Sacramento Kings: New Toys
Well, that was fun. The Sacramento Kings put on a show for the home crowd as they showed off their new toys in a 106-91 victory over the Houston Rockets, with Rudy Gay leading the way with 26 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals. The Kings blew out the Rockets beginning in the second quarter, as they turned up the defense and looked to run at any opportunity possible. I was most impressed by the Kings defense as they went up against a top-five offense and held them to 16 points below their season average by minimizing the impact of their secondary players. Even though James Harden got his (25 points), the only other Rocket to make a dent was teen heartthrob Chandler Parsons, and they did it on less-than-efficient nights. The rotations that are usually missing were there as the team flew around the perimeter and contested the many threes the Rockets like to throw up, holding them to 7-27 from the three point line. This is the kind of improvement that the team needs to show, understanding what an opponent does well and work to take that away.
It may surprise you that I enjoyed watching Rudy Gay yesterday, but he does bring such a smoothness to the game that makes it easy to get caught in his trap. Yesterday, it was OK to get lost in Gay’s game; he looked great attacking the hoop, taking midrange jumpers when they were there and not settling. Most of all, Gay to not force himself into the action. The fact that he took 20 shots meant little to me because I rarely felt like, “Shit, this is exactly why I didn’t want that Rudy Gay.” I know a 50% shooting night can not be expected nightly, but I really think that there is a possibility for him to hit at 45% if he lets the game come to him, and not hijack possessions with midrange, post up, fadeaways.
That Rudy also brought 4 assists and 4 steals to the game was a nice surprise that contributed to his aesthetically pleasing game yesterday. He showed activity throughout, seemingly making the right play on offense and defense while fitting into the teams concepts nicely. He gives the team a small forward with some actual instincts that can be translated into above-average skills at times. He really looked good finding cutters and shooters out of his midrange, post ups, using these as a vehicle with which to bend the defense and free up two of the better offensive threats in the Association. Gay’s addition will theoretically help the team come up with easier scoring chances if he uses his post up ability for more than just bad shots, and last night was a good glimpse of what the offense could look like.
- Boogie had one of the quietest 21 and 10 games I have ever seen him have. He got Dwight Howard into early foul trouble which allowed the Kings to dictate the game inside with the Rockets lacking their rim protector. Boogie seemed to just glide along, never exerting himself too much, but playing under control within the confines of a clear plan.
- His passing was exceptional as he finished with 5 assists. One was a beautiful bounce pass to a baseline cutting Isaiah Thomas that completely caught the Rockets off guard. His passing is underrated, and it’s a joy when he really uses it.
- Speaking of IT, he looked above-average once again finishing with 19 points and 8 assists. He is now shooting above 50% for the four games he has started this year and in complete control of the Kings offense. Coach Mike Malone said yesterday after the game that IT will lead the league in minutes this year, so all of us fans will get to see a lot of the little guy. The team has a big decision at the end of the year with Thomas, so it will be important to see how he handles all of the minutes
- All of the minutes for Isaiah underlines the problem that the Kings have no backup point guard. Be a fan of Jimmer all you want, he still can’t cut it in the NBA and coach Malone seems to have little faith in him. Maybe tanking is still possible.
- The guards besides IT are pretty weak overall. Ben McLemore looks as if he has gotten to much responsibility too early, while Marcus Thornton has seemingly forgot how play basketball. These two combined for 6 points on 2-7 shooting in 30 minutes. It is getting so bad that coach Malone played Gay and Travis Outlaw at some backup shooting guard minutes.
- Derrick Williams was up and down. Offensively his shot comes and goes from the outside, but he did a good job attacking the hoop and getting to the line. He has been hitting the boards well, and when the Kings used a lineup of him, IT, Boogie, Ben, and Rudy, him and Rudy worked well oscillating between small and power forward.