One bad quarter.
That’s what it’s often been during this tailspin of Kings defeats. The Kings have played well for 36 minutes most nights but they can’t seem to get the other 12 minutes to help their cause. And it’s not always the fourth quarter. Sometimes it’s been the first, second or third quarters. There is always one period in which the Kings’ lack of defense or lack of rebounding or poor offensive flow destroys their chances of winning.
Against the Raptors on Sunday, it was the fourth quarter. During the first three quarters, it looked like the Kings had something going. There was a certain energy that the Kings usually don’t have to start road games. Even though they were down early with Toronto’s hot first quarter shooting, they were able to fight back with the second unit and clear the deficit.
Hedo Turkoglu seemed to destroy the Kings early. Omri Casspi had the task of checking him and it didn’t go well at all. Hedo had him off balance and skating all over the place defensively. If Hedo wanted to go to the basket, he did. If he wanted to pull up for the jumper, he did. He dictated everything that happened offensively for himself and Toronto when you’d like the Kings to force his hand a certain way and make him adjust. But when Andres Nocioni came into the game, the Kings were a little better defensively and able to go on a bit of a run.
Amazingly, the Kings stayed in this game early with free throw shooting. They took advantage of the flow of the game in which a lot of whistles were being blown. They made it to the line 22 times in the first half and 36 for the entire game. It helped them weather the storm that was Chris Bosh in the low block and in isolation.
Let’s talk about Chris Bosh for a minute. I know Carmichael Dave from the radio has had thoughts that Chris Bosh is the answer for this team. Signing him in the off-season or trading for him in-season would be the future star the Kings need to get back to prominence. I’ve always been skeptical of Bosh because I felt he was too good to be a definite second banana but not quite good enough to have as your go-to guy all the time. But the way he’s been playing this season and the efficient way he shredded the Kings interior on Sunday is making me rethink that.
Bosh was unstoppable. He was 13/16 from the field inside of 10 feet. He kept getting Spencer Hawes and whoever was unlucky enough to have to guard him on a jab step towards the middle before driving baseline. It was set up by when he went middle, he was able to get good positioning and attempt a shot before any double team could form. He was two steps ahead of whatever defensive scheme the Kings threw at him and it resulted in 36 points, 11 rebounds and five assists for the impending free agent prize. Unfortunately, he’ll never sign in Sacramento so it’s just a nice pipe dream to have.
Overall, defense was always the issue with this team during this loss. It was okay to deal with when the Kings were making their shots but when the fourth quarter came around and the Raptors tightened up on defense the way playoff teams tend to do, the Kings had no answer. Tyreke Evans, Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson played nearly 18 fourth quarter minutes combined and didn’t score a single point. In contrast, Antoine Wright of all people managed to pour in 10 fourth quarter points. The Kings shot an abysmal 6/21 in the final period and missed five free throws. With about four minutes left, you could tell this game was lost. Raptors had the momentum and the Kings looked ready to watch Brees try to topple Manning.
Once again, the one bad quarter ruined a game’s worth of effort, execution and energy. Such is the life of a 3-22 road team.
Final Game Notes
- The Kings blew A LOT of Tyreke Evans’ early assists. And when you see that he finished with nine assists in the ball game, makes you wonder if he could have reached 12, 15 or even more.
- Speaking of Tyreke, going against the Raptors defense you would have hoped he would be more aggressive offensively. It’s unfair to pin that on him because he made the correct play more often than not. He made the extra pass and set up his teammates perfectly. But in nearly seven and a half minutes of the fourth quarter, he attempted only two shots and missed them both. He was being guarded by Jarrett Jack and/or Jose Calderon and could only muster 11 points? It was a game in which Evans needed to be able to master the art of running the offense and knowing when to take over. In three years, it will never be questioned; he’ll just be able to do it. But as a 20-year old rookie, it can hamper you.
- Kevin Martin started out extremely shaky with a 1/6 start. But instead of showing a lack of confidence in his game when things weren’t going well (like he did against the Warriors in Sacramento) he got more aggressive and started barreling towards the basket. He finished the game 7/18 from the floor and 9/12 from the stripe. It’s not a great game but it’s a game in which he figured out what he was doing wrong and corrected it. He just didn’t the outside shots to fall.
- Even though Spencer Hawes was getting abused on the defensive end of the floor, his 11 rebounds impressed me quite a bit. It seems like ever since Sam Amick gave him a D+ for the mid-season report, Spencer’s fire has been a little greater and his effort has been night and day from what we saw in the beginning of the season. I wonder how much of a cut Sam will be able to secure for this…
- Donté Greene’s three straight three-pointers in the third quarter reminded you of just how deadly he can be. Right now, he’s on the court despite his offense because his defense has been so good. However, when he let it fly in the third period the Raptors could do nothing but watch him.
- Beno was 3/5 from the field but 2/5 from the free throw line. It looked the entire game like the ball wasn’t coming out of his hands properly on jumpers and free throws – even on the makes.
- Jason Thompson gets into quiet foul trouble. It felt like all of a sudden in the third quarter he had four fouls.
- From some of the Raptors bloggers that were covering the game and sitting near the Kings bench, it was nice to hear that during timeouts, they’ve never heard so much encouragement and teaching coming from a coaching staff. It’s good to know that they’re in the right hands and when this team figures it out, perhaps some of those assistants will end up being rewarded with their own head coaching jobs.