Ahhh...a win! And this game was fascinating too, not just because of how it turned out but because of all the things it showed about the team, good and bad...some of which changed during the course of the game itself. It was a more complex contest than meets the eye.
Kings 100, Blazers 105 (OT)
--A lot of people seem to want to pile on Coach McMillan, especially when we're losing (which is hardly atypical of any sports fans). But while there may be some things to criticize him about, let's give him some credit too. The Blazers started the game pretty poorly, taking jumpers themselves and letting the Kings get to the rim any time they wanted. It was just awful and it very much looked like a 20-point blowout was impending. Somebody got in those guys' ears though. Because within a few minutes you looked up and it was the Blazers making a concerted effort to get to the rim (usually after having moved the ball) and the Kings shooting long jumpers. We were also getting back pretty well on defense and stopping their fast break. In other words we went from no effort to showing good effort and some of that has got to be credited to the coach.
--Whichever way you slice it though, games like this do show our problems with backcourt defense. Jarrett Jack has some nice moments, and in fact on a couple occasions he stopped Sacramento plays all by himself. But for most of the game our guards were getting torn up. I'd say it wasn't so much a lack of effort, rather a lack of experience being exploited by savvy vets on the other side. Sometimes on offense and defense you can see the wheels turning in the guards' heads. "What shall I do here?" By the time they come up with the right answer the play has gone past them.
--Though the energy level was good through the second and third quarters, you could see us visible getting tired in the fourth. Rebounds we once snagged with ease were going to the opposition. Defensive rotations were late or non-existent. We just don't seem physically fit enough to play four sustained quarters of high-scoring, fast-paced ball. We really could have won this game in regulation if not for the fade. Again I'll say it: the physical stature of this team is a problem. Every night the three strongest and three quickest players on the court are wearing enemy uniforms. It's hard to win consistently like that. The off-season prescription for almost everybody has got to be, "Get stronger and get in shape!"
--Once again we saw that despite our (relatively successful) efforts to quicken the halfcourt pace and outscore the Kings, that prowess does not extend to the fast break. I said the other night that we're the worst fast break team in the league. Now I'm saying there's not even any close competition for the title.
--Our spacing was poor much of the night. I'm not sure why we get like that when somebody throws a zone against us. You'd think after half a season we'd have picked up a thing or two about how to handle it.
--The bad parts of Zach's game were that he had four turnovers and that his help defense continued to be the heart of much of our defensive woes. The good parts well outweighed the bad tonight though. He got aggressive on offense again and finally began fighting for post position against the Kings' weak frontcourt defenders. He's still not sealing out for that great position, but he was better tonight. He took 23 shots and even better hit 12 of 15 free throws en route to 32 points. That's the style of game (as well as the production) that we need from him. His 15 boards didn't hurt on a night when we barely outrebounded the woeful (in this department) Kings.
--The shot distribution was right on for our other players. Roy took 15 shots. Jack took 14. Roy had 7 free throws, Jack 6. Roy scored 23, Jack 17. Despite the poor spacing, this was the kind of offensive night you wanted to see. It looked like things were more settled out there for the backcourt than they have been. Roy's shot to send it into overtime was great and the guard play in the extra period, especiallty the foul shots part, was superb.
--Martell Webster was active and aggressive! Bravo! 9 shots, 2 foul shots, 4 rebounds in 21 minutes. I guess everything was clicking tonight.
--Ime Udoka had a nice night with 11 points but he got overpowered by Ron Artest much of the night and didn't seem as sharp on defense as usual.
--Juan Dixon had a great game, slicing selective daggers into the opposing defense for 8 points in 14 minutes. Once again I think he helped calm the Blazers down when they were in danger of slipping.
--Lamarcus Aldridge saw 22 minutes of time tonight! (Congrats to everyone who picked the "over" on his minutes.) He only hit 1 of 5 shots, but that didn't matter. He got 7 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks and provided great energy. He was almost a Sergio-like lift when he came in. And, by the way, he was the first Blazer off the bench.
--Despite it being a pretty darn good night for our backcourt, our big centers were awful. Joel Przybilla did relatively little out there. And here's something he needs to figure out...every time he does one of those cheap, "I'm not going to defend this guy so I'll just horse-collar him when he drives past me" fouls Nate's going to pull him. And I'll tell you what, maybe rightfully so. There were times earlier in the year when I wondered why Joel wasn't getting more run, but right now he doesn't look like he deserves it. Magloire wasn't any better. In fact he was worse. I must tell you I'm not on the anti-Jamaal bandwagon like a lot of folks because I think he does provide rebounding and a semi-reliable post presence, but this was a night when even I was screaming at Nate to pull him. Magloire did make a couple nice little plays near the end of the fourth, but before that my fourth quarter note sheet looked like this:
Jamaal squanders good Aldridge hustle play with hands of stone, leads to Kings 2-points
Jamaal poor defense, 2 points
Jamaal makes stupid decision, turnover
Jamaal late on help rotation
Jamaal missing point blank shot
Had Travis been available tonight I imagine we would have gone smaller. In any case, you have to say this has been a pretty poor year so far from our center corps.
--I was glad the Blazers won, but the Kings fan I was watching with was such a nice guy that I didn't feel right about whooping or trash talking. Sad.
--During a timeout the Arco Arena folks played this rap song. My friend and I kind of agreed that other than Ron Artest, rap didn't really fit the Kings' persona. We were thinking maybe something by Burt Bacharach. Or he suggested "What the world needs now...is love, sweet love..."
--Do the Kings all go to the same barber? They all have these 90-degree angle cut, dead straight bangs on their forehead that make them look like nothing so much as Vulcans. It's like somebody is cloning hairstyles.
--Because the games are back-to-back I'm not going to give a Jersey Contest tally until both are over. Saves me a little busy work.