Monday, December 29, 2014

Good, Bad and Ugly: Game 31 at Brooklyn

Nik Stauskas is getting more playing time and starting to show why the Kings drafted him No. 8 in last year's draft.

One of the things I will have on this blog after every game is a "Good, Bad and Ugly" Recap. Instead of doing a traditional recap, I will highlights some good, bad and ugly things about the most recent Kings game. Some may be a little late if I don't have League Access to that night's game and have to watch it the next day (due to Blackout rules).

So, without further adieu, here is the first "GBU" of the 2014-2015 season from Kansas City Kingdom.

The Good

-Darren Collison

Collison battled foul trouble all game, and his absence in the 2nd quarter really hurt the Kings and probably cost them (they were outscored 30-16 in the second quarter; it proved to be the only quarter the Kings really lost, but it was so bad that they couldn't make it up). With all the trade talk going on about the Kings trading for Deron Williams, Collison made damn sure that the Kings management tonight that he was just as good an option for this team going forward than an aging and constantly injured Williams. As Williams underwhelmed off the bench (6 points on 2 of 6 shooting, 3 rebounds, 3 assists), Collison posted a line of 16 points on 5 of 7 shooting and 8 assists. He did commit 4 turnovers, but Collison helped keep this Kings team in the game in the second half, even when things looked bleak at halftime. It's amazing how confident Collison looks out there and how crucial he is in pushing the ball in transition. He has a tendency to catch defenses asleep by driving quick to the basket on the secondary break, and he did it a couple of times tonight against Brooklyn.

-Nik Stauskas

Stauskas posted a modest line, scoring 8 points on 3 of 5 shooting, including 2 for 2 beyond 3-point line, but it's nice to see coach Tyrone Corbin give him some time, as he played in nearly 17 minutes tonight (16:53 to be exact). Stauskas struggled to find minutes early this year, but Corbin has been giving him some floor time and he's been looking more and more confident with more minutes. His shot is looking better and he is looking more comfortable finding his spots and converting on catch and shoot opportunities. I am not sure Stauskas will ever be more than a catch and shoot player. However, if the Kings want to play more up-tempo, shooters like Stauskas are going to be depended on for playing time and production, and it's good to see Stauskas growing more confident as the season progresses.

The Bad

-Foul Shooting Differential

Some might blame the refs, but it was obvious from the opening whistle that the refs were going to call a tight game. The Kings failed to adjust on both ends. They were sloppy with defensive positioning on too many possessions that resulted in the Nets being bailed out by calls, and they weren't aggressive in taking it to the hoop or trying to draw fouls on the offensive end. The Nets' poor free throw shooting kept the Kings in it longer than they needed to be (they shot 69 percent), but one cannot ignore the 39-20 Free Throw differential in favor of the Nets. Home cooking, lack of aggressiveness, whatever. The Kings had the athleticism and size to get to the rack and consequently get to the line more, but they seemed to settle too much for mid-range jumpers instead.

-Offensive Rebounding

Demarcus Cousins posted a solid line with 24 points on 9 of 12 shooting and 13 rebounds, but if there was one critique of his game, (and I'll get to the other in the Ugly) as well as the other post players, it was allowing the Nets too many second chance opportunities. The Nets are 24th in the league in offensive rebounds per game, and yet they outrebounded the Kings on the offensive glass 14-11. The Kings have too much size and athleticism to be outrebounded on the offensive glass, and too many times, they were out of position, which ended up killing them in crucial points of the game (one being a missed Karasev 3 pointer; an offensive rebound and kick back to Karasev and a made 3 pointer on the second try in the 4th quarter).

The Ugly

-Not taking care of the ball

Whether you play up-tempo or slow it down, you got to take care of the ball. The Kings failed to do that in a myriad of ways, as they turned the ball over 21 times in comparison to the Nets' 9. When a team has a turnover differential of minus-12, they are going to have a hard time to win...period. (The Kings did lose 3 of the 4 factors, as they lost turnover differential, offensive rebounding differential and free throw attempt differential). Cousins especially was heinous in this area as he had 5 turnovers, mostly stemming from forced passes and trying to force penetration into double teams. To make matters worse, Cousins showcased his old self at time in these turnovers, not getting back on defense or moving slowly while pouting or complaining to the ref after those turnovers. The Kings have enough issues defensively, and they need Cousins' presence defensively (something he has been better at this year) on every possession. Collison also committed four turnovers, and Ray McCallum committed 3 as well. Seven turnovers from the point guards is way too much, especially in tight, winnable games like tonight. While you have to give credit to the Nets' defense (who really pressured the Kings with a lot of traps and showcased a lot of zone looks tonight), the Kings have to take better care of the ball and get back on defense. The 25 points allowed off turnovers tonight (in comparison to their 9) proved to be backbreaking.

-McCallum and Evans

The Kings accidentally tried the much anticipated "4 on 5" strategy Vivek has been advocating since the start of training camp. But despite their best efforts, McCallum didn't see Evans quickly enough and Evans missed the dunk (taking an unnecessary dribble before going up). This play proved to be a microcosm of the performances from McCallum and Evans (i.e. UGLY). After a solid performance against the Knicks, McCallum looked like an end of the bench player, going 0-for-5 from the field with 3 turnovers. McCallum had a couple of open 3 point looks that could have closed the gap, but Ray Mac failed to convert. Furthermore, while playing major minutes with Collison in foul trouble in the second quarter, Ray Mac struggled to hold the fort, as he was on the floor during the Nets' 11-1 run to finish the second quarter. I still think McCallum has a lot of potential, but he needs to have less games like this if he wants to prove that he can be a capable NBA backup point guard going forward.

As for Evans, while his physicality and team-focus is appreciated, he simply struggled in terms of play. He went 0-for-2 from the field and had a couple of bad turnovers where the Nets' trapping defense just got the best of him. While Evans did well on the glass with 5 rebounds, he looks so uncomfortable with the ball in his hands at times, especially against better defensive teams. I think Evans' physicality is needed on this team, but he can't kill the team offensively when he's in. He had a good offensive game against Phoenix, and his ability on the offensive glass is a real asset to this Kings team, so I'm not throwing in the towel on him. That being said, with the solid game Carl Landy had tonight (6 points on 3-of-3 shooting in 12 minutes), I wonder if Evans is going to be the odd man out after performances like this.

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