Game 78 Recap – Spurs 95, Kings 86

Probably just going to spew some random bullet points for the game. At this point, it’s not really a story for each game. The season is winding down and the Kings at this point are just looking for bright spots and things to build off of. So I feel like a few bullet points on the game is about right for games like this one:

– The Kings are officially in a slump offensively. Mr. Ziller raised some nice questions and theories about the Kings seemingly improving defense on Tuesday but the real problem as of late for the guys in purple has definitely been the offense. The Kings have scored less than 100 points in eight straight games (all losses). Here are the last eight offensive efficiency outputs for the Kings (according to Stat Sheet): 89.5, 86.8, 88.7, 96.8, 96.0, 104.2, 100.0, and 94.5. Now, in four of those games, Tyreke Evans didn’t play and the offense is definitely looking better in terms of efficiency since he returned. But it’s still not clicking at a consistently acceptable rate.

For the Kings it might be as simple as not making shots. The Portland Trailblazers are 15th in the NBA in field goal percentage at 46%. In six of these past eight losses, the Kings have shot under 46% from the field. In the two games they didn’t fall below the 46% benchmark, they ended up just surpassing it with two 46.1% performances. For the most part, they’ve held their own on the boards and haven’t been crazy with the turnovers. Their free throw attempts are certainly down (19.1 attempts per game; 24.3 on the season) and their free throw percentage is slightly down (70.6% from the season mark of 72.4%) during this stretch. But their inability to make shots is the biggest problem I see from these anemic offensive times.

– It was nice of Donté Greene to wet the appetite for how nice of an offensive piece he can be in the future. I feel like Donté has been the most forgotten and unsung player of this season and part of that is certainly my fault. His defense has been as good as anybody’s on the team and yet he consistently gets passed up for crunch time minutes because Ime Udoka hasn’t had a chance to put his usual seal of unwarranted minutes on most games. And when his offense is in rhythm like it was in the second quarter against the Spurs, it makes me wonder why this guy’s number isn’t called more.

The Show (as the good people at StR have dubbed him) scored the first nine points of the second quarter for the Kings on a layup off of a nice feed inside from Sean May and three jumpers (one of them a dialed-up three). Then later in the quarter he made another in-rhythm three-ball to give the Kings their largest lead of the game with a 40-34 advantage. I’m not asking that Donté be given free reign out there with the offense. But he should be given more scoring opportunities as the Kings figure out what they have the rest of the four games. Run him off some screens. Run him in some pick-and-pops with Tyreke. Donté needs more chances to show what he can do because many of us have the feeling that he’s barely scratched the surface of what he can do.

– If Sean May is going to start knocking down jumpers like this all of the time then he could be a viable option off the bench in the future (assuming the Kings retain him for another run next year). I’ve been saying all season long that his pick-and-pop, spot-up jumper is good at least once a game. With a lot of players blowing the open jumpers that Tyreke creates for him, Sean May seems to be the only one taking advantage of them. He almost always converts on the jumpers that Tyreke creates for him.

– Speaking of Tyreke, he’s still a good basketball player. I guess the great mouthpiece experiment is officially over, according to Jason Jones. Personally, I thought too much was made of it and used as an excuse in case he was playing poorly by fans and certain media members. Did it bother him? Most likely. Was it debilitating? Hard to say. He had 37 points and 23 assists in his first two games back and only when he was missing shots and forcing layups did you really hear the dreaded mouthpiece mentioned. Then Nicolas Batum hounded him on Saturday and all of a sudden it was the equivalent of someone trying to smother Tyreke with a pillow while he was sleeping. The reason he played poorly against the Blazers had nothing to do with the mouthpiece and everything to do with Nicolas Batum being one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA.

In this game, Tyreke had a game that just won’t happen in a few years. He was physical. He was the aggressor. And he was not getting any calls from the refs. I’m not blaming this on the refs either. I think that he initiated much of the contact that he received when trying to drive the ball down the Spurs’ throat. He forced the issue quite a bit and tried to earn some calls against Bogans and Manu. He just didn’t get the star treatment. In a couple of years, he’ll be one of the better players in the NBA and living off of those calls. Tonight, it ended up costing him shooting percentage points (just 10/24 from the field) and free throw attempts (only two attempts seems sore of ridiculous).

– By the way, Tyreke had 13 layup attempts in this game. He made just six of them but still. 13! It still amazes me how much he gets to the basket.

– I think it’s great that Carl Landry is such a reliable scorer. His mid-range jumper is clearly a weapon that defenses will have to gameplan against in the future. Either you live with it and let him pick you apart on the perimeter or you get up on it and allow him to beat his defender off the dribble and score with his superb ability inside. But at the same time, it’s getting frustrating and confusing watching him miss so many free throws. He only made two of five attempts in this game and is now down to 76% with the Kings this season. During his last season and a half with Houston he was connecting at an 82.8% clip. Must be something in the water here…

– Kings during this eight-game losing streak are struggling in the second halves of games. They’re averaging just 40.9 points per second half during this time. They’re averaging 47.3 points per first half during the same time period. Clearly, the halftime entertainment is not getting this team revved up to go play.

– Give the Spurs credit in the fourth quarter. When they needed to clamp down on the Kings and exert their will, they did just that. After Carl Landry tied the game at 79, the Spurs went on a 12-0 run and held the Kings scoreless from the 5:39 mark until Beno made two free throw with 1:06 left in the game. In fact, the Kings only made three baskets in the final six minutes of the game. Two of them were Landry layups and the other was a three-pointer from Jason Thompson. Let’s just say the Spurs can still execute defensively against the lesser teams in the league when they need to.

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