Posted by: Kingsguru21 | December 13, 2009

Kings blow out Wolves 120-100

Well, there usually is a lot positive to talk about after a win, and this game is no exception. Here is the Box Score, and the 4 Factors:

Pace Eff eFG FT/FG OREB% TOr
Minnesota 102.0 98.0 44.6% 18.3 29.4 14.7
Sacramento 117.6 55.8% 14.7 34.8 14.7

During the 1st qtr, and when the Kings were scoring, the Wolves were scoring too. In fact, after the 1st qtr buzzer sounded, the Kings were up 35-32. The difference is from the 2nd qtr on, and the Kings out-score the Wolves 85-68. The biggest difference was in the 3rd qtr when the Kings scored 33 points, and the Wolves scored 20 points. This game, as it was, bore out the pre-game analysis: The Wolves can’t score efficiently or defend. The Kings, on the other hand, are one of the more efficient offensive teams who just can’t play defense.

Essentially, that’s exactly what happened all game. When the Wolves sputtered was when they lacked the offensive go-to options, and that’s exactly when the Kings pulled away. The Wolves, who are a fast pace team, tried to play the Kings that way, and just like the Kings were ill-fated when this strategy was performed versus the Suns a week ago, the Wolves were doomed to a similar fate tonight. The real problems, as far as I can tell with the Wolves, is that they have no real strengths other than Al Jefferson scoring inside, Kevin Love doing a bit of everything offensively, and a potential Jonny Flynn explosion.

The Kings, however, have many varied offensive options, and showed this balance and ball-movement that has been a staple of the good offensive Baby Royals. When the Kings really struggle is when the other team is athletic and active, and neither of those 2 things really apply to the Wolves. David Kahn and Kurt Rambis have a long road to hoe that is for sure.

Onto the Bullet Points……

* Spencer Hawes had his moments tonight, and on one play put a dunk down viciously. I’m beginning to believe that the best thing Spencer Hawes has in store, despite his notable attributes that don’t show up in a box score, may be only really effective as the 3rd Big in a rotation. One of the real issue’s this Kings team has, other than Spencer is the only real C on the roster (a problem plenty of teams have truthfully), is that Spencer is probably the 2nd best low post defender on the Kings. The best low post defender? Kenny Thomas.

* Speaking of Sir Kenneth Cornelius Thomas, the 10 minutes he received in the 1st half made a huge difference as the Kings started to pull away in the 2nd qtr with Mr. K9 on the court. His post defense on Love & Jefferson made a difference as neither got quality shots away with K9 on them. Taking their offense away was a major reason the Kings were able to open a lead in the 2nd qtr.

* Jason Thompson had a gaudy stat line, but he also benefits from playing with better low post defenders in Kenny Thomas and Spencer Hawes. If the Kings could get another low post D guy, the Kings would be far improved if they could get another low post interior defender.

On the other hand, early on that is, JT showed some signs of using his left hand. Where he excelled, against the less athletic Jefferson & Love, was simply using his energy and activity against both guys on the perimeter and inside. JT constantly filled the lanes tonight, and that’s why he got so many dunks. It wasn’t just filling the line, but really the timing of the cuts themselves. That made a difference tonight.

(Side note: I don’t believe any team can win with Al Jefferson as the best big on the team. Maybe the 2nd best big, but not the best big. He plays no defense, doesn’t well enough out of double teams, and isn’t probably athletic enough to improve in these area’s. On the other hand, he is also not Zach Randolph and more teams would want Al J if they could get him. I’m just glad the Kings aren’t trying to build around Al though.)

* Tyreke Evans was great in the 1st qtr as he scored 14 points, was 5-7 from the field and 4-5 from the line. For the rest of the game, he scored 4 points and just 2-9 from the field. Oh, and despite a game where Tyreke Evans was not at his A+ best, he also had 5 boards and 5 assists (a few of those late in the blowout). I’ll take this any day of the week for Tyreke’s B- game. And, the funny thing is? Tyreke Evans’ B- game is probably every bit as good as Jonny Flynn’s typical A game. Whoops on thinking that Flynn might be better than Evans. (Hehehe.)

* Sergio Rodriguez was tremendous tonight, and so was Beno Udrih. Rodriguez had 9 assists and 2 steals (but 4 TO’s out of a team 15) while Udrih was 7-12 from the field (after starting 3-8) for 16 points and had 7 assists (1 TO) too. Udrih was really better than Rodriguez tonight, but both when you combined their numbers had 21 points, 16 assists, 5 TO’s, and 3 steals. You’ll take that every day of the week and 101 times on Sunday as an unit contribution.

Also, Jon Brockman had 8 rebounds (4 offensive), 6 points (2-3 from the floor & line) and played reasonable post defense against Kevin Love/Al Jefferson.

* Meanwhile, the Wolves bench (as a total unit) had 34 points, 4 assists (Wolves only had 14 for the game–Jonny Flynn led the Wolves with 4 dimes) and 5 steals. The Kings bench had 49 points, 21 assists, and 5 steals. It’s safe to say where this game was won. (Gee, I hate knowing this shit in advance.)

* The Kings out-rebounded the Wolves tonight 52-45, and after a real slow start on the board , the Kings over-took the Wolves by the late 2nd qtr and never looked back. Minnesota, who was shooting 65% early on in this game, ended up shooting about 43%. Just out-rebounding the Wolves on all those misses, getting a lot of deflections including some steal’s, and just out-hustling the Wolves showed up all night for all 94 feet of court.

(Note what Paul Westphal says–towards the end of the clip–about how losses & wins feel after watching the tape post-game. It might help persuade your Point-Of-View on how bad losses/wins really are.)

* It should be noted that the Wolves were on their 4th game in 5 nights after playing in LA last night. Do I feel sorry for the Wolves? Absolutely not.

* The Wolves, who have no real ability to shoot the 3, shot 3-8 from distance tonight. The Kings, by contrast, shot 6-21 for a far less gaudy percentage. What’s amazing is that the Wolves got blown out without the Kings hitting a large percentage of 3’s.

My last thought on this game is that the Wolves, as mentioned previously by being on their 4th game in 5 nights, should have been blown out given that the Kings had 2 days of rest after their own 4 in 5 stretch ended last Wednesday in San Antonio. On the other hand, the Kings are going on another 4 in 5 stretch starting this Tuesday at Portland, at home Wednesday vs Washington (for the ESPN game), and then on the road to Minnesota Friday and finishing the 4 in 5 against Milwaukee this Saturday. The Kings also go to Chicago the following Sunday, and then play Cleveland Dec 23rd. The reason I bring the schedule up, again, is that the Kings have taken advantage of teams who were struggling, and/or not that good. In the NBA you must find a way to win a few games that you probably don’t have all the odds working for you. You take a few games here & there that you probably shouldn’t win, and suddenly you’re a 500 team.

It’s one thing to rebuild, which is what the Wolves are clearly doing, but it’s quite another to have young talent. The Kings have talented young rotation players, and the Wolves are re-building. The evidence is shown by how difficult it is to field a complete team, despite the talent the Wolves do have, when the right pieces just don’t fit.

The only real things this Kings team is missing is an interior presence, league experience, and playoff victories. On December 12th, when the team has played 1 4 in 5 set over a season, and has played the softest portion of the schedule this season already, I’m not convinced this team has cleared itself of all it’s problems.

By the same token I am convinced that the Kings will play as hard as they can every night. I am also convinced that Paul Westphal has mystical powers that originally derived from ancient Persia. Plus, it’s nice to have depth that gives 110.5% every time they come into the game. (Sorry for the JR/Peaches regurgitation.)

At the beginning of the season, for me, a 20 point victory required a celebration. Now, that this team has raised the bar of expectations considerably, a 20 point victory over one of the 5 worst teams in the NBA is tossed into the “it’s a required process of the Kings team taking that next step” column. I was hoping for, in October, that this expectation came about later in the season after the All-Star break. Yet, that expectation is already here, and I’m good with that. Every player on the team has exceeded their expectations I had for each of them (Sean May, along with Francisco Garcia and Kevin Martin being the obvious exceptions, being the real disappointing performance at this point on the roster) at the start of the season.

Even if the Kings end up with 30 wins on the season, that is a 13 game improvement from a year ago. I’ll take 30 wins for a young team that expects to win every time out. It marks a real (and noticeable) change from a year ago, and shows how much can improvement can be had when an organization (and coaching staff) decides to change the culture and talent. Chalk this victory up to another stunning example of how different things are from a year ago.

(Programming Note: I have some Reggie Theus thoughts since Sam Amick did a big piece with Reggie on the paper that appeared today. Look for it tomorrow.)

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