Posted by: Kingsguru21 | December 27, 2011

Kings Lakers 1st half thoughts / Game thoughts

First half thoughts:

* Tyreke Evans came out and looked to be aggressive scoring both on the perimeter and towards the basket. Additionally he had 3 assists. There was defense played throughout the half on Evans part which was nice to see.

* Marcus Thornton hit some shots early and I think that set the tone for the offense. He missed some gimme’s (which happens), but overall Thornton had a nice half.

* DeMarcus Cousins still struggles to score in the post, and still struggles consistently there. On the other hand, he isn’t catching the ball on the high post and trying to dribble his way into the cup. Cousins has 3 fouls and hopefully he can pick it up in the 2nd half.

* Chuck Hayes showed how valuable he is. He defends, he rebounds, is always available for a gimme layup, sets screens, and does all the dirty work. Now, if you didn’t know, you know why so many love the #Chuckwagon.

* John Salmons has done well given the circumstances. He hasn’t played a single game minute with his teammates, and no amount of practice can help Salmons in this situation. Unlike Hayes who doesn’t need to score, part of the tricky balance with Salmons will be knowing when to shoot, pass, and when to drive. There is no easy way to maintain that balance when you didn’t play in the 2 pre-season games.

* JJ Hickson and Jason Thompson need to be more effective.

* Jimmer Fredette had a quality showing with 3-4 FG’s for 6 points. There was 1 bad turnover when Jimmer first got into the game, but otherwise Jimmer did well in his stint.

* Isaiah Thomas will now be known as Lefty Speedy Gonzalez. It was cool to see him to try to defend Kobe Bryant who is listed as 10 inches taller. On the other hand, Thomas is strong and more than athletic enough to do so. If Bryant wasn’t fighting Father Time, I’m not sure Thomas wouldn’t have been eaten alive. Demz da breakz right?

* Travis Outlaw’s 6 points, especially the leakout layup, is what’s missing from this Kings team last year. That ability to get a point here or there by doing this or that is something this team needs.

* After 5 Turnover’s in the 1st quarter, there was only 1 turnover in the 2nd quarter. Hopefully that continues as the Kings playing under control is partially what has led to a 9 pt halftime lead (49-40).

* While the Kings were outrebounded 23-19 (mainly due to the Lakers 9 offensive boards to the Kings 2), the Kings did outshoot the Lakers 52.6% to 36.4%. The Kings are 5-8 at the line and the Lakers 7-9. The Kings have hit 4 3 balls to the Lakers 1 3 ball.

Kings fans show their love

Via Kevin Sherret’s Twitter.

2nd half/ Final thoughts

Here is the box score first of all. 11 Total Turnovers should be the number that stands out. After 27 Turnovers in the Final pre-season game, 9 by DeMarcus Cousins, that reduction was major. How? Between DeMarcus Cousins (9) and Tyreke Evans (7), that’s 16 total Turnover’s. Tonight? Tyreke had ZERO turnovers and Cousins had 2 TO’s (1 an offensive foul). Did you think Chuck Hayes was a bad acquisition? Well, you were wrong. Chuck Hayes was a brilliant acquisition (if you’re gonna do it cheap do it right–Hayes is doing it right) all in all. DeMarcus Cousins sequence of grabbing 2 offensive rebounds effectively providing the first of several emotional seals to keep the Lakers from attempting yet another comeback. The Kings played 11 players (Donte Greene playing for a brief few seconds in the 2nd quarter), and 8 of those players contributed in a major way. In addition, Greene did his job in his very brief stint. The only 2 players who disappointed me were Jason Thompson and JJ Hickson. Onto the bullet points….

* Tyreke Evans is struggling with the balance of when to direct the offense, when to take a Jumper, and when to get to the basket. But tonight showed signs that, even with all the missed FT’s at the end, Tyreke is certainly capable of figuring that balance out. Additionally, the sequence of blocking Fisher and going down to the other end drawing a foul is the reason why people like me consider Tyreke a star. Jimmer Fredette can’t do that no matter how much you love shooters. And the game of basketball, and there is no doubting how critical the art of shooting is, is more than just shooting.

* Speaking of Jimmer, he’s a rookie. Relax. He didn’t set the world on fire, and against the Lakers it was always pretty likely that he wasn’t going to. Give this kid 20 games before you really start to fret about his performance.

* Marcus Thornton had a 88.8 TS% tonight. On 13 shots, 3-5 from 3, and 5-5 on the line. That’s 27 points. Oh, and when he wasn’t shooting the dagger with 1:09 remaining, he also grabbed 5 defensive boards, dished out 3 assists and grabbed a steal. Just another night at the office for the Bayou Bulldog.

* Chuck Hayes provided the sequence of the game that (click on the link and this play is at about the 2:04 mark and it still doesn’t do it justice), more than anything, could indicate the biggest difference between this team and last year’s team. DeMarcus Cousins gets fouled, or maybe he gets fouled (I’m not really sure to be honest–I didn’t see the play in replay and from the original TV angle it was difficult to get a definitive look), and is sitting on the sideline pouting. Hayes, literally covers both his man and Gasol–Cousins defensive assignment. Now, forcing Metta World Peace to miss was one thing. Then blocking Pau Gasol’s short shot immediately afterwards? If you didn’t see the play in slow motion, you won’t realize how incredible it was. That’s the value of Chuck Hayes in a nutshell. Additionally, the post defense on both Pau Gasol and towards the end of the game on Metta World Peace was crucial to disrupting the Lakers for a large portion of the game. Defense at it’s heart is disrupting the other team from getting into their sets peacefully, and Chuck Hayes is amazing at disrupting the other team from doing just that.

Let’s call it a hunch and say that Chuck Hayes is already a fan favorite.

* Speaking of the big pouter, with 3:11 to go the aforementioned sequence happens where Cousins is pouting. After that? A minute later Cousins gets those 2 crucial extra possesions with about 1:50 to go. The difference between this team last year and this year is that Hayes not only covered up for Cousins defensively, which is crucial, but that Cousins responded with a critical 2 plays that nearly sealed the game. Instead of talking about Chuck Hayes being on the FT line at a crucial point in the game, Cousins manages to turn a potential difficult moment into a positive moment for the Kings. (Which given that Hayes covered up for Cousins, I think the synergy of the young fellow doing so for his veteran is just as important. I’m more than thrilled with the presence of Chuck Hayes.)

Sure you can talk about the 12 points, 11 boards (6 offensive), the steal and a block. You can talk about missed FT’s (Cousins made 4 of 6 FT’s), but his 2nd half was something that illustrates just how hard and how far Cousins has already come. The maturity to shake off a bad call that benefited Kobe Bryant (his 2nd foul–the 3rd foul call came shortly afterwards) and play his butt off in the 2nd half while picking up 1 foul was a huge difference between 2012 DeMarcus Cousins and 2011 DeMarcus Cousins. The 2011 Cousins would have had 5 fouls by the end of the 3rd Qtr. This time around? Cuz makes a huge positive impact on 2 ends defending Gasol effectively (while Hayes was taking MWP out of the game), and helping bridge the gap on the boards.

It wasn’t pretty nor was it always perfect. There are lots of flaws with DeMarcus Cousins, but there is a lot to like and build off on a game like this. If Cousins keeps making baby steps such as this one, he is poised to have a jaw dropping monster of a 3rd year if he keeps at it. You can bank on it.

* Isaiah Thomas is now known as Lefty Speedy Gonzalez (Or LSG if you wish) because, well, he is a shifty mouse who is ridiculously strong, athletic and energetic. Just the amount of speed and energy Thomas brings in on a nightly basis will be a positive attribute even if he turns over the ball a bit too much (likely) or not always make his shots from deep (also likely). Defending Kobe Bryant willingly in your very first live real NBA game that counts? That takes cojones. And LSG got cohones.

* JJ Hickson and Jason Thompson need to play better on both ends. Hickson especially needs to figure out a way to get inside more often against a team that he absolutely had an athletic advantage against. If you’re going to lose a guy in the shuffle though, I suppose Hickson is a guy you can afford to lose for a moment or two. Jason Thompson is not looking like a 3rd rotation big man, but a 4th rotation big man. He is better than that and it’s disappointing. Here’s hoping JT finds his rhythm and energy moving forward!

* In general, I thought the most important thing that told me the Kings were going to get a victory tonight was Paul Westphal’s confidence in leaving Isaiah Thomas and Jimmer Fredette on the floor against Kobe Bryant without Tyreke Evans on the floor. Oh, and Marcus Thornton was also there. 3 G’s shorter than 6’2 on the court together that played significant 4th qtr minutes. Last year Westphal wasn’t able to do this under any circumstance. When your young team takes a 14 point lead into the 4th qtr, after taking a 9 pt lead just at the end of the 2nd half, it’s telling. This Kings team is starting to figure out some of the lessons learned the last couple of years.

As Jerry Reynolds and Grant Napear pointed out, you’re going to have to beat the Lakers because they don’t beat themselves. When Marcus Thornton and Jimmer Fredette, both of whom are not exceptionally turnover prone by any standard, lead your team in TO’s with 3 apiece, you know you took care of the ball. When Tyreke Evans doesn’t even turn the ball over, that’s special. (That’s the number that sticks out to me about Tyreke more than anything.)

The Lakers pushed back tonight to get a win. Kobe Bryant did what he does, and in years past it was just enough to fluster a young very incomplete team with only the best of things ahead assuming the right things went their way. Tonight, this was a victory earned and not given. The Kings out hustled the Lakers all night to loose balls, ended up getting to the line 35 times to the Lakers 19 (although only converting 21 of those attempts is a major problem), and was 9-18 from 3 point land to the Lakers 1-16.

The Kings only ended up shooting 46.7% by the end of the game due to increased pressure from the Lakers defense and the Kings stagnating as they are often going to do in the future.

Here’s the bottom line. In a back to back situation where overkill of minutes is so important to manage, Evans only played 35 minutes tonight. Thornton 36. Salmons 30. Hayes played 27 minutes. Cousins had 25 minutes after sitting out long portions of the 1st half. Your bench played 87 total minutes of a possible 240. That means your starters averaged 30.6 minutes, and in a shortened season where injuries and depth matters, this matters. Paul Westphal stuck to his guns, played his guys, and came out with a win despite some serious flaws and issue’s.

This was the first game of the season. There are 65 to go. This Lakers victory won’t mean much more (despite what emotions you may have) than any other victory. This is about the Kings taking advantage of an opportunity where they shot exceptionally well from the perimeter for 3 quarters, finding out a way to grind out a win against a determined veteran opponent reeling from a stinging loss at home yesterday, and despite all the issue’s there was real progress. Progress that hopefully Paul Westphal, and us as Kings fans, can bank on moving forward.

If you were looking for a positive moment to build a foundation, all considered given all the issue’s this team had during training camp (and it’s not like the Kings are alone in that), this was a perfect start to the season against a hated opponent ripe for the taking. The Kings took the fruit and a piece of the Lakers soul with them.

The only remaining question is that after all the hype, focus and attention that went into this game is how do the Kings respond tomorrow? Because beating the Blazers after an important emotional victory that the Kings experienced at home would illustrate that, as I’ve said here and elsewhere a number of times, that the Kings could be on their way to a playoff berth. Besides, when does it hurt anybody if the Kings shock a few good teams to open the season? Teams will be after them, and hopefully this young team can learn that an intense focus of opponents means your a quality opponent yourself.

After one night, the Kings are 1-0 in a very real positive way. That is really beyond nice to say given all the recent events and turmoil. Until tomorrow.

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Responses

  1. Nice write-up.

    • Thanks man.


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