Well. Where do I start? There was a lot of good things, some real negatives mixed in, and in general a positive win for the right reasons. Here is the box score.
Let’s start with turnovers forced for Memphis: On Avg, the Grizzlies force 17.8 TO’s a game. Including several late TO’s when the game was already out of reach for Memphis, Sacramento committed 14 total TO’s on the game. And it very well could have been 12 or 11 TO’s had a few soft passes made by numerous Kings not been made.
The Kings attempted 32 FT’s, making 21, and that could have derailed the Kings on many nights this season. Why? 28 assists mainly. The Kings were getting a lot of quality shots at the rim en route to a season high 74 points in the paint. The Kings out-rebounded the Grizzlies 47-37 total, and that’s impressive given how often it seemed like the Kings just simply went after the ball. It felt like Memphis actually did better on the boards than they actually did.
Here is another stat for you: On the season the Grizzlies typically allow 44.3 FG% from the floor for opponents; tonight the Kings shot 53.4%. That was a huge biproduct of the ball movement we saw for much of the night before the 4th quarter turned into a slam-bam contest of who could hit each other without the ref looking.
The Kings outscored Memphis in fastbreak points (27-21; Memphis’ total aided by several soft passes to Tony Allen that went for uncontested layups), and in general managed to make a lot of hustle plays. The Kings had 11 steals to the Grizzlies’ 6 steals, and 6 blocks to the Grizzlies 2. That told me a lot when a number of steals didn’t always result in a positive net result for the Kings. What these things did was frustrate the Grizzlies. I’m sure a number of those guys said: Who is this team? Trust me Grizzlies: We as Kings fans are enjoying it, but have not seen this team before either.
Onto the players…..
I’ve been as hard on Tyreke Evans as absolutely possible this season (not necessarily by choice), and tonight some of the decision making disorder that has plagued Tyreke for much of the season went on a hiatus for the most part. Tyreke was engaged on both ends for the most part, and a few TO’s were in attempt of making the right play (especially the pass to Jason Thompson that got picked off under the basket; I’ll live with that all the time). More importantly for Tyreke, there was either 1 or 2 absolutely ridiculous shots he should have not taken (I can’t remember if it was 1 or 2 but that’s progress; I’m going to quit while I’m ahead). I’ve crapped on Tyreke for that shake n bake move, but when he does it in the open court the way he did on one play in the 4th qtr was magical. This Tyreke can help you win games. This Tyreke is not that frustrating, and, in fact, is fun to watch. I only shook my head once or twice at Tyreke and the plays he made, and that one play I remember was the spin move where Tyreke leaned back and took a bad jumper in the late 3rd quarter. But, following that was a beautiful mid range jumper. I’ll live with what Tyreke did tonight every time.
Mostly positive is progress, and that’s meaningful at this stage. Want to know why people were skeptical that Tyreke was killing ball movement? Tonight is a classic example. There were a few times Tyreke stopped the ball, as did Marcus Thornton for that matter, but the Kings got back to running plays. That has not happened often this season. That’s why hanging the actual ball movement against Boston and Minnesota on Tyreke not playing didn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s fair to note how poorly Tyreke has played particularly in regards to his decision making, total effort level and commitment; it’s not fair to blame the total lack of ball movement on Tyreke. If there’s one area where I think the team benefitted not having Tyreke, and it helped Tyreke to observe it as well, was moving the ball to create quality of shots. Tonight, Tyreke for the most part did not contribute to the killing of ball movement very often. When Tyreke did make plays, there were numerous good decision even if the end result is not the desired result. When Tyreke is engaged and into the game, starting or coming off the bench, as Tyreke was tonight, this Tyreke is not the player I would suggest lobbing grenades at or hitting him in the head with a baseball bat to see if his head rings. (Not that’s what I was advocating in reality.) This Tyreke Evans is useful to have, and it’s up to Tyreke to make that value work for him and the Kings’ mutual benefit.
DeMarcus Cousins showed us his offensive arsenal when Cuz is quicker than his defender. And, do trust, Boogie Cuz was quicker than Marc Gasol (a legitimate All-Star Center I remind) tonight in many facets of the game. That quickness led to the 23 points including several beautiful dunks when the ball was initially caught with a defender around Boogie. What impressed me is that several of those plays were when Boogie simply gathered himself and made the right play. The game looked like it was slowing down for our 21 year old emotional dynamo. That’s something. But…….
DeMarcus has to learn that he can’t grab players at mid-court. Grant Napear and Jerry Reynolds were right to drone on about the absurdity of the way Cousins will foul a player after he feels been fouled on the offensive end. The problem is that is not how you get referees to see things your way. What was particularly frustrating about the 6th foul was that Cousins had the ball, was stripped by Conley (who is leading the NBA in steals), and then grabbed Conley on the shorts AT HALFCOURT. What are the refs supposed to do there? For instance:” Oh Boogie we know you’re a young emotional growing firebrand of a young man! It’s okay son!” No, they’re going to call the foul. Until Boogie gets it, I imagine there will be a few disqualifications of this frustrating sort. But…….
That’s not what really got me. Boogie only got 5 rebounds tonight, and 2 of those were offensive boards. I know it’s Memphis, I know they can board a bit on the offensive end (8th in the NBA in ORB%), but still. I was really not exceptionally disappointed with Boogie for the most part as I know this is all part of his growth process. I can live with the fouls. The 25 minutes, and the lack of better rebounding was really what gets me.
All that said, Boogie showed some terrific things he can take forward in the future. DeMarcus Cousins has a bright future, and losing the forest to focus on just a few trees is silly. But to ignore that those trees don’t make up a significant part of the impact of a forest is just as silly.
Isaiah Thomas was magnificent outside of his missed 3′s. And, several of those missed 3′s went nearly down. All in all, a tremendous night for the young man. Should Isaiah Thomas be all-rookie 1st team? Well let’s see, name 4 rookies better. I’ll name two that I would take ahead of Isaiah 100 out of 100 times: Kyrie Irving and Ricky Rubio. Isaiah is 6th in PPG for Rookies, 6th in 3pt%, 10th in FT% (which has a limited sample size) 11th in Steals, 5th in steals, and my personal favorite: Pts/Rebs/Asts Isaiah ranks 7th out of all rookies. (Kyrie Irving and Ricky Rubio are well ahead of everyone else.) Despite the fact that Isaiah is somewhat limited by the reduced minutes early in the season, Isaiah is among the leaderboard in a lot of rookie categories. Tonight, Isaiah had 18 points on (5-10 floor, 8-9 from the line & 0-4 from 3), 7 assists (and numerous missed other opportunities–3 is not a high number), and 5 rebounds (4 defensive–including one defensive board that pretty much sealed the game). Isaiah was terrific again tonight, and having a quality player helping you win the game is what matters. You can make the argument that Isaiah outplayed Mike Conley tonight which is hardly an easy thing to do these days.
Jason Thompson had an interesting game tonight when you strip at it. On one hand, JT went 6-14 from the floor, but when you consider that JT started 2-9 from the floor at the offensive the end to the game was really important. There were 5 offensive boards, several of which came off JT’s own missed shots, but 8 defensive rebounds!!!! That made me happy. Additionally, there was some quality defense from JT at times, and some less than stellar defense mixed in also. Here’s the part that gets me: This is the worst game JT has had awhile from a statistical standpoint. And it resulted in a double-double for the 4th straight game. Words: They escape me. Well played young Thompson. Oh, and the best part? JT played 41 minutes tonight.
Marcus Thornton led the Kings in scoring. Again. Marcus Thornton had 3 steals. Again. Had it not been Cousins 4 steals (Cousins was terrific in that respect), Thornton would have gotten the lead in that department. As it was, several calls went against the Kings that robbed Thornton of several other chances at a steal. It was very similar to Isaiah Thomas and assists. What I will say is that the best of Marcus Thornton appeared tonight, and he was among many Kings who stood out. Besides the 31 points (12-22 shooting, 3-8 from 3, 4-6 line), 7 rebounds (including several terrific offensive boards among the 3 total), and 6 assists. No, that’s not a typo. Marcus Thornton had 6 assists including one terrific bullet feed late in the 4th quarter to Jason Thompson. Again, I think it says a lot about this team that Thornton is the 4th player I’ve talked about. Admittedly, I think you could have put Thornton 1st but his impact was what it was. Sometimes, Thornton’s numbers look good in part because of the other guys around him. Tonight was one of those instances. Mostly, and I wanted to point this out in part because I’ll likely forget, I think the main point and takeaway is that Thornton did a lot of good things (except a few bad shots in the 3rd qtr) that helped this Kings team win. While I don’t think Marcus Thornton would be at his long term best starting, I do think you have to wonder how long Jimmer Fredette has a long term role on this Kings team if Marcus Thornton continues to produce at such a high level. As much as I appreciate Jimmer’s play, there is no way you can make the argument Jimmer is more valuable than Marcus Thornton, Isaiah Thomas or Tyreke Evans. Where is the minutes for Jimmer with John Salmons clearly illustrating he has a role as ball handling SG?
Here is the best part of the Thornton night: Tony Allen defended him all night, and while Allen himself went 6-8 from the floor (2-2 line), Allen is a tremendous defender which is probably an understatement. Tony Allen is one of the 3 or 4 best perimeter defenders in the NBA right now and Marcus Thornton dropped a lot of his 31 points while being defended by Tony Allen. How many guys in the NBA can claim that?
John Salmons had another reasonably good game considering the stakes (defending Rudy Gay) and shot fairly well (3-7 floor 1-2 from 3) on the game. This John Salmons is worth what he’s being paid whether or not most fans want to accept that. I suspect that Salmons season ORtg will be higher than 99, and the season DRtg will be lower than 111 too after tonight’s game. Call it, say, a hunch.
There were some “interesting” foul calls on Chuck Hayes (thought a few were simply phantom calls), but at the end of the day the Kings won too. No point in complaining that the refs are out to get you. Games like tonight are also one of the primary reasons I’m suspicious about a fans claim that officiating dictates the outcome of a game. Typically, most fans see what they want from situations such as tonight with Hayes. I disagreed with a few of the calls, but are they enough to say the NBA is throwing the league in favor of their marquee teams? No, unless I missed something about Memphis, the Grizzlies are not considered a marquee team by opponent fans. Despite pushing OKC to 7 games, Memphis is not on national TV all that much this season despite the roster. Which is a shame, but whatever. Memphis is a solid team and tonight they showed it.Yet, and I think this is important with regards to Chuck Hayes, it happens that a few calls go against you no matter what the team or situation. These things tend to even out, and I bet Hayes won’t even care reflecting upon tonight. The “W” is what matters and the Kings absolutely did that. Speaking of Hayes, the Chuckwagon went 2-2 from the floor and 1-2 line raising his season TS% to 46.4% (up from 45.6%). Why is this remarkable? Chuck Hayes had THREE scoring possessions in TWENTY-TWO minutes. Hayes has a ridiculously low 10.3% USG%. This shouldn’t shock you, but Hayes offensive recovery is a great sign that this Kings team has found a way to share the ball. Plus there was this:
A shoutout to Donte Greene who had yet another effective stint in his 7 minutes tonight. I’m still not convinced that Donte Greene has a long term role with the Kings, but if he does it will likely be as a backup PF off the bench. If that’s the case, I have seen worse things than that. Either way, Donte’s shooting (3-4 from the floor including one terrific left handed layup at the cup) and attentive defense on Rudy Gay were especially useful in the 2nd quarter. If for no other reason, I’m happy for Donte that there is a role for Donte on this team even if it’s in limited minutes.
I guess the one thing I’d like to finish is a shoutout to Keith Smart who has managed to get this team to buy into something even if it’s for a short while. This Kings team is currently 20th in ORtg with an eFG% that is still low (28th in the NBA) but that is 2% better than it was 6 weeks ago. Even though this team is giving up significant amounts of points, the Kings are in general playing defense within their concept of defense. More attention to detail is actually being paid. Tonight, even though Memphis scored 110 pts, I’ll bet Memphis ORtg is roughly around a 105 points or so for the game. Even though the Kings scored 119 points, I’ll bet the ORtg is likely around 115 given all the possessions the Kings and Grizzlies both had. Points per possessions matter, and the Kings did a lot better than the Grizzlies in converting their opportunities. Why does that matter? The Kings currently have a 109.1 DRtg and a 102.8 ORtg. The ORtg is near league average in terms of total points per 100 possessions (that’s a good trend), and that’s been climbing in recent weeks. It’s helped that there were 3 big scoring nights in a row against Boston, Minnesota and Memphis. But that’s what makes this recent 3 game victory so impressive: Boston has a 99.8 DRtg (3rd), Minnesota has a 104.4 DRtg (16th), and Memphis has 100.6 DRtg (7th). The Kings had an ORtg (remember it’s points per 100 possessions) of 122.4 against Boston, an ORtg of 114.4 against Minnesota, and like I said I’ll bet the ORtg when it comes out will be about 115 or so.
That’s something. Is the team perfect? No. This team has been bottom 5 all season in DRtg and there is little excuse for that. On the other hand, for a team that was bottom 5 for most of the season in ORtg is now 20th in the NBA in said metric. That’s….something. Doing so against 3 teams that have been average or top 10 all season in DRtg? That’s…..really something.
This team has plenty of road left traveled, but right now there are plenty of good things coming. The Kings have won 5 games on this homestand with an opportunity of winning it’s 6th against a really good Utah Jazz team. This Jazz team beat Oklahoma City tonight, the Lakers Sunday night, the Warriors and the Timberwolves before that.
Thursday’s game is going to be a dandy (to quote some redhead). I’m looking forward to Thursday as I have any game all season. Woohoooo Kings win baby!!!!