Well, first off, I must admit I didn’t see the 1st half of the game, but I doubt that really matters much here. Let’s talk about a few other things instead.
* Ending quarters: The Kings did that. Each quarter the Kings finished out strong, and that’s something this team rarely has done well.
* The end of the game interview with Tyreke Evans/DeMarcus Cousins struck me as a bit odd given that Keith Smart has repeatedly said this Kings team does not have a superstar. It was interesting to see Smart in that interview talk about Evans/Cousins as building blocks, and it was even more interesting to see Smart there talking with Evans and Cousins. That was a very NCAA feel to it even if that was not the intention.
* News to the TNT Studio Crew: Technically NBATV counts as national TV games.
* The Kings had 21 assists and 12 turnovers. The Thunder had 22 turnovers and 13 assists. Recognize those numbers?
* The Kings had 60 points in the paint to the Thunder 34 points in the paint.
* The Kings committed 12 TO’s and the Thunder converted those into 12 points. The Thunder committed 22 turnovers and the Kings turned that into 25 points.
* The Kings shot 40% from the field, and the Thunder shot 48% from the field. A big part of that is forcing shots that aren’t there. It’s clear that Keith Smart has helped this team figure out that quality defense can lead to quality offense. Many of the Kings best offensive possessions come off turnovers where easy points are coming easier and more frequently in the last few weeks. Tonight was another continuation off that trend.
* John Salmons shot 2-10 but made the drive that led to the eventual pass by Salmons to Thornton who hit a corner 3 to tie the game at 97 with just over 2 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter. Along with 7 rebounds, it was nice to see that Salmons could still end up helping the team with something other than scoring.
Salmons illustrated that you can play through missing shots playing fairly tough defense on Durant (I thought Durant’s shots were much harder from what I saw than what has been typically available for Durant in the past), and it was nice to see that Salmons can contribute in more ways than shooting. That’s definitely needed on this team.
* Chuck Hayes shot 4-6 from the field. I love to see that number.
* Tyreke Evans played 38 minutes, Salmons 36 minutes, Thornton 33 minutes, Thompson 30 minutes and Cousins 28 minutes. If Cousins was up to 32-33 minutes I’d be ecstatic about this minute distribution.
* Jason Thompson got his 5th double double tonight with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
* Donte Greene played well again tonight. Hopefully Phoenix is a 3rd game in a row where a positive impact by Donte is made. But, I must admit, I don’t see Donte ever doing a whole lot that isn’t as a stretch 4. Tonight Donte had the opportunity to play that 4 spot more than he sometimes has in recent times.
* The Kings had 4 guys with 3 or more assists tonight: Jason Thompson (3), Marcus Thornton (3), Jimmer Fredette (4) and Tyreke Evans (5). This is hopefully the start of a trend where ball movement is more consistently. There was semblance of ball movement tonight.
* Bottom line, and I could keep going probably for a bit more, the Kings found a way to not get the hinges of the door blown off tonight. There were times when OKC sensed that the Kings were there for the taking, but the Kings managed to hang around. Whether it was getting some baskets in transition, pounding the offensive boards, and not turning the ball over, there were less possessions that ended up with head scratching moments. Were there too many? Yeah, there were.
You can chalk this up to the Kings playing well because they were on national TV (I don’t think that’s it personally), but I do think it’s more like the Kings playing well because they saw the opportunity to win a game. If there is anything this Kings team is doing, this team is learning that momentum only swings in the favor of those who work the hardest in favor of swinging the momentum in their direction. At times, it was OKC. At times, it was Sac. That’s progress. This team is at the point where 10-16 is a bit of a disappointment, but given where this franchise was a month ago, it’s progress in the most real of ways.
The most pleasing aspect of this recent stretch is that Keith Smart has this team’s ear and they are responding. With the talent, and with Smart providing some real insight, this team seems poised to improvement sooner than later.
The Arco Thunder returned once again tonight, and that is the most important aspect of the game. The fans have been waiting for something and a team to really cheer about, and tonight was a great start to that step.
Until the flip side appears once more.