The Sacramento Kings hadn’t really had a dud of a road game since the third loss of the season when the San Antonio Spurs blew them out. This was also the game in which Tyreke Evans rolled his ankle, had to leave the game, and then was semi-hobbled for the next two games.
Well, Friday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves the Kings did everything they didn’t do when they beat them at home. They couldn’t score on one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA (21st in defensive efficiency). In a game with 105 possessions, the Kings scored 96 points. That’s good for a 91.4 offensive efficiency. The New Jersey Nets have the lowest offensive efficiency this season with a 96.5. So to say the Kings were bad on offense would be an understatement.
However, in my opinion the Kings were much worse on defense. Sure they forced 22 turnovers. Well, they only had six steals with those 22 turnovers so they didn’t really force 22 of them. The Wolves gave them the ball quite a bit. But the Kings allowed 54% shooting from the field and 112 points to the second worst offensive team in the NBA (Wolves rank 29th with a 98.0 offensive efficiency). Only the problem was it felt like it was worse than this.
As many of you know, I’m not a Kings fan. But I’ve truly enjoyed watching pretty much every game of theirs this season. There has been a certain energy surrounding the direction of this team. Some of it is due to the young guys like Omri Casspi and Jon Brockman. Some of it is due to having a real coach – something you haven’t been able to say since Rick Adelman. Some of it is due to the Kings playing really well without Kevin Martin thanks to the vast improvement of Jason Thompson and Beno Udrih. But a lot of it is due to Tyreke Evans and the growing realization through every game that he’s going to be one of the best players in the NBA someday.
Friday night, he definitely didn’t show you any of this future stardom. It was the first bad game by Tyreke Evans since his 3-point performance on that bad ankle against the Grizzlies. It seemed like Evans didn’t have his legs at all against the Wolves. In the first matchup against Jonny Flynn, he had an easy 18-5-5 in 34 minutes. In this matchup against Jonny Flynn, his jumper was short all night except when he overcompensated for his Lt. Dan Syndrome and let it wildly fly with all arms. He finished with just 10 points on 4/12 shooting.
Now he did have a good attempt at creating offense for his teammates. He had eight assists in the ball game and set up Jason Thompson and Omri Casspi nicely. And they along with Beno Udrih were the only bright spots for the Kings the entire night. This was not a team that was fun to watch at all. This was a game that reminded you the Kings were a 17-win team last year. There was no fight. There was little effort, especially on defense.
Kevin Love is one of the hardest and smartest working players in the NBA. But the Kings have plenty of rebounders and big bodies to make him work for what he gets. Friday night, I didn’t seem to think he was working particularly hard on the boards in order to grab 16 of them but with the utter-malaise the Kings showed in that department, he was able to grab them with ease.
On defense, the Kings were flat out lazy. They didn’t close out properly or really at all on jumpers. With a team like Minnesota, they don’t have good or even adequate outside shooters so all you really have to do is throw a hand up in their face and they’re probably going to miss it. But if you constantly let them waltz into open spots on the floor and never try to take them out of their comfort zone, you’re going to get a good shooting night from even the worst NBA teams.
Spencer Hawes didn’t start for the second straight game. His play against the Wolves (first matchup) and the Blazers was pretty horrendous. Coach Westphal claims Spencer didn’t start against the Wizards due to matchup problems but that clearly wasn’t the case Friday night. If anything, the Kings needed his size to start out against Al Jefferson and Kevin Love. They always need his size to start out games and when he IS playing well, he’s a force to be reckoned with. Hopefully for the Kings, it’s lesson learned with Hawes and he’ll go back to playing like Rick Hawes instead of Spencer Hawes.
Overall, the Kings were due for a let down game. Young teams have games like this in which their solid play doesn’t show up and they look like a mess with no hope. The Kings will probably have a couple more like this throughout the season. Maybe they were saving all of their energy for tonight so they could come out with fire and gusto in order to ensure Tyreke Evans gets a win over Brandon Jennings in their first showdown. Whatever the reason is, you want the Kings looking like they did against the Washington Wizards, other than looking like a bunch of kids doing this:
Final Game Notes
- Donté Greene didn’t make anything and I mean anything. 0/7 from the field, 0/4 from three and 0/4 from the line. He also didn’t make his dinner reservation or his tee time. He golfs, right?
- Every time a Corey Brewer jump shot is taken, an angel loses its wings.
- Kings are now 9-10 when Spencer Hawes starts and 2-4 when he doesn’t. That isn’t a HUGE difference but you can see they’ve only been competitive in half of those six games he started on the bench. They’ve been pretty much competitive in all of the games he has started.
- Kenny Thomas didn’t attempt to score in his 21 minutes on the floor. Kings fans should thank K9 for showing that type of restraint.
- Reader Noam pointed out to me that Omri Casspi averages 21.5 points per game when he starts. Noam is also from Israel and completely biased towards all things Omri Casspi.