Posted by: Kingsguru21 | December 24, 2009

Cavaliers top Kings in OT 117-104

The title is a bit misleading, but oh well. The Cavaliers A) in fact did win and B) out score the Kings by 13 in OT. But, that had more to do with the Kings not scoring a point in OT, and the fact that Cleveland is one of the best teams in the NBA so far this season.

Box Score and 4 Factors:

Pace (Poss) Eff eFG FT/FG OREB% TOr
Cleveland 86.0 (95) 123.2 55.4% 16.3 38.5 12.6
Sacramento 109.5 48.4% 16.3 26.1 9.5

Okay, I can lie and say I’m not disappointed. I am, as I always am after losses, that the Kings didn’t win. But, I’ve been through this song and dance before. I believe in progress and this is progress.

There are a lot of negatives laying around. Running the offense, the rebounding (which was not good despite what anyone says), letting Zydrunas Ilgauskas shoot a lot of open shots (among other Cavs), and lacking poise in general down the stretch of the game.

Running the offense against the Cavs is not easy, and unless you have very good to great offensive talents (and other than Tyreke and Thompson nobody qualifies on the active roster until Martin comes back) on the floor it makes it difficult to consistently score on top defensive teams. Over the course of a 48 min (or 53 min) they usually find a way to beat you. That’s what good teams do. Ultimately, what the Kings get their offense from is the system and the talents they have that can exploit such a system.

And for 3 qtr’s this played out. It wasn’t perfect (not arguing it was) nor should it be. Tyreke Evans had a better 1st half than 2nd half (statistically) and what not, as did Omri Casspi. And 28 games in I expect that.

I can sit here and lament about the lack of defense this Kings teams plays, but, really, I don’t care. I knew they weren’t going to be that good defensively because the horse’s aren’t there. Plus, it doesn’t help that Paul Westphal has a group of young players that are inexperienced and are learning the league in every conceivable fashion.

I can complain that the Kings had a tough time running their offense in the 4th qtr, or that certain players took bad shots in certain situations. You know what? I DON’T FUCKING CARE!

The reality is this: The Cavs walked away 22-8 and a date with the Lakers to come on Christmas Day. The Kings walked away with their 4th loss at Arco against a top 5 NBA team in which they scored a doughnut in OT.

More than that, however, the Kings also learned that playing Chicago, and Cleveland, are not at the same level of competition. Learning how to compete against the best teams and take them to the limit is not always as easy as it looks. As much as I didn’t want to believe it, I knew laying a complete egg was possible with this team.

Am I encouraged that LeBron James took on Tyreke Evans in his 28th professional game? You bet your ass. Am I encouraged that Tyreke Evans had 2 or 3 great plays against LeBron? Yes. Am I encouraged that Tyreke forced the Mike Brown & the Cavs to do something they considered a last resort? Duh.

One of the interesting moments tonight came from Omri Casspi, and his inability to perform down the stretch as he had earlier in the game. I don’t know what Omri’s issues exactly are at the moment. Some of them stem from being a rookie, some from teams have scouted him and figured out what some of his weaknesses are, and some of it is Omri not being used to the NBA level of intensity. Omri has not faced a team of the caliber of the Cavs yet in his NBA career, and it takes some getting used to.

I won’t spin this as good news for the Baby Royals. I am happy with the overall performances of the following players: Tyreke Evans, Omri Casspi, Donte Greene (more on him in a minute), Spencer Hawes, Jason Thompson and that’s pretty much it. Beno didn’t play great nor did he perform terribly either. He had an average game by the recent standards he has set for himself. (He was also the only bench player to receive more than 10 minutes.)

I don’t even know what to say about Tyreke at this point. So I won’t.

I’ve really mentioned Casspi several times, but I do wonder if all the NBA minutes has started to get to him mentally. I also, occassionally, wonder if the strain (or pride) of being the first Israeli gives the impression to Omri that he’s a bigger star than he actually is at this point. I wonder if that leads to his anxiety to make plays down the stretch of games.

Donte Greene, for everything he did or didn’t do, played well defensively against LeBron at times. While the missed FT’s piss me off, I was impressed that Donte didn’t foul out defending LeBron the whole time Buckets was in the game. Not picking up more than 3 fouls is a tough feat against a player like LeBron, and for the hype that LeBron’s triple double will get (the 15 boards is the most impressive part–and even that total was inflated a bit) the fact was LeBron only got 7 FT attempts. That kind of effort is the same kind of thing that Donte will have to perform against Kobe Bryant on Saturday if the Kings are to have a chance.

Jason Thompson was Jason Thompson tonight for the most part. And when the real JT stands up it provides match-up problems for every team.

Spencer Hawes did his thing tonight. He battled against Shaq, grabbed boards, hit some of his J’s he took, missed a few inside looks that he will miss sometimes, and generally was active (and had to be) trying to guard Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Shaquille O’Neal (mostly the former) throughout the game.

A quick note on Ilgauskas’ points was that while many of them came from the outside, it’s still a problem that the Kings didn’t know how to solve. The Kings weren’t willing to expose their interior to LeBron drives so they essentially traded off Z’s 20 footers instead. Tonight, Z hit them. That’s the NBA in a nutshell right there. You can’t take away everything, but you take away the most damaging stuff a team can do and hope that they miss shot’s if you play enough quality defense. It’s easy to assume the Cavs didn’t play great defense the first 3 qtr’s, but it’s also easy to forget the Kings are a quality offensive team. Mostly, the Kings inexperience in these kinds of games are what did them in at the end. That, and the most important factor.

Almost everyone has already read Bill Simmons trade column that came out yesterday:

VP’s verdict: In a position of strength, if that’s possible: They have a potential superstar in Tyreke Evans, only he’s definitely not a point guard … which means he plays the same position as the best guy on their team (Kevin Martin, currently injured). And Martin’s favorable contract ($46 million through 2013) gives him real value despite his bad luck with dopey injuries. I’d compare him to Jeff Hornacek in the early ’90s — a very good offensive player who’d be even better on a contender.

For the first time we saw where the absence of Kevin Martin has really hurt this team: Less Offensive Options! It’s amazing that lesser teams can’t take advantage of this, but this is one difference between a quality team (like the Cavs–notice I keep mentioning that?) and a difference between a lesser team like say, oh I don’t know, the Bulls perhaps? The Cavs started to clue in, as a team, that if you make Tyreke Evans a 1 on 1 player who has to create from the perimeter by pounding the ball he’s far less effective. Quality teams have already picked up on this fact (and the reality is that lesser teams know it too–they just don’t have the players to stop Reke from getting where he wants to go) While it’s true Tyreke can still score that way, he’s just far effective. Just like LeBron is less effective when he isn’t getting to the FT line 12-15 times, Tyreke thrives when he can drive relentlessly and create shots for himself and/or others by doing this. Without Kevin Martin, and Jerry Reynolds mentioned it a few times when Spencer Hawes hit his J’s, that driving lanes open up for Tyreke Evans and Jason Thompson.

Imagine that, needing a guy who can score from the outside and doing it without the ball. That’s called a complimentary player kiddies. Kevin Martin is a complementary star. There aren’t many of these laying around the “No Benjamins Association”. While, of course, we’re all frustrated by Martin’s assortment of injuries during his career, injuries and health issue’s crop up in the NBA. Kevin Martin is not a good, but great outside shooter with his feet set. If you run him off screens (which means you have to have guys who are willing to set screens to do so), he is probably the closest thing to a Reggie Miller clone that exists other than Miller himself. (My hope is that SpeedRacer never goes into TV commentary.) Just as important, though, is that the threat, the recognized threat of SpeedRacer makes teams handle Spencer Hawes, Jason Thompson, Omri Casspi and/or whomever else is on the floor. Instead of asking JT to be the 2nd option, he’s now the 3rd option. Hawes is now the 4th offensive option, and so on and so forth. Those are the far more natural roles for each of these guys, and that’s the problem when you don’t have a Kevin Martin. You’re suddenly asking Jason Thompson, while a fine player in his own right, to be a bit better than he’s probably capable of being at this point. And, quite honestly, I’m okay with this too.

The problem? When you face a team like the Cavs, they find a way to exploit these disadvantages and inherent flaws that exist by simple bad luck. Just like the Kings were able to exploit Ilgauskas or O’Neal because they aren’t very mobile or effective paint defenders (anymore in O’Neal’s case), than that’s an advantage the Kings needed to take an advantage of. When the Kings did this appropriately, various players got dunks or FT’s.

Yet, when it came to crunch time the Kings put the ball in the hands of Tyreke and asked him to create. How utilizing a player who plays his best off the ball, and does it so efficiently at that, is a detriment to Tyreke and what he does best is beyond me.

While I’m not endorsing the Kings win if Kevin Martin plays, I am endorsing that Kevin Martin’s presence in the game gives the Kings another high quality offensive player that teams have to game plan for along with Tyreke Evans and Jason Thompson. Guess what? That’s usually when you’re talking about a team contending for a playoff berth and not a top 5 pick.

If you honestly dreamed the Kings even had a remote chance at a playoff spot, and I still contend that it’s way too early to expect any kind of run at the playoff’s, I would have said you were off your rocker. I’m very glad I’ve been wrong about this team’s competitiveness and ability to perform. It’s been very fun watching this team manifest and transpire as it grows up from game to game.

This Bill Withers classic pretty much sums up how I feel about this game, and this season up to this point.

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