There are very few games, especially when it’s been a bad team, where the write-ups are really fun to write. One of those reasons is that recaps enforce the idea of recall of what happened that, especially in retrospect, why the game ended up with the outcome that it ended up with. This is one of those games where it seemed like the Kings knew they were going to win, and figured out how to do so. Why? Well, that’s after the jump silly rabbit!!!!! Boxscore
Why did the Kings win? Well, you’ll love this: The Kings committed 11 turnovers that the Wolves scored NINE points off of. On the flip side of that, the Wolves committed 21 turnovers that the Kings turned into 29 points. Fast break points were 27 points (Kings) to 26 points (Wolves) and Point paints were 54 (Kings) and 50 (Wolves). Guess where the Kings won the game? Additionally, the Kings had ELEVEN steals–4 by Marcus Thornton alone– as a team against the Wolves today. I won’t go deep into Thornton, but Thornton is one of those effective shot jackers the NBA has. The reason MT23 is effective is that a bunch of the shot he tends to put up and miss are still good shots from a “should he take it or not take it” perspective.
There was little the Kings did wrong today that you can take fault with. The Kings played hard, moved the ball on offense (I really lost track the times the ball moved extra times to get a teammate a better shot), and in general actually ran plays. I know, that shocked the living beejeezus out of me too.
A couple of Wolves observations: Kevin Love is a terrific player, but has trouble when either A) strong and athletic guys or B) smart athletes (like Jason Thompson) bang on him a bit. Love is bearing up, but it’s effecting him some. I can’t remember the last time the Kings slowed down Kevin Love the way the Kings did tonight.Oh, and Kevin Love had 21 points and 11 boards. That was a so-so (at best) game. 21 & 11. That’s Franchise Player shit right there.
As far as Rubio not being in the game, I think where it hurts the Wolves is that the Wolves did not commit as many TO’s in the halfcourt and open court as they have without Rubio. I don’t think that’s an accident.
Moving onto the Kings…..
I’m going to lead off with one criticism and move onto everything else…..
Wanna know why people said Tyreke Evans was not a PG? Watch him on offense. He stands around far too often, other teammates don’t move very often, and rarely do the Kings get moving in an offense very quickly. Even though Jimmer Fredette is somewhat guilty of this as well, part of the issue with Jimmer is the speed of the game and adjusting to something entirely different than what Jimmer has been used to at the collegiate level. Jimmer’s also a rookie. What is Tyreke’s excuse? What I will say is that the ball movement is clearly evidenced twice in a row without Tyreke, it’s clearly an emphasis by this group, and everyone including Marcus Thornton (I know my jaw dropped when I saw MT23 pass a few times too) is starting to buy in. Do 2 wins completely signal that? Not necessarily, and this Kings team loses a major potential talent without Tyreke on the floor. But that’s all it is right now when we are discussing Tyreke and potential when that potential has numerous mental lapses, kills any ball movement and flow, and you simply can’t win when the guy with the ball in his hands so often makes such poor decisions consistently because the lack of chemistry can be noted by a 5th grader. Is some of that a lack of confidence in his shot? Perhaps, but that’s not an excuse. If Tyreke was missing good shots (as what frequently happened today with numerous Kings players) I wouldn’t talk about the decision making. I’d live with the shot being what it was and leave it at that. But that’s not the issue here, nor has it really been my major contention. Tyreke’s decision making is ridiculously terrible to the point where Kevin Garnett noticed it even if he didn’t name Tyreke by name. You’ve been put on notice kid: Get your act together or get your ass gone.(Okay probably not. I’m really hoping that’s the message Tyreke and his brothers are getting right now. This ankle injury couldn’t have come together at a better time for Tyreke and the Kings.)
Okay, now the good stuff.
I was very impressed with Jason Thompson’s activity level on both ends. Flashing to open spots (it works!!!!), his rebounding (8 defensive rebounds in 27 minutes!!!!), and in general his overall activity and effort level. That’s the Jason Thompson folks like myself questioned would ever appear. This JT is a starting 4/5 in the NBA especially alongside Cousins (who is a defensive C).Right now Jason Thompson is not looking like a 3rd big man, and a lot more like a starting PF in the NBA. Good on him: JT is a good guy who has really learned some NBA skills and worked to improve.
Speaking of Cousins, of all the guys who played Cousins didn’t play incredibly well and had some shots miss. Yet, I’ll bet Cousins mood was upbeat due to how fun the nature of the game was from the bench. You could see he wanted to play. That’s a good sign for the future if Cousins can follow through. (Which is always the question isn’t it?)
Isaiah Thomas. Let’s see here: Forget the 60th pick part for a moment (I still don’t understand how he dropped that far). Isaiah is 5’9 if you’re being kind, probably has the size strength and athleticism of a guy who is really 6’2, and how a lot of smart teams missed that? I’m glad the Kings didn’t is all I’m going to say on that one.
As far as the game as Isaiah goes, the fact that Isaiah has outplayed 2 veteran PG’s in Rajon Rondo and Luke Ridnour speaks volumes to me. More important, Isaiah’s TS% on the season is now sitting at 57% for the season after today’s 6-10 performance (4-6 from 3 and 2-2 line!!!!). Isaiah only had 2 assists, but that’s sometimes the way it goes with this Kings team. I don’t measure good ball movement solely on a PG, and tonight that ball movement was obviously there. Plus with Hayes, Thompson and Cousins facilitating abilities that will take some assists away. Whatever happened tonight for Isaiah was a result of his talent and little more than that.I’m not ready to say Isaiah is going to hit Manu Ginobili territory because Manu is a championship player at his best. But Isaiah will clearly be the best player not drafted in the 2nd round, and unlike when Manu was in Argentina, the NBA doesn’t have an excuse. Finding Manu is more of a credit to the Spurs I think than anything. NBA teams had no excuse to know who Isaiah Thomas was. And, had Isaiah not been drafted, I would have been thrilled for the Kings to give him the contract they did. Tonight was Isaiah’s 44th game played, and just as an FYI courtesy of the always excellent / brilliant Mark Deeks, Isaiah’s contract will be guaranteed for the 2nd year once IT hits the 50 games played slash 15 Minutes Per Game average mark. Hard to imagine Isaiah not hitting that at the moment. Isaiah has played 44 games and hit 21 MPG on the season to this point. (Plus, even if Isaiah hadn’t hit the 15 MPG mark, with the way he was playing early on it would have been hard to imagine the Kings NOT picking up Isaiah’s option.) Isaiah also has the same option for the 3rd after his 2nd season in the NBA. (At this rate, that’s hard to imagine not happening EITHER. But let’s get there first.) Wonderful game from Isaiah. My favorite part of Isaiah’s game tonight? 1 turnover.
John Salmons. Was 7-14 tonight (1-2 from 3), some good defense on Martell Webster (who was 4-7 from the field, 1-2 from 3 and 5-5 line) and Wesley Johnson (although that’s not a real surprise). Salmons, especially early, helped the Kings to a strong start and then sort of let the youngins take it away in the 2nd half when it went away from him. Salmons recovery in the 2nd half has not been that surprising, but the fact that his shooting percentages are going up everywhere across the board is not a major surprise. This John Salmons, believe it or not, is actually tradeable assuming the Kings even want to trade him at this point. (I’d have to think about it myself.)
Chuck Hayes had a terrific game defensively, and offensively for a change. Chuck was 5-7 floor, 2-2 line for a season high 12 points. What’s amazing is that along with the 8 boards, came strong and physical defense the Chuckwagon has made famous from his Houston days. Hayes raised his season TS% from 43.6% to 45.6% after today’s terrific effort. Hayes also was a huge reason the ball moved so well from side to side and so often. From an all around standpoint, this was Chuck Hayes best game of the season.
Donte Greene had a great game today as well. Donte made a number of extra passes he’s been doing much better recently with. Additionally, Donte made it tough for Michael Beasley to get quality shots up and slowed Beasley after a hot start for the Beas. I think the issue with Donte will become: Who is Donte more valuable on this roster than the players in front of him? I think Donte has a spot where he can play for a team in the NBA, but that team needs to be committed to making him a real stretch 4 and asking him to defend the bigger physical 4′s that are in abundance. I don’t see any way how Donte Greene beats all the bigs in front of him at the 4 spot, and certainly isn’t that effective of a 3 man at this point. I’ve seen real improvement on Donte’s part, to Donte’s credit, and Donte is a tremendous teammate. If Donte wants a long NBA career, I think he will need to go somewhere to a team that can give him those stretch 4 minutes. What team would that be? I’d have to think about it for a moment. One possible team is Milwaukee that comes to mind especially if Ersan Ilyasova goes back to Turkey or Europe. Plus we’ll always have this:
We got a decent and mixed game from Jimmer Fredette. Jimmer was 3-11 from the field with some hard luck misses, and that’s part of the game. Jimmer did some real good things (including that pull-up numerous folks have been asking of Jimmer) tonight, and that shouldn’t be forgotten. It’s just not necessarily reflecting in the box score as a “positive”.
Travis Outlaw was 2-9 from the field, and that’s probably the worst part of his game. There were the 6 boards, the defense on Anthony Randolph that took away some of the easy putback points Randolph had gotten a few times, and in general gave the Kings some good minutes. I’m not a fan of Travis at all, or in any way really, but a positive output from Travis Outlaw in any game is always necessary.
Tyler Honeycutt is one reason I said what I did about Donte a few paragraphs ago. I think once Honeycutt gets his feet wet, we will see Honeycutt facilitate a lot more (that’s definitely part of his skill set), hit the outside shot particularly from 3 (Honeycutt hit 36% from 3 at UCLA on 152 total attempts), and play the kind of defense that Tayshaun Prince has made so famous. Can’t imagine why the Kings would need something like that.
The one area of concern that I did have looking at the box score was the rebounding where the Wolves outrebounded the Kings by 9. But, that was also inflated by that sequence where the Wolves got 6 shots at the basket in the same possession (or I think it was 6). Otherwise, that was the one looming concern I have over this game. Is the rebounding so bad because Cousins and Thompsons played 21 and 27 minutes respectively? We’ll see.
The part that makes me happy to see was the Kings giving up 42 points in the 2nd half after allowing 57 points in the 1st half. That alone meant the Kings picked up the defense, actually applied the knockout punch to the Wolves when it was there for the taking. That’s the biggest main takeaway from the game I had for the Kings.
Onto Tuesday, and one hellacious of a tough matchup with Memphis. Want to know how good Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins are? How they match up with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol (I would argue the best big tandem in the NBA right now) will illustrate how good those two can become as a tandem. I’m hoping they show well to say the least.