Game 76 Recap – Wolves 108, Kings 99

With only one road game left on the schedule for the Kings this year (at the Lakers last game of the season), I think we can safely judge this team away from Arco:

They’re horrible.

It doesn’t mean that they don’t compete most nights. But they certainly don’t win road games. They have seven wins on the road this season. That’s all. It’s also tied for the fourth worst road record in the NBA with the Detroit Pistons (only behind the Nets, Wolves and Warriors). However, that’s not even the really awful part of the Kings on the road this season.

The Kings have had nine different stretches of road games in which they played multiple games in a row away from Arco Arena. On six of those road trips (no matter how long or short) the Kings have come away without a single win. Here are all of their road trips this season:

1. Oklahoma City, New Orleans and San Antonio – Zero Wins
2. Dallas, Houston and Memphis – Zero Wins
3. New Orleans and San Antonio – Zero Wins
4. Minnesota, Milwaukee and Chicago – Wins against the Bucks and Bulls with both coming down to crunch time
5. Philadelphia, Washington, Charlotte, Atlanta, Orlando and Miami – Zero Wins
6. Toronto, New York and Detroit – Wins against the Knicks and Pistons
7. Golden State, Clippers and Phoenix – Zero Wins
8. Oklahoma City, Houston and Dallas – Win against the Rockets
9. New Jersey, Boston, Cleveland, Indiana and Minnesota – Zero Wins

Anytime this team has had to go on the road for an extended period of time, they’ve just been obliterated. Even though they had an easy opponent that was suffering through an embarrassing 16-game losing streak at the end of this road trip, they just didn’t have enough to pull out the victory.

It’s nice to see that this team still has some fight in them at the end of their second longest road trip of the season. For the most part, they shared the ball and took care of the ball. They came out early and had a big first quarter to match the scoring barrage that the Wolves were throwing at them. But ultimately the Kings just can’t play good enough defense to win games. They need someone hanging around the basket to turn away opposing players at the rim. Hell, even if they can’t turn people away it would still be nice to see someone check ID, hassle the player about his dress code and keep him behind the velvet rope 20 minutes longer than expected. The Kings need bouncers in the key and they simply don’t have that with ANYBODY on the roster.

Donté Greene’s shooting kept them competitive or within striking distance of the suggested striking distance that you need with a team like the Wolves. In the third quarter when the Wolves were looking to run away with this thing as they poured in 34 points, Donté Greene dialed up three long-range shots that give you an extra point for distance and at one point scored eight straight points for the Kings to keep the game from getting out of hand. When Donté is in rhythm and decisive in getting his shot off, it looks like he’s the best three-point shooter on the team. He finished with 21 points and 5/6 from three with 14 points and four three-pointers coming in the second half.

You can look at the fact that Tyreke Evans had another game that is dumbfounding for a 20-year old rookie to have or Carl Landry stepping up in the fourth quarter and finishing with 20 points. You can look at the solid production from Jason Thompson and the quick-strike scoring of Donté Greene. However, none of it matters if you can’t stop a team from punishing you inside.

The Wolves destroyed the Kings inside. Jason Thompson, Carl Landry and Jon Brockman all tried to throw some resistance at the Wolves interior but it simply did no good. All three of the Wolves big men (Al Jefferson, Darko Milicic and Kevin Love) had double-doubles in the game and combined for 46 points (21/34 shooting), 33 rebounds and 10 blocked shots. In fact, those three Wolves big men equaled the entire Kings rebounding total for the game.

Minnesota got anything they wanted inside. Jefferson bullied defenders in the post. Kevin Love got whatever position he needed on the boards and got some easy scores because of it. Darko Milicic looked nothing like Darko Milicic. This Kings team will not be able to get better and truly compete without a defensive big man or two to offer some resistance. Spencer Hawes and Sean May would have helped tonight if healthy because they would have allowed the Kings’ frontcourt to be fresher throughout the ball game but I still think the Wolves would have done whatever they wanted inside with Kings at the end of another bad road trip.

Ultimately, the Kings were able to stay in this game and make it closer than it should have been at the end because of two things: Wolves turnovers and Tyreke Evans. The Wolves turned the ball over 19 times in this game. If they take care of the ball, they probably win by 20 points or more. But they did turn the ball over and Tyreke Evans took advantage of it.

Evans had a spectacular first quarter in which he reestablished his scoring touch with 10 points but was very dormant in the second and third quarters. In the fourth quarter, he attempted to take over this game by creating all kinds of … well… for lack of a better word… havoc. In the final 9:25 of this game, Evans scored seven points and had six assists. He accounted for 20 of the Kings’ 29 fourth quarter points. Overall, he finished with 20 points, 13 assists, seven rebounds, three steals and just one turnover. If you’re still contending at this point that Tyreke isn’t a point guard, I’d like to either a) know what your definition of a point guard is or 2) ask you to actually watch him play a game.

At least there will not be any more extended road trips this season. See you at Arco.

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