Kings lose to Wolves 86-84; Could this be the “silver linings” game?

Hmmm. So, there it is. The Kings lost what was for parts of 3 quarters a frustrating completely god-awful game to watch. Then, the Jimmah (he’s not just Jimmer; he’s now the Jimmah becuz that’s how we roll here at EC) got hot in the 4th and the Kings crawled back into the game. Then the Wolves defended Jimmah and the Kings forgot about him for a few moments. Ricky Rubio came in and did what Ricky Rubio does. Kings lose.

Onto the bullet points…

  • Tyreke Evans is a mental midget. He played like crap. The end.
  • DeMarcus Cousins showed exactly why he has so far to go. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I’m not complaining. A month ago Cousins wouldn’t have been playing meaningful minutes after what was a frustrating game where he could never really find a rhythm. 25 minutes, 10 points (3-13 shooting 4-6 line), 11 rebounds (3 offensive) and only 2 TO’s. If this is a bad game, I’ll take it.
  • 2 ineffective games in a row for Jason Thompson with the exception of the few moments in the latter half of the 3rd where JT posted up Anthony Tolliver in the post. I’m very interested to see how JT responds Thursday.
  • JJ Hickson had an excellent game all things considered. Particularly in the 1st half, Hickson was flying around and grabbing rebounds showcasing his fabulous athleticism. On the other flip side, there were some poor decision with fouling by Hickson that hurt regardless of missed Wolves FT’s.
  • JJ Hickson showed that he is not entirely dead. Which is not surprising given that other players have played well at times for Keith Smart who were not previously. * John Salmons did not play one of his best games. Like JT, I’m interested to see how Salmons plays Thursday.
  • Chuck Hayes went 1 on 1 tonight against Brad Miller. Twice. And failed twice. Other than that, Hayes was like Thompson, Cousins and Hickson in feeling frustrated how the game was called. 
  • I don’t typically speak about referees because it is such a major league copout when most fans do it, but tonight was one of those instances where the refs called a majorly choppy lack of rhythm type of game. These happen, and sometimes it’s on the players for not adjusting to how the game is being called. But, some of the calls seemed very inconsistent. Refs don’t have many off moments, but it felt like the whole game a lot of calls were very questionable. At least that was consistent for both sides.
  • The Kings shot 37% from the field, 66% from the FT line, and 34% from 3. The 1st two can’t happen if you wish to be competitive on the road consistently. The rebounding advantage was 49-48 Wolves over Kings, but it felt a lot worse than that. Oh, and you might not have realized it, but the Kings had 20 assists tonight.
  • I’m thinking of starting the #NeverPlayDonteGreeneEverAgain movement on Twitter. It’s not that Donte is terrible, but for this team he is all kinds of wrong in every way. Donte needs to go a roster where someone can A) create more shots for him and B) where Donte can play stretch 4. Donte does not work as a 3. I will say that Donte did a pretty good job on Michael Beasley in most ways down the stretch though.
  • I’ve been as big a fan of Isaiah Thomas as anyone in the Kings fanbase, but tonight in the 2nd half LSG showed all of his problematic issue’s of being A) young and B) a tendency to get out of control in the wrong way. Nothing wrong with any of that, and it’s a learning lesson for the young man. The 1st half for LSG was pretty good in terms of speeding the game up for the Kings, but it was bad in the 2nd half in terms of rhythm. Do I pin this loss on Thomas? Absolutely not. But his real flaws showed up in the 2nd half and real flaws do cost teams ball games fair or not.
  • Ricky Rubio showed why so many were high on him. While I thought Brandon Jennings would be better ultimately (I did believe that strangely enough–as of now I’m not really sure), I don’t miss Rubio at all really. The Wolves benefit a great deal by having Rubio, and Rubio benefits a great deal in having a head coach who understands his style of play. Additionally, Rubio really benefitted from an ego standpoint by being blasted for his play in Barcelona. It made him embrace a franchise in Minnesota he wanted no part of in 2009, and that in turn has made Rubio’s play a whole lot better. He feels welcomed, and that matters to him.
  • The strangest part about tonight’s game was seeing Rubio miss FT’s. That’s the first time this year I’ve seen him miss FT’s that way. Needless to say the Wolves dodged a bullet, and I’m glad.
  • Finally, the Jimmer. It was good to see Jimmer Fredette get hot, and I’m sure Keith Smart is relieved to see it. What I liked more than anything was that Jimmer didn’t really force many of those shots. There was one play with 3:16 to go where Donte Greene missed Jimmer who was in the corner and ready to shoot. Instead Donte pump fakes his defender up and steps in for a 18 footer. That type of selfishness cost Jimmer and the Kings a potential tie as the Kings would have tied the game at 80 up if Jimmer does indeed hit the 3. (Or takes it.)
  • The point is that Jimmer got hot, and forced Minnesota to use Ricky Rubio to defend him. That’s something. If you’re going to lose, growth for a team that struggled to even be competitive on the road for the most part this season is not such a terrible thing.
  • Let’s remember something: The Kings won 1 of 2 games on the road this trip in back to back nights. Ignoring the circumstances, that means the Kings are .500 for these past 2 games. And, if the Kings did that more often, the Kings overall record would be much closer to .500.
  • In regards to Jimmer’s season TS%, it’s now up from 48.9% to 50.2 TS% for the season. Not bad for a night’s work.
  • Keith Smart and the last play of the game. I first want to say that I endorse the strategy of not calling a timeout to run a play. This is true regardless of coaching IMO. If there is anything this Kings team has shown effective in doing, it’s using frenetic energy to get points. With 8 seconds and the Wolves giving up the play (and the Kings not fouling), it was good to see the Kings take the timeout. It forces the Wolves to play defense on the fly rather than set up and be able to have some idea of a counter walking out of a timeout.
  • Seeing how the play developed, Smart could have taken the timeout with 4 secs left and drawn up a play. But, that’s not what this team’s strength is. Sometimes you have to let these guys go. Part of growth is failure and recognition. The more often you do those types of things, the easier it is to recognize how to get a quality play.

 

Personally? I don’t mind the ending at all. Just seeing JJ Hickson perform at anything resembling an adequate level was nice, and seeing Jimmer get hot to bring the game back within striking distance for the Kings was a double ice cream triple sprinkle bonus. Or some shit like that. (I don’t do sprinkles.)

The point that I’m after here is that losing isn’t always a bad thing. This Kings team does not have an idea how to respond to success, and it started with both Tyreke and DeMarcus. Cousins looked out of sorts in part because of the refs, but Reke just looked like he doesn’t have a clue on what’s going on. If your two best players don’t really do much for you, it’s hard to ask your other guys to fill in for them. Those two guys need to be the Kings 2 best players every night. It’s that simple. If they don’t understand that, and Cousins clearly is showing that he’s beginning to really get that, than that leaves Tyreke.

As far as Smart and Jimmer, I liked the Jimmer DNP-CD’s myself. Jimmer needed that to sort of stop flailing around. Tonight Jimmer got to spots and took shots. Jimmer didn’t hesitate. Smart’s moves have worked well with Cuz, Reke up to a point, and even John Salmons in some respects. Why doubt Smart’s decision with regard to Jimmer? Because you are a Jimmer fanboy.

In the meantime, these losses can serve as object lessons that clownball (you hear me Mr Evans?) doesn’t work at the NBA level. No matter how many times you try it or what the particular situation of the game is. There were times where Tyreke absolutely looked effective and did the right thing. But those times were not very frequent.

Keith Smart has a nice teaching tool to work with about handling success, about learning how to work to create open shots consistently, learning how to utilize your offensive weapons when they are in position to score, that effective defense and rebounding can keep you in games, and that effort and energy do really count for something.

A month ago this team probably would have lose this game by at least 20 points even without Kevin Love being in uniform for the Wolves. It was competitive, and the Kings should have been pushing harder at the Wolves for a victory even with the Wolves having 2 days off and the Kings playing last night in New Orleans. The last thing this Kings team needs is excuses, and it has to learn that excuses are for teams that don’t accept personal responsibility for their actions.

Can Keith Smart save this team? Perhaps he can. But whether Tyreke Evans ever becomes more than a partial mental midget a good chunk of the time is still a matter definitely in question right now.

On the flip side to Blackout Thursday we go. See ya there.