Game 44 Recap – Kings 99, Warriors 96

“We’re off the schneid.”

Coach Westphal was happy to get this win against the Warriors and even though it was an ugly win, it’s a game the Kings had to have. In the grand scheme of things, does a three-point home win over one of the worst teams in the league matter? Probably not. The Kings have been atrocious over the last month and were mired in the middle of a seven-game losing streak. They were playing so poorly that you started to wonder if last season’s Kenny Natt led debacle was creeping back into the basketball culture.

The Kings have been atrocious as of late. They weren’t competitive in the final two games of their 0-6 road trip. They were barely NBA material. So coming into their return home against the Warriors, they needed to fix the issues at hand. Some were fixed. Others were not.

In the first half, the Kings were winning ugly. Tyreke Evans was blowing by whoever was unfortunate enough to be assigned to guard him. He was 6/8 from the field for 17 points in the first 24 minutes. He went left. He went right. He went down the middle. It was the equivalent of the old Green Bay Packers running game in the 60s. The defense knew where the ball was going and there was no stopping it.

The Kings were also working hard on the boards. Thanks to poor shooting on both sides, the Kings snared 38 first half boards. A lot of this was sparked by Sean May. Yes, it was sparked by Sean May. He came into the game because of Brockman’s injury and did his job. He attacked the glass and provided some solid energy for the Kings. In fact, seven different Kings had at least four rebounds in the first half. They saw the Warriors lack of size, talent and chutzpah and decided to treat them like their little brother. They held the ball higher than the Warriors reach. They gave them noogies as they were boxing out. They even threatened to tell mom if they complained about not being allowed to grab a rebound.

Throughout the game, energy was the key for the Kings. There was no beauty to the basketball played at Arco. But Sean May, Donté Greene, Ime Udoka, Beno Udrih and Spencer Hawes all made sure there was plenty of hustle on the court.

Let’s talk about Spencer Hawes for a few words. Spencer Hawes was INCREDIBLE. Sure, it was against the Warriors and they have next to nothing to offer resistance inside. But Spencer Hawes still played with an effort and determination that hasn’t often been seen from him this season. He was active. He was really active. He was all over the boards – 13 rebounds with three key offensive rebounds coming in the fourth quarter. He scored inside and outside and was very efficient with his shot attempts. He even blocked three shots and ran a couple of nice two-man game sets with Beno Udrih.

THIS is the Spencer Hawes that certain Kings fans are touting. THIS is the Spencer Hawes that Tom Ziller has had so much hope for. And once again, that’s what makes him so frustrated. Did it really take the D+ that Sam Amick gave him in the paper to motivate him? Why play tough now? Is it the matchup against the Warriors? Is it being tired of playing in a funk? Is it the rejuvenation a home crowd brings after a long road trip? Whatever it is, we need to see more of it. If this is the Spencer Hawes the Kings get every night, then this team’s future looks even brighter. He was the best player from start to finish in this game.

You also can’t say enough about what Beno Udrih gave to the team off the bench. He also scored in a variety of ways. He killed off the pick-and-roll. He scored on back door cuts. He drove to the basket, put his knee into guys mid-sections and finished strong. He stroked outside jumpers. He provided clutch free throw shooting. Whatever the bogged down Kings offense needed, Beno gave them after Tyreke Evans was shut down.

In three years when this team is back in the playoffs and Arco Arena (or the newer version) is rocking, nobody is going to remember this bad stretch of games. Nobody is going to remember that Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson couldn’t protect the paint on the road. Nobody is going to remember that Kevin Martin couldn’t buy a shot to drop. Nobody is going to remember that Omri Casspi was frustrated with his role. So in the long run, this win isn’t franchise altering. But it was a good win to get this team off the schneid. It was a win that will help them grow together as this franchise rebuilds.

Final Game Notes
– Steph Curry is an impressive rookie. I honestly think he’s been the second best rookie in the NBA this year behind ‘Reke. Yes, Brandon Jennings was impressive early but Curry has been better for longer. He’s not just an offensive weapon either (although I don’t know how many “undersized” rookie guards can put together 27 points, nine rebounds, six assists, and three steals). He’s also a really competent defender. He shut down Tyreke in the second half. He helped hold ‘Reke to 2/13 shooting in the second half and 0/7 in the fourth. Kings tried to isolate Evans against Curry late in the game and it didn’t work once.

– I don’t understand what is with the Kings and closing out good leads. They completely forget how they got the league and just go to basic, stagnant, boring offense that never works. Quit trying to run the clock and try running up the score for once.

– Donté Greene’s defense was just incredible in this game and so was Ime Udoka’s. They helped force Corey Maggette into a 3/22 shooting night with a 0/15 start to the game. They did a great job of cutting off his driving lanes, being physical with him and challenging his shots. And the key late blocks on Maggette were HUGE.

– Finally, Kevin Martin is in a FUNK. It’s not just that shots aren’t falling; he seemingly has no confidence in his game right now. He’s passing up shots and scoring opportunities that he’d usually cash in. It’s one thing for him to be missing shots (1/9 tonight and three for his last 23) but it’s another for him to be completely taken out of the game on offense. It has little to do with the defense in front of him and a lot more to do with him thinking too much out there.


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