We learned on the last road trip that this is still a very young team that will shoot itself in the collective foot over and over as they learn how to be a real NBA team. And that’s not meant as a dig at all. They’ll be competitive most games and they’ll most likely kill themselves most nights with turnovers.
But an encouraging sight for this team is a game like this – a home game to kick off a homestand in which they play four very beatable teams and need to set the tone for this stretch of games by blowing out a terrible team. And that’s what they did against the Knicks on Wednesday night; they set the tone for this road trip by taking a bad Knicks team and putting them away with plenty of time left in the game.
It was a little worrisome for a while. Not worrisome in the sense that the Knicks were going to challenge to win this game but it was worrisome in the sense that the Kings should have been up by 20+ at halftime and instead let Nate Robinson and David Lee keep the Knicks within 10 points. But then the third quarter hit and the Kings too care of business. The Kings used runs of 13-4 and 11-0 in the third, sparked by Donté Greene’s 13 third quarter points on perfect 5/5 shooting.
Speaking of Donté Greene, where in the hell did Dount Mutombo come from? He dominated the paint on defense and made Al Harrington look exactly what you would expect from Al Harrington. He didn’t just block shots; he took the listless efforts by the Knicks and made sure to hurt the ball as a consequence for them putting up such weak attempts. And on offense, he played incredibly smart basketball. It was a matured game in which he made the extra pass when he needed to and attacked when the time was right. He finished with 24 points on 18 shots with six threes, six blocks, and five assists. In fact, it was just the fourth time in 23 seasons in which a player had six blocks and six threes. It was SOOOOO Raef LaFrentz of him (Raef has done it two of those four times).
The Kings had great balance in their scoring. Seven guys in double figures and the point guard play was spectacular between Evans and Sergio. They combined for 34 points, 11 assists, and 15 rebounds. Tyreke missed out on setting the Kings rookie record with eight straight 20-point games with a 19-point performance but it’s probably safe to say he’ll have another shot at setting that record this season. His outside shooting was pretty rough but for the most part, he showed a pretty complete game everywhere else.
Jon Brockman came off the bench along with Omri Casspi and Sergio Rodriguez to give the Kings a very productive second unit. Brock had four offensive rebounds and nine rebounds total to set the tone in the paint (after Spencer Hawes’ early scoring inside slowed down) when it looked like the Knicks might be able to come back with some solid work on the boards. Omri scored 11 points off the bench, despite the fact that he missed a couple of wide-open threes. And Sergio had his third strong game in a row by pushing the tempo and making the Knicks attempt at defense even more uncomfortable than usual.
Next game is Friday against the 0-15 Nets. This is actually sort of a scary matchup because with a healthy Devin Harris and Brook Lopez, the Nets have a balanced inside-out attack. They can penetrate and get to the bucket or dump it into the huge Stanford product and let him go to work. The Kings will feel the pressure of not wanting to be the first victim of a Nets victory, especially on their home court. They’ll need to keep up the energy they showed in thumping the Knicks.