Friday’s contest between Philadelphia and Sacramento contrasted teams at two different points: one hopeless, lottery-bound, and likely on the move to a new city, the other battling for a playoff spot.
We’ll focus on the hopeless lottery-bound nomads for now. Here are five takeaways from a night of frustratingly poor hoops.
Marcus Thornton: This is a case when statistics really do tell the whole story. Anyone with rudimentary basketball knowledge could check the box score, see Thornton’s line (3-12 field goals, 0-6 threes, 7 points, 6 turnovers) and know that he had a terrible game.
Checking his recent stat lines would paint a fuller picture: he’d scored 25, 42, and 23 in his previous three contests, shooting almost 50% from the field in that stretch, so it’s easy to see that this was an aberration.
Kings fans should be concerned, though, because he’s shown little diversity to his game beyond an ability to get off shots and steal the ball (4 tonight). His ideal role is as an instant-offense sixth man on a good team. He may get a chance to try that out – the “sixth man” role, minus the “good team” – when Tyreke Evans returns from injury.
DeMarcus Cousins: We’ll get into the numbers, but Cousins is becoming one of the players who fans need to see to appreciate. His most noticeable improvement in the past two weeks has been his increased movement and effort on defense. Tonight, even in a lost-cause game, he continually moved his feet to help teammates and then recover to his man, and his poor habit of loafing down the court in transition had disappeared.
He had the night’s under-the-radar defensive highlight, perfectly reading an alley-oop play to Thaddeus Young and tipping the ball away. It wasn’t as spectacular as Samuel Dalembert’s occasional blocked shots, but it was just as effective in bottling up an opponent’s opportunity.
Of his three assists, two of them were his customary backdoor dishes for layups, and the third was a beautiful read of a double-team which he beat by finding Beno Udrih for a wide-open three.
Just as impressive is his newfound willingness to fight for rebounds (12 tonight, 11.8 in his last five games) and mix it up inside on offense, where he scored 19 points and attempted 11 free throws. He executed some terrific pick-and-rolls and dribble-drives and has almost shed the jump-shooting addiction that has plagued him for much of the season.
Samuel Dalembert: It’s a shame Cousins’ inside focus hasn’t rubbed off on his frontcourt mate. Dalembert needs to be cured of his delusion that he’s Kobe Bryant.
Among his attempts tonight – and he was 3-10 from the field, so it’s not like he was feeling it – were two 16-footers off dribble movement to his left, a driving fadeaway 14-footer, and an 18-footer while fading back from the top of the key.
Coach Paul Westphal’s options are limited, but he would be justified in yanking Dalembert for Jason Thompson every time the big man launches from outside the key.
Turnovers: The Kings coughed it up 22 times, leading to 27 Sixers points, in a game they lost by 22. Sometimes math is that simple.
Most of the giveaways were bad passes or dribbling miscues, which allowed Philadelphia’s athletes to get out and run for uncontested layups.
One such mishap prompted the classic Jerry Reynolds observation, “Coach Westphal would like to see a little more security with the leather.”
This Sixer roster is a bad matchup in general for the Kings: long-armed athletes who took away open space on offense, forcing Sacramento’s subpar ballhandlers and passers to create shots that weren’t always comfortable.
Momentum shifts: This game didn’t start out badly, as Sacramento stayed within striking distance throughout most of the first period.
Then back-to-back Philadelphia three-pointers stretched the lead from 26-21 to 32-21 just before the quarter ended.
This pattern continued, as every time the Kings mounted a run, someone – frequently Thornton – submarined it with a bad miss or turnover.
About the Author
Written by Steven Jones
Portland native, Highland Park resident, middle school teacher/basketball coach.