Posted by: Kingsguru21 | March 1, 2011

Kings beat Clippers 105-99 on “Here We Stay” night

You can read all about the “success” from the “Here We Stay” night at Sactown Royalty, SacBee, Cowbell Kingdom, Bleed Black & Purple and a number of other places. I wanna talk about the game as I felt there were some real positive signs above and beyond the fan support in Arco last night.

As we all know, we enjoy wins more than losses. (Although when wins pile up, fans get critical of how you win. Heh.)

Paul Westphal talked about a lot of things that I’m going to touch on. So, without further adieu:

Marcus Thornton’s interview with the always pukey Jim Gray:

Beno Udrih, Omri Casspi and Marcus Thornton all talked about in the locker room interviews in how the crowd helped spur the team to a victory.

Most people think that this was the play of the game and I’m inclined to agree:

Now, I’ll say 3 things about this play. One, don’t forget that Cousins started it in the first place with the block on Kaman that led to the Thornton breakout with Casspi running along him. Two, is that Thornton made a good pass to a player who broke at the right time. Three, even though sometimes alley oop’s are ill-advised, and even more so in a situation like that, the recognition by both Casspi and Thornton to pull that type of play off was tremendous. I don’t think a lot of people noticed at the time, but Randy Foye made a tremendously stupid decision to take his eye off Casspi and it led to the play of the night.

The elephant in the room was Marcus Thornton. People are already talking about how great of an acquisition he was. Since 1986 (which is all but one year of the Sacramento era so the data is pretty important anyway), you only have 30 different players who have scored 28 points or more points off the bench.

My memory was that Thornton was extremely terrific on that left block last night, and the offense was certainly needed.

Team OffEff DefEff Poss EFG% TOR ORR FTR
LAC 95.2 101.0 104 49.4 20.2 19.1 33.3
SAC 101.0 95.2 50.6 18.3 26.8 43.8

If you look at this table I think how the Kings won was really evident. For the most part they were outrebounding the Clippers which is a rather important point given that they are relatively even in the rebounding departments as teams.

The other part is that Thornton’s offense in the 4th qtr provided several problems for the Clippers that, without Eric Gordon, couldn’t counter: He was just simply too strong, or quick, for Randy Foye (or Mo Williams for that matter). It was nice to see Thornton use his potential in that way, and, more importantly for me, it was nice to see the team consciously exploit it time & time again down the stretch of the 4th qtr. Both Foye and Williams ended up with 5 fouls apiece, and quite a few of those came defending Thornton.

Just as important, Thornton led the team in Field Goal Attempts while he was shooting well and efficiently. One could point out that Thornton missed 7 of 16 attempts, but 3 of those misses were 3 balls and I like that he took those shots in the rhythm he took them in. If they are good shots, you have to accept they might not go in. It’s the nature of the beast. The reality, no matter how difficult, is that everywhere else Thornton was terrific from the field (even in long 2’s–his best performance on the season there) which counter-acted that the team overall shot poorly from that distance and decently from 3. (A 41.7% on eFG% from 3 during a game is pretty good all in all.) Thornton tied his season, and career, high with 12 FGA. His career high in scoring was 37, and I feel this is somewhat more impressive. (He hit many shots from the field that night he went off for 37.) To me, what we saw last night was Marcus Thornton at his very best. If that’s the case, I’m going to be happy that switching the mirrors and smoke around worked. Even if it is just a placebo, if this placebo works, I’m all for it.

That said, I’ve talked about shot creation in the not so distant past and how the Kings are so bad at it. Last night illustrated how much easier it is for the Kings when Beno Udrih doesn’t have to initiate and make a heavy bulk of his shots. (Unlike the Memphis game.) When Beno can pick and choose his spots like he did last night against the Clippers, his other talents (mainly facilitation and getting others to move around) comes into play. Even though the Kings were hardly masters of the universe in regards to ball movement for much of the game, when they were effective on offense was (gasp!) when they moved the ball. However, if you look at last night’s shot location chart, you’ll notice the Clippers shot a bit better at the basket, significantly worse in the mid range game, and was a bit ahead on 3’s. One of the differences last night, again, came in that the Kings got to the line 35 times (much to my surprise as it seemed like Griffin was there every time I swiveled my head) against the Clippers 24. And while the Clippers made 19 FT’s, and the Kings 24, that’s still 5 more points for the Kings than the Clippers at the line. Just in that respect alone, having 2 players who got to the line at least 10 times (Thornton 10-12 and Cousins 2-10) helped by simply making the Clippers have to decide what they wanted to defensively.

The other 2 wrinkles I’ll point out that the Kings used Thornton well in 1 on 1 matchup’s, and the defense caused some offensive opportunities.

As far as DeMarcus Cousins is concerned, the Turnovers and poor Shooting Percentages (not to mention the amount of forced shots) will get a lot of notice. What won’t get notice is that he played tremendous defense despite some questionable fouls against Blake Griffin (and DeAndre Jordan) all the while not having his offense going. His defense on Kaman (and Jordan) for the most part was terrific, and Sammy Dalembert also did a magnificent job down the stretch on Griffin.

What interests me about last night’s game was that the Kings essentially had many down’s and managed to rally (in some part due to the crowd) anyway. I saw a team that jumped on Thornton’s back to a victory and rode their defense to a win. This is a young team that, unfortunately, tends to hang their head when they miss shots (a rather large problem with the way this team quick shoots and takes ill-advised shots so consistently), and gets out of mentally. It’s not like they are terrible for 48 minutes all that often (or hardly ever really–even in the blowouts it’s more that a team gets ridiculously hot from the perimeter for large stretches that end up seeing the Kings blown out), but that those lull’s end up costing the team so much. Last night, in no large part to Thornton and Udrih, that didn’t happen. This Kings team is starting to develop a sneakily underrated defense that is just a bit below league average defense. Given that the offense often shoots itself in the foot, leading to a lot of breaks and easy shot opportunities for opponents, it’s rather amazing the Kings are even near league average in defense. It’s significantly important to note that the team, even when taking bad shots, has difficult in transition defense at times because of the poor shot selection. The turnovers? They are killers, and had the Clippers not been as turnover prone (hey they are a young team don’t forget), I doubt the Kings would have won.

Let’s stop being Debbie Downer. This was a game that 3 weeks ago this team would have lost despite the turnover’s and the missed shots for the opponent. There aren’t any players on this team capable of heating up and taking a team on his back offensively except Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans. Given that Tyreke has been out (and will be out for awhile depending on how well his treatment for his plantar fasciitis works out) this is a bit of a problem.

One of the things that perked me up was that Omri Casspi, who has a problem sometimes getting into the offensive flow of the game to create shot opportunities for himself, had only 2 shot attempts in the entire 1st half and one scoring opportunity. That was the 3 ball Omri hit to open the game. Otherwise, he didn’t do much offensively until the 2nd half. His 12 2nd half points were a huge lift to this team even if it’s sneaky in how they came and most people probably remember that dunk more than anything else.

Last but not least, I think Paul Westphal deserves some credit for having to manage the frustrating and expectation deflating season. After surviving the Christmas time firing bonfire many fans wanted, the Kings were 5-23 going into the Memphis miracle.

The Kings have been 10-20 since and many of those games have been competitive until the recent Tyreke Evans injury. Even though a 33 Winning Percentage as a Kings head coach is hardly anything to scream about, given the circumstances and the baby steps this roster is undergoing, it’s clear that Westphal has earned a shot at coaching this roster next season. Dick Motta was 48-113 for a 29.8 Winning Percentage in his nearly 2 seasons as a Kings Head Coach. Westphal is at a 28.6 Winning Percentage with a young roster and a learning curve that is steep for any team in the current situation the Kings are in. The fact that spending money has been curtailed to the minimum and expectations for the team (both internally from the players and externally from the fans) were pretty high coming into the season have not helped either.

Hopefully the end result of the season will be some much needed perspective for fans and players that hard work and development of the “talent” many current players on the rosters possess will lead to a better product. And, of course, the Kings staying in Sacramento.

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Responses

  1. Hey Pook – glad to see your posting output has increased a bit since the beginning of the year. I have such mixed feelings about the team right now that I’ve been watching the games without participating in the game threads.

    I personally think the move to Anaheim is a done deal but there really hasn’t been a lot of facts (as opposed to speculation) posted to really evaluate. Regardless of whether the team stays or moves I have a hard time seeing how the Maloofs continue to hold a controlling stake in the team. Here We Stay did a marvelous job but in my view, too little too late.

    It appears to me that owning a NBA franchise is a billionaires game now and I don’t think the Maloof family have deep enough pockets to keep playing.

    Other than the potential revenue stream from Fox sports they would be moving to an older arena in an area that doesn’t support losing teams and with the potential addition of possibly two NFL franchises as well as the plethora of competing sports and entertainment options, I just don’t see SoCal embracing the Kings.

    I have been following the other bad teams (much more interesting than following good teams) the Cavs, Minny, Nets, Rox, Clips as well as Portland and the Suns. If and when the Kings move I would have a very hard time remaining a fan, especially if the next CBA includes some revenue sharing and some attempts at encouraging parity. It seems like the next CBA might relieve some of the Maloof’s financial problems as well as giving the small and mid market teams a better chance to compete. They could be leaving on the eve of possible changes which would make remaining in Sac more viable.

    Oh well, totally out of my control, time will tell as it always does. Keep up the good work bud, hope things getter better for you up in the great north woods.

    • Thanks BJ. Always appreciated.

      As far as the Maloof’s and how deep their pockets, I think, again, that is one reason they should stay. Revenue sharing might make Anaheim a big market, as opposed to Sacramento, that may force them to share revenue. There is no way they can move to the OC and claim that is a small market. There is 3 million people in that county and no way can the Maloof’s claim that a single county in Southern California is a smaller market than a market like OKC, SLC, Memphis, New Orleans, Orlando, Portland, Milwaukee, San Antonio, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Charlotte . If you add the Kings, that’s 12 mid size (at best) or small markets. I took out Denver, Minneapolis, Toronto, Boston, NYC (I’m including the Nets given their ties to Brooklyn and the fact that their new arena they are playing, the Prudential Center in Newark, is better than the Meadowlands), Philly, DC, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, Detroit, Dallas, Houston, LA, the Bay Area and Phoenix.

      You can say the mid size markets in this really are: Denver, Minneapolis, Detroit and Phoenix. Detroit is a real stretch.

      Then you have teams that are big market: Warriors, Wizards, Nets, Knicks, Celtics, Bulls, Lakers, Clippers (yes I include them–it’s not my fault Sterling hurts the franchises value), Mavericks, Rockets, Hawks, Heat, Raptors (yes I include Toronto as a big market–if Toronto isn’t a big market then neither is Philadelphia–read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toronto–it lists the metro area as 5,555,912–Philly’s is 5,968,252 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Table_of_United_States_Metropolitan_Statistical_Areas), and Sixers. Hopefully I’ve made my point here.


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