Escaping with a win after struggling for much of the game to a team with only eight victories on the year, the Sacramento Kings take their act on the road for a series of winnable games before OKC decides to embarrass them on their home-court What's that? The first game of this three-game road trip is against one of the top teams in the west? Well poop.
At the end of the day, a win is a win and the Washington Wizards are certainly better than their abysmal record would indicate, but our recent defensive ineptitude is kind of hard to just ignore. I mean, wow, we have been pretty bad. Just ask Wayne Ellington, Mario Chalmers, Dion Waiters, Bradley Beal or any other of the fine men who have "mysteriously" had career days against the Kings in recent days. I want to say that this is a recent stunning development but we're talking about a franchise that famously let Tony Delk dump a fifty-berger on them (a day that probably extended the man's career by three years or so). Aside from that fleetingly brief span in which Doug Christie single-handedly made the Kings into one of the better defensive teams in the league, this team, this franchise, has never really been known for sterling defensive prowess.
So what do we do? It's hard to consistently win in this league when your opponent's two-guard drops a career high on you on a nightly basis. Our team's stubbiness aside, our interior play and boardwork seems to have stabilized for the most part (amazing what having a bonafide star in the paint will do for your team, isn't it?) which really means that our perimeter players are going to have to face increased attention as opposing teams turn to their guards to compensate for the fact their big men are not Demarcus Cousins. Unfortunately for us, our backcourt boasts such defensive stalwarts as Isaiah Thomas and Aaron Brooks, two guys who opposing teams can simply shoot over even if the dudes were to make legitimate attempts to play defense.
This isn't to say that our good perimeter defenders are completely without blame for our defensive meltdown. While one of the better individual defenders in the league, Tyreke has his, err, lapses in which he apparently comes to believe that there is a rule prohibiting any defense played outside the three-point arc. Salmons is also susceptible to this fallacy at times and always winds up matched up against a SF who is two or three inches taller than him anyways. Francisco Garcia will at times think that he's the second coming of Bill Russell and sink in towards the paint in an attempt to get a block, whether someone is going to drive into the paint or not. James Johnson is capable of playing stifling defense at times and is actually a full-sized NBA player, which of course means our genius coach is going to tie him to the bench.
But seriously, when Jimmer Fredette is your best defensive point guard (No offense, Jimmer!), you know you've got problems.
TDM- Bradley Beal, aka today's surprise perimeter superstar.
LW-VC- Jason Thompson. One week after I got done praising the dude for becoming a consistent presence for our team, JT has responded with perhaps his worst week of basketball since becoming a King, this week losing minutes down the stretch to Chuck Hayes. When he did enter the game, he wound up either (a) forcing a shot, (b) letting his man score, (c) committing a foul, or (d) all of the above. That'll show me for putting my trust in the man.
SAR- Emeka Okafor, who matched JT's performance by generally not doing anything and getting scored on by Demarcus. Remember when we all wanted to trade for the dude? I think those days have kind of passed. Lost minutes to Kevin Seraphin down the stretch.
JH-ANA- Marcus Thornton. Remember when we all thought MT was the second coming of Mitch Richmond? Well ever since coming back from his injury, MT has been playing like the Rock, the caveat being that he's playing like the crappy shadow of a player who "played" for the Lakers in the twilight of his career. At this point, I really don't seen him remaining on this team past the trade deadline.
WTF Moment- Keith Smart compensates for his propensity for playing his subs for quarters at a time by playing his starters for the ENTIRE second half.
Quincy Douby Bust of the Day- Jan Vesely, who has to this point in his career displayed absolutely nothing to warrant the Wizards picking him where they did. Perhaps realizing their fallacy, the Wizards went and traded for not one but two big men to quietly render the man irrelevant.
Tonight, we face the Grizz, who are, let's face it, not the Cavs or Wizards. With the best frontcourt tandem in the league and a bevy of complementary outside pieces (like Tony Allen, who is among the best defenders in the league a.k.a. not Bradley Beal or Dion Waiters). To stand any chance of winning this game, we've gotta (a) feed our stars (Cuz and Reke), (b) play good defense for 48 minutes, and (c) not shot ourselves in the foot (meaning no stupid substitution patterns or any of our short guys deciding they're Kobe). The chances of this actually happening? Somewhere between zero and five percent.
But who knows? Maybe Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol will get stuck in traffic and Cuz goes off for 50 points and a bajillion rebounds. I guess we'll just have to watch to find out.
My prediction? Grizz 1365, Kings 100. (Not a typo).
EDIT: Randolph out for the game due to a back strain. This helps our chances significantly.