(Preliminary Note: This recap was delayed because I coach JV basketball for a local high school and we had a late practice during the game Friday night before we turned around and had our first scrimmage Saturday morning. Because of this, I didn’t get to watch the Kings game until Saturday afternoon. But we won four of the six quarters we scrimmaged this morning and looked pretty decent!)
It’s pretty simple – when you turn the ball over at a high rate, you’re going to make it extremely hard for your team to win basketball games.
For the Kings, they played a very solid all around game in a tough, hostile environment. They took the Mavericks on, played tough defense all over the floor and weathered the Dallas runs that would normally put most teams away by 20. So far this season, the math has been pretty simple. When the Kings win, they shoot 48% from the field rather than the 43% in their losses. They make 44% of their threes in wins as opposed to 28% in losses. And they score a lot more points in their wins (112.2) than when they lose (94.8).
For the most part against the Mavericks, they took care of business in those departments and at worst, met somewhere in the middle. They shot 51% from the field with 37.5% from three and matching the Mavericks on the boards (44-44) after getting killed on the glass in the first quarter (at least, offensively). They also finished the game with a flurry of points by scoring 12 in the final 56 seconds to finish with 102 points. But they kept shooting themselves in the collective feet by turning the ball over (most of the time by their own accord instead of being forced into it).
The Kings turned the ball over 21 times for 24 points given up off of those turnovers. Tyreke Evans and Jason Thompson committed nine of those turnovers and every single one of them were because of their own doing, rather than good defense by the Mavericks (unless you want to argue that their defense forced the Kings to panic and turn the ball over, which I would disagree with). They threw balls away on passes instead of taking the time to be accurate with the play. Tyreke Evans traveled on two straight moves to the basket. Players simply lost the ball while trying to attack the basket. The Kings were great at being aggressive in this game but terrible at executing it.
So far in this season, the Kings have been able to play well despite a high number of turnovers. In their five wins, they’re actually averaging more turnovers per game and points off of turnovers per game with 16.2 and 20.6, respectively. In their now six losses, they turn the ball over less with 15.6 per game and give up fewer points off of those turnovers with 18.8. But there’s only so long you can actually dodge that turnover bullet, especially if you’re a young team. The Mavericks made them pay enough to build a big enough cushion to keep the Kings late flurry from sending this game into overtime.
The Kings didn’t get much point production from their bench with just 14 of their 102 points coming from the pine but they did get solid contributions from Udoka, Kenny Thomas, and Omri Casspi. Casspi was the best player off the bench with nine points, four rebounds, two steals and two assists. He played the final seven minutes of the game and helped the Kings close out on a 14-6 run that turned what looked to be a double-digit loss into a two-point defeat.
The story of this game for the Kings was definitely the defensive effort on contending shots, Beno Udrih’s scoring and Tyreke Evans’ incredible play.
The Kings did a great job of closing out the majority of the shots. The only Maverick to make them pay when they didn’t close out on the shots was Jason Kidd. Kidd made four open threes against the sagging defense of Tyreke Evans and Beno Udrih, who both dared the future HOFer to hurt them by playing to his reputation as a poor shooter. Unfortunately, they failed to see that he’s been pretty good on open long-range shots since he joined the Mavericks for the second time in his career.
Beno Udrih was lying in the weeds for much of this game but not forcing a lot of shots, playing decent defense and moving the ball well. In the fourth, he took the scoring into his own hands by making Dallas pay for not staying with him on pick-and-roll plays. He ended up scoring 12 points on 5/6 shooting in the fourth, including seven points in the final minute of the game.
And Tyreke Evans once again had a very impressive game with any point guard doubts put on hold. Maybe he was inspired by the man who is less than 20 assists away from passing Mark Jackson for second on the all-time assists leader board but whatever it was, ‘Reke did a nice job of finding his open teammates and creating good scoring opportunities for them throughout the game. He finished with 10 assists (a career-high) and scored 29 points giving him six straight games with 20 or more points (one away from Lionel Simmons’ franchise record of seven straight games with 20 as a rookie). He showed the age and slow feet of Jason Kidd by continually blowing by him with the dribble. He scored off the bounce quite early, which opened up his jump shot even more. His jumper was slow to come around but he finished making four of his last five jump shots with two of them being threes.
Overall, the Kings made a valiant effort and got some good on-the-job training in a loss. They didn’t get a moral victory (because I still don’t believe in those on the professional level) but what they did do was learn how to keep pressing with the game supposedly in hand. They kept coming until the final buzzer on a road game against a team that is virtually a lock to win 50 games for the ninth straight season. This was one of those efforts that will prove to be invaluable towards the end of the season.