up to somebody else to take over this game and Sergio Rodriguez was more than happy to oblige.
“The way Jason (Thompson), Kenny (Thomas) and (Jon) Brockman were rebounding the ball it let us have that kind of lineup and kind of unleash Sergio,” said Coach Westphal. “He’s very, very quck and creative; guys love playing with him.”
And that’s kind of what happened tonight; the Kings unleashed Sergio. Sergio has long been lauded as a fantastic playmaker, who was stuck in the tight reigns of Nate McMillan’s offense. He was never really allowed to be himself and get the game to his tempo. But under Paul Westphal, they’re trying more and more to find ways to use him.
“Sergio has just been playing better and better all the time. For a while there, we were trying to figure out a way to get him into the game. Lately, we’ve been playing two small guards together because Beno has been playing great, and obviously Tyreke has been playing great.”
By giving Sergio weapons on the wings and big men who can score and rebound the ball, it allows him to channel his inner-Jason Williams. This was probably the most efficient game of his career. It certainly was the best scoring game he’s ever head in the NBA. He scored a career-high 24 points on 9/14 shooting and matched that brilliance with five assists and zero turnovers. He did all of this in just 24 minutes off the bench.
But it wasn’t just all Sergio, although he did lead the way. Jason Thompson took on two very tough frontcourt players and with the help of Jon Brockman and Kenny Thomas, played them to a standstill. JT had his sixth double-double of the season with 22 points and 14 rebounds. More impressively, he only had two fouls in this game. In fact, he played 46 minutes tonight and gave the All-Star Hornets’ big men, Emeka Okafor and David West, someone to constantly worry about on the floor on a night in which Spencer Hawes rested his banged up knee.
Brockman (who is averaging 12.5 rebounds per 36-minutes on the court) had arguably his best game as a pro with eight rebounds and five points with very solid defense in 17 minutes. He hit the offensive boards for four of his eight rebounds and provided strong resistance against West and Okafor whenever they tried to bully their way into the paint (Okafor more than West, since West isn’t exactly the toughest guy in the league). This now gives him 18 rebounds and 10 points in 36 minutes in two games against ‘NOLA this season.
On a night in which the Kings kept their turnovers below 15 (13 total, 28th in the league at 16.5 per game), they also shared the ball extremely well. In fact, when the Kings have five or more players scoring in double figures this season, they’re 7-3. They’re 1-5 when they don’t get five players in double figures scoring with the one win coming against Houston on November 13th. A lot of that tonight should be attributed to the energy and attitude Rodriguez brought to the court.
“The most important thing, and what makes me so happy, is when I get to play. That is all that I ask. When I didn’t play a few games ago, it was tough. I knew that when I got in (Coach Westphal) would let me play and that is the whole thing. I am enjoying playing here and I am enjoying playing for him,” said Sergio after the game.
The Kings will face Indiana (6-8) on Wednesday to close out this four-game home stand. A win puts them back over .500 once again and gives them their second four-game winning streak of the season.