Sacramento Kings: But actually, we are better
by Ryan Rodriguez
When I checked the line before last night’s Kings-Bucks game, I was mildly surprised to see that the Kings were favored by 4 even though they were on the road. I understand that the Bucks are as bad as they come (well, actually the Sixers are as bad as they come at this stage of the season), but I am still going to be somewhat surprised anytime the Kings are favored on the road right now.
This only gave me added expectations to the game as I was hoping the team would get off to a good start on this seven game road trip. However, the Kings got off to a very lackadaisical start as they seemed content to just play to the level of a Bucks team that was clearly inferior to them. I could just see myself getting madder and madder as the game went on and the Kings found themselves into a dogfight, wondering if this team would ever turn the corner to showing signs of building off of previous good performances.
And then the Kings started to pick up their intensity halfway through the first quarter as Isaiah Thomas led the charge with a strong shooting display from mid-range and deep. This carried over into the second quarter as the Kings started to run away with the game building a 13 point lead by halftime. Reggie Evans and Quincy Acy played well to start the quarter and the Kings saw rookie Ray McCallum show some shooting range, giving the team some solid backup point guard minutes that have been so erratic this season.
As the Kings played the second and third quarter, I couldn’t help but smile as I got to watch my team exert their dominance on an inferior squad for once. This was something altogether different than even a win against the Pelicans or the Nuggets, teams that are relatively even in talent where a win was never fully expected. This game should have been a comfortable win and it was nice to see that manifest itself.
This road trip is not one filled with overwhelmingly strong teams, but it will be a test of will for a team that is trying to learn how to bring it every night, on both sides of the floor, who is learning how to win on the road, and overall needs for a strong close of good, fundamentally sound basketball to show the progress that will lead to a change in the win/loss column in years to come.
The dog days of March are a prime time for players on non playoff teams to cruise out the rest of the season and escape without injury, but we should not see that from the Kings, who need to play out this season hard so as to bring the necessary culture change to the franchise. If they lose games because the coaches are trying new sets or playing players in different lineups or positions that’s fine, I just want to see effort, an understanding of defensive schemes, and players that are showing effort to make better decisions throughout the game.
- I don’t know if you have noticed Boogie these past few games but he is bringing the ball up court after rebound under control for the first time ever I think. He is doing a great job of controlling his pace and not forcing passes and getting it to the guard if there is nothing open, which has turned into several trailing threes.
- The way IT uses screens to free himself is a thing of beauty. In the first yesterday, he used a Boogie screen to knock down a midrange jumper, then came down the next possession, used the same screen and then added a little hesitation dribble that allowed him to get freely into the lane for a layup.
- Reggie Evans is getting post up touches. I repeat, Reggie Evans is getting post up touches. Not sure if this is the best way to use the guy, but it did produce 13 points on only 4 shots thanks to him shooting 7-10 from the line.
- Rudy Gay is hopefully getting back to his January way, as he posted his sixth straight game of 50% plus shooting. This is really all I care about with the great Rudini, as Jerry Reynolds calls him, as the only way he is useful is if he works as low shooting, high efficiency player off of IT and Boogie.
- Anytime the team gets 68 points, 17 rebounds, and 17 assists out of our big 3 it is going to be a good game. They did well playing off of each other and finding ways to get their own high efficient shots within the offense.
- Ray McCallum looks to be taking advantage of his new role in the last two games. He played well with both the starters and the bench players last night. He was aggressive with his shot, not shying away from open opportunities and really brought some new found defensive prowess to the point guard position. Not that it would take much when compared to IT and the departed Jimmer.
- JT came to play last night and finished with 13 rebounds. He has to match the energy that Evans and Acy are going to bring every night if he wants to sustain his minutes.
Next game is Friday in Toronto.