Game 36 Recap: Kings 102, Nuggets 100
That’s the key phrase from this win over the Nuggets. Flat could describe the Kings and their effort in the first half of this game. They came out and didn’t seem very interested in trying to bang with the Nuggets (aside from Jon Brockman of course) or keep them from scoring easily.
One- Four could easily describe the Kings’ assist to turnover ratio throughout much of the first half of basketball and even that would be a little too generous. They had one assist and seven turnovers after the first quarter. They had four assists as a team and 11 turnovers after the first half (Kenyon Martin had five assists at this point). Hell they even finished the game with more turnovers than assists but for a long time, it was at an embarrassingly low assist to turnover ratio that would make the And 1 Mixtape Tour legends laugh hysterically.
But at the end of the game, One-Four Flat was the play called to get Tyreke Evans another chance to win a ball game against a top team in the NBA. They tried it many times in the game against Cleveland in which Evans saw himself going against LeBron James. They saw it happen against the Lakers at Arco when he went against Kobe Bryant. Both times it didn’t work and both times they failed to get a shot off. So after Chauncey Billups hit a ridiculous three to tie the game at 100 with 11 seconds left on the clock, there was a question of whether or not they’d go to it one more time against one of the better teams in the NBA.
Well, for Paul Westphal there probably wasn’t that question. He knew the answer and he figured it would get the result it was designed to accomplish – a game-winner by the 20-year old rookie. This time, Kenyon Martin got switched out on Evans during the inbounds play. Omri Casspi tossed it high into the backcourt, which stopped hearts. But Evans tracked it down and brought it up against Kenyon Martin. The fortunate thing about that play was it gave Tyreke a lot of room to move and a lot of time to move in.
It took one crossover dribble to get Martin off of him just enough. He took the ball to the lower left block, did his best Dream Shake impersonation and let a 10-foot shot rip through the net with 0.7 seconds left. He made the same move against LeBron towards the end of the home loss to Cleveland, except that time it was on the right side and the result was a six-foot airball. But this time, it gave the Kings the win.
While many fans were thinking this past loss to the Warriors was something that could break a young team like this, they should feel the exact opposite about this win. They were playing flat, unimaginative basketball throughout the first 24 minutes of this game. But they turned it around and they turned it around with offense AND defense. They outworked a tough Nuggets team. I don’t care that they were missing Carmelo Anthony. The way this game started out, Carmelo wasn’t the missing piece. And with Chauncey Billups and Earl Smith III (or JR as some of you like to call him) scoring in the fourth quarter, they didn’t exactly miss him there either.
The Kings have a rough stretch of games coming up that will either make or more likely break their season. Responding to games like last night with games like this one tonight are exactly what a young team needs to keep chugging along. This is the time of the rookie wall. This is the time for tired legs. This is the time for the dog days of the NBA. So for the Kings to come out and take a game they tried to give away in the first half is big.
This doesn’t give them a lock on a playoff spot and it doesn’t give them the inkling to clear off trophy space for Larry O’Brien’s hardware. But on nights in which Jason Thompson is completely neutralized by a tough defensive frontcourt and the ball is being turned over more than an old mattress, it’s big for a young team to have guys like Jon Brockman step up in a starting role, Spencer Hawes to accept the brief move to the bench and come in to produce offensively, Beno Udrih providing some clutch scoring, Ime Udoka bringing the scoring load off the bench when Donté Greene is out, Omri Casspi knocking down a huge three on an off shooting night and Tyreke Evans taking over the game at the end.
One-Four Flat is going to be a factor in the Kings future.
Get used to the phrase and winning because of it.
Final Game Notes
– Jon Brockman got the first start of his career and made the most of it. He had nine rebounds in his first 19 minutes and finished with 12 rebounds in almost 38 minutes of play. Not only did he sufficiently bang with bigger Nuggets frontcourt players inside but he also busted Chauncey Billups in the mouth on one occasion.
– Omri Casspi’s three was HUGE. He was having a terrible night and had been outplayed by Joey Graham for the entire first half (which is one of the most embarrassing things that can happen to an NBA player). So for him to knock down the big three from the corner showed that he doesn’t worry about a 4/13 shooting night. He knows the next one is going in.
– I’m really tough on Spencer Hawes. I’m not a big fan of him when he’s playing soft. I think he needs to man up and play tough inside. Well, he did his part from all over the floor against Denver. 17 points in 26 minutes off the bench is really good and when he does it on 8/10 shooting, it’s even more impressive. He also grabbed five rebounds, dished out three assists and made a big three of his own to tie the game in the fourth.
– At one point late in the game, J.R. Smith hit a big three and started mugging all the way up the court. He was being brash and kind of a “something that rhymes with hay-pole.” It was at that point that I wanted to remind him that he inbounded the ball on a missed shot earlier in the game.
Are you kidding me?!?! That might be the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen on a basketball court! You’re an NBA veteran! You’ve been in the league for six years! How do you make that play?!?