Posted by: Kingsguru21 | January 30, 2011

Kings beat Lakers and Hornets back to back

If you didn’t already know what has been going down with this team, well, you’ve been living in a cave. Of the 2 wins, I felt the Hornets win was the more quality of the two. Partly it was because it was after an emotional victory of a championship level team in the Lakers, and partly because I felt the Hornets played much better than the Lakers did last night.

To address the Lakers game: There was an overriding theme between the 2 games and it was simple: DeMarcus Cousins showed every phase of his talent. His shooting from the outside, his passing and his passion and energy for the game.

Last night against Bynum (who never really contested Cousins in that deep 2 range where he takes his shots from), Cuz hit 66% of his shots in mid range/long 2 area’s. It’s an area of his game that I think is critical to get players having to figure out how they want to defend him. He is very similar to Brad Miller in this respect (it’s uncanny how similar they are in this) that when he gets it going from outside, it opens up his inside game. It’s clear that 45 games in Cousins athleticism in creating shots near the basket is far more difficult for him at this point than using his skills to get him shots from top of the key. If he continues working, he obviously can get better around the basket. He has shown plenty of signs of low post acumen to be fair. This is especially true on smaller guys. I’m just saying that he is simply very very dangerous on the perimeter when he’s balanced and in rhythm. Far more than he is when taking the ball on the block at this point. Remember, he’s only 20.

The sum and balance of the Lakers game was that Kobe Bryant started out hot, didn’t really maintain the same level that he had during his 1st quarter where he dropped 21 with what seemed frightening ease. Then, he came out and just never had the same rhythm. Omri Casspi (who played wonderfully against the Lakers and had some decent moments against the Hornets–particularly defensively) had a wonderful game shooting the ball and playing defensively against Bryant.

I don’t even know what to say about Sammy Dalembert. I’ll just say that I told you this back in November: The name of the game from the get-go was to get Daly and Cuz on the court together. Why? First, Daly’s skills are sometimes ignored. While he’s not a Nene type offensive player (not even close actually), he’s also not a Ben Wallace type offensive player. He’s an actually decent FT shooter, and has shown that he can hit a mid range shot when in rhythm. But let’s be fair: Against the Lakers he was hitting ridiculous shots that he rarely makes.

That’s the difference between the Lakers and Hornets game quite honestly: I thought the Hornets played pretty well in some respects but the matchup’s didn’t fall in their favor. They lost because the Kings bench is better than the Hornets, there was spot performances from Donte Greene and Luther Head that were absolutely momentous, DeMarcus Cousins propelled the Kings to a great start that they needed to consistently attack the Hornets and Dalembert’s defense on David West (something I would not have been confident he would have done well before the game) was a key factor in why the Kings ended up gutting out a victory.

Another note about Tyreke Evans. I thought that against the Lakers he was guilty of trying to take too much of the load. And, yes, while that 3 that put the Kings up 10 certainly had a lot to do with maintaining the lead (before the Lakers cut the lead to 3 points), he also made 2 clutch FT’s to put the Kings up 5 with 2 mins to play. From there, he also made some bad plays to end the game. (Bad plays that seem to quite happen often when the Lakers are around.) Yet, again, that’s also part of the process of growing up. It’s not like Tyreke will be given a road map to become a star by Ron Artest, Kobe Bryant or any of those Laker players. Part of becoming a better NBA player is making mistakes in pressure situations.

Yet, there will be many who conveniently ignore how important Tyreke Evans was in securing the Kings victory in the 4th quarter against the Hornets. He scored 9 of his 18 points in the 4th while having 5 fouls the whole time (no small feat) with several being tough layup’s that absolutely stemmed the tide for a struggling Kings team that needed points. It was those type of layup’s that Tyreke had been missing all season and made tonight. It was also in similar situations that he seemingly couldn’t convert. Tonight he did. I thought he did a great job of letting the frustrations go and simply remaining aggressive. It’s far easier said than done.

Speaking of frustration, referee’s have off games. This game against the Hornets (unlike the Lakers game which was referee’d very well I thought), just flat out sucked. While I don’t mind that the Kings didn’t get the benefit of those calls, the ref’s should look at that tape and feel ashamed. They gave New Orleans far more benefit of the doubt than they deserved. When it’s Chris Paul I kinda get it. When it’s Jarrett Jack and David West to a lesser extent, I don’t understand it. Rant done.

There were 4 key plays that I thought kept the Kings from losing to the Hornets amidst the foul trouble and what not.

1) Luther Head’s 3 with 3:16 remaining in the 3rd qtr. The Kings have a penchant for melting down at inopportune times by squandering leads and we’ve seen how. The next possession after the made 3 came with a made layup that pushed the Kings lead to 9. Again, while I wasn’t a fan of bringing Luther Head in that juncture, I will give Paul Westphal credit for sticking with what he thought was right. It was a judgment call that worked for him in this instance.

2) The DeMarcus Cousins steal that led to his outlet pass to Tyreke Evans who ended up handing the ball to Omri Casspi for an easy layup. Omri had a tough night shooting the ball, and, while sometimes Tyreke is not as effective as we all would like in running the offense and facilitating, he’s also making a concerted effort to help guys get easy shots when he could easily (and rightfully so) take the shot himself. Sure he had 6 assists tonight, but I thought that play illustrated that he’s not quite a shot jacker that some make him out to be. There’s a big difference between being selfish and taking shots because you’re the best player.

3) Cousins drawing the charge on Marcus Thornton. Again, like Tyreke Evans, I thought it illustrated that Cousins puts it all on the line and will play his game. He showed that he was willing to do what it takes to try and win a game at the NBA level. There are plenty of warts and frustrations with Cousins right now, but this charge says everything positive you can say about the young man right now. He’s doing everything he can to help the Kings win, and given that they’ve just beat the Lakers and Hornets back to back with fine offensive performances both night (with Cousins holding a major share in both of those performances), it speaks to the fact that he’s starting to figure out things.

4) The sequence of shots that ended up with Dalembert tipping the ball in to put the Kings up 98-94.

Dalembert missed a shot. Cousins grabs the board. Okafor blocks it. Casspi grabs the board and misses the shot and then Daly tips it. I thought the first 3 misses were very indicative of how this season has gone for the Kings for the most part. They play hard but not always well. Sometimes, you won’t make shots and tenacity is all you have. I hope that play (and the victory) helps teach this young Kings team that.

Now with regards to Paul Westphal, I’ll give him dap for trying Luther Head in the 3rd qtr. It was a gusty call that worked (Westphal was due) and given that Jeter had 3 fouls at the time (and ended up with 5 fouls), I can’t blame Westphal for thinking that Head might do some good. He did. I’m not endorsing Luther Head to play more minutes exactly (as he simply can’t facilitate the offense at all), but I’m glad he had a positive performance.

That said, if you want Westphal fired, I’m gonna ask: Why? Do you honestly think another head coach would have gotten the attention any better of these young players? I think these last 2 games are precisely a problem and microcosm of this season (although it’s been less of an issue these past 2 games because of Mr Cousins): Which players do you get to become consistent performers for you? Dalembert has shown the last few weeks he will get you tough boards in traffic, alter shots, hit some shots from 10 feet and in with a little luck. Cousins shot and passing from the perimeter has shown up well the last 2 games, and off and on throughout the season. Tyreke Evans had some momentous moments both nights. But where Omri Casspi and Carl Landry were really effective against the Lakers last night, they were far less effective than Beno Udrih and Luther Head (yes I just said that–you may shoot me in t minus 10 seconds) tonight. Maybe Casspi did some things that had redeeming value overall, but Carl Landry didn’t have a great night. And, in the past, when this happened the Kings would find a way to lose. Tonight they did just the opposite.

So I ask again: If this team has shown that it can play well with ball movement, but stops doing it, do you really think Paul Westphal is asking his players to stop running an offense that is creating easier shots and easier scores. (That’s a major theme between the 2 nights if you want to get right down to it. That, and Sammy D made some ridiculous shots both nights.) I’m pretty sure that we’re starting to see these young players understand what Westphal wants to run, and, something I don’t find particularly surprising, it’s working. Westphal has shown he can coach offense if the players commit to the system. (I know, he had veteran teams before.) While I’m not ready to say this team has turned the corner (anything but actually), it’s also nice to see that for one night the players and, Paul Westphal especially, get a little vindication for the difficulties they’ve suffered for the most part this season. I’m a firm believer that all things happen for a reason, and I believe the losses, with all the bad melt downs especially, helped this team win this game tonight against the Hornets. Sure the losses were painful in the interim, but it very well in the long run help the Kings younger players perhaps gain some perspective on how critical it is to do all the necessary things to win a NBA game (which is a lot more than what some fans really think).

I’ll say this for the Kings: I didn’t think the Hornets played at their highest level, but they certainly weren’t god awful tonight. David West had some good moments as did Marcus Thornton, and Chris Paul, while seemingly invisible for large stretches tonight, managed to sleepwalk for 19 pts, 7 assists, 5 boards and 3 steals. He also had 5 TO’s and 4 were from steals (there was that offensive foul in the 2nd qtr). Many of those were created by not letting him sit there and watch what was going on (he seemed a bit detached from the game tonight) as it often happened in the past.

The last point that I want to make that has been harped on repeatedly by Kings fans, Napear and Reynolds, Westphal and players: Free Throw shooting. New Orleans made 28-30 Free Throws for a ridiculous 93.3%. A big part of that was Emeka Okafor, a 54% FT shooter, hitting 5-6 from the line tonight. But the Kings themselves went 16-20 for 80%.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, the way you win games in the NBA is by forcing quality teams with quality players out of their comfort zones and I thought the Kings did that quite often tonight. Chris Paul didn’t get a lot of driving lanes (although he got some very wishy washy fouls), the Kings got a ton of offense from Dalembert, Cousins and Evans at various times of the game, and they simply held on by trying to gut out a win. The law of averages says the Kings had to win a game like this at some point, and they finally did.

The only question remains: Is this a fluke, an upward trend, or something else? Tuesday’s game at Boston is the next step to answering that question.

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Responses

  1. Excellent post Pookey….I don’t have anything to quibble about at all.

    I’d like to think that this is an upward trend; because:

    1)I’d like it to be so…

    2)I’d think the players would like it to be so….

    3)Then everyone would shut up about firing Westphal & stagnant ball movement & death-by-dribbling-offense & blah, blah, blah….

    yeah….that’s it. Thanx for writing your posts so completely that my comments don’t hafta ramble quite so much….much appreciated. 😉

    • The power of belief is a rather, ahem, powerful thing.


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