For about 24 minutes last night, or maybe more like 20, what you saw was easily (outside of the first game of the year) the best half of Sacramento Kings basketball on the young season. The offense looked flawless. The defense? It was smothering. The energy? Like being on a two night bender with buckets of Skittles and Starburst. For King fans, it was such a welcome sight – but unfortunately, the Kings could only sustain that tempo for a short period and they took a clubbing in the third quarter which essentially took the wind out of their sails. Either way though, it was certainly progress so if you’re into the moral victory type of things – you can chalk this one up in the victory column. As far as game impressions:
- Superstar play: Tyreke Evans looked fantastic for much of the game. He, like the rest of the Kings, had a semi-difficult time in the second half but during the first twenty-four, Evans looked every part of a superstar. Evans court vision was at peak performance, pin point passes with solid jumpers – video game dribble moves only topped by his jaw dropping lay-ins. His solid but seemingly sometimes suspect defense was high quality for a large portion of the game, though it did relax as the Kings were falling out of it. Either way, Evans was impressive last evening – certainly one of, if not the best game of his season.
- High quality bench play: Donte Greene came in and proved why he needs to be in the rotation over Travis Outlaw, something that coach Keith Smart has apparently already figured out given Outlaw’s two consecutive DNP’s. Greene’s length provided very solid defense and he hit a few big three’s to keep momentum going the Kings way, even if one was a bit lucky as the depth would have even made Jimmer blush. Francisco Garcia was solid (and made some fantastic decisions on defense) as was Jason Thompson. There wasn’t a player off the bench who didn’t have a positive plus/minus for the game.
- Offensive woes: – DeMarcus Cousins had a rough evening, fighting through foul trouble and only managing to play just over 17 minutes of game time, but we learned after the game that DMC was feeling quite poor with either a head cold or the flu – so he gets a pass for the evening. In addition to Cousins’ poor play, we were still subjected to the awfulness that is John Salmons. As I touched on before, Salmons, who’s a very good player, just doesn’t fit on this team. He’s a different player when he’s able to be the facilitator and have the ball in his hands but with this roster, that’s just not going to happen much. Granted, he’s playing at a VERY low level right now – not only on offense but on defense as well, so while I do expect an improvement down the road – I highly doubt it’ll be the Salmons of yester-year we knew from his first go-around in Sacramento. He can’t get much worse than he currently is, so I guess that’s a positive.
- Rookie Guard’s – Jimmer Fredette is going to be a very talented NBA player when he learns how to play at this level, but right now, Isaiah Thomas clearly gives the Kings a better chance to win when he’s on the floor. The offense moves so well – the chemistry between he and Evans, he and Cousins, it’s pretty stuff. Right now, Thomas is a game changer for the Kings and he should be getting minutes in the upper 20′s for the foreseeable future, which isn’t going to be easy when Marcus Thornton returns (which will probably be Monday). I don’t envy Keith Smart right now as somebody is going to get dinged in the rotation, but given Thomas’ play – you have to.
Overall, it was a fun game to watch – at least for the first half as the Kings looked like the team we envision they can be. Playing on the road in the NBA is never easy and despite Houston’s record, they’re not nearly as bad as it seems (you want to talk about a horrid schedule through the first 10-15 games, look at Houston). A typical night from DMC and a few more contributions from Salmons and who knows what the Kings pull off, but there were many positives to take out of last evening’s tilt.
It’s clear that despite the lack of practice time, Keith Smart has these guys going in the right direction which is all you can ask for as a Kings fan right now.