Kings Learning How to Finish Games

By Rob Small, SacMidtown.com

In the past few games the Kings have proven that they can stay close in games but they haven’t shown the ability to finish games consistently. After returning from a 1-5 road trip, the Kings played the Portland Trail Blazers at home last Wednesday, the Golden State Warriors in Oakland on Friday and the Blazers again in Portland yesterday.

The theme of the Kings’ inability to close games continued in their first game against the Blazers. Portland overcame a seven-point deficit before Carl Landry hit two free throws to force the game into overtime tied at 85.

The Kings struck first in the extra period but couldn’t execute in the end. The trio of LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Miller and Nicolas Batum proved to be too much for the Kings, leading to a 94-90 Blazers win. Batum led the team with 24 points, Aldridge had 23 points and Miller finished with 20 points.

Beno Udrih finished with 20 points, making 8 out of 12 shots (66.6 percent) for the Kings.

“That’s a very good team that we took to the brink again,” Kings coach Paul Westphal said after the game. “We came up short and it hurts every member of the coaching staff (and) every player in the locker room. There’s nothing easy about it.”

The Kings moved on to Oakland to face the Warriors, their Pacific Division rivals. These two teams are always fun to watch when they play each other but the Warriors came out with a victory after the Kings gave up an 14-point fourth quarter lead at home.

Golden State’s Vladimir Radmanovic hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime where they earned a 117-109 victory.

The Kings held a nine-point lead with 3:04 left in regulation, but the Warriors went on a 14-5 run capped off with a Monta Ellis game-tying jumper to send the game into overtime. The Warriors led by as much as 1o points in the extra period en route to a 119-112 win over the Kings.

Tyreke Evans led the Kings scoring a career-high 35 points in the loss.

Historically, their next game against the Blazers wouldn’t be any easier. The Kings had found only 16 wins since moving to Sacramento in 1985. The Blazers were riding a five-game winning streak, which included an overtime victory in Sacramento the week before.

The Kings held a 71-65 lead at the start of the fourth quarter, but the question would be whether the Kings would be able to close the game out strong.

The were twice able to cut the Kings’ lead to four points, but the Kings were able to do something they haven’t done well for most of the season. They finished strong, pulling away for their 17th victory in Portland, winning by a score of 96-81 and snapping the Blazers’ five-game winning streak.

How did they win it? They did the exact opposite of what has led them to lose games.

The Kings 28th in free-throw shooting, making 71.5 percent of their shots. After missing their first free throw of the fourth quarter they made their last five at the line.

After starting the fourth quarter with three turnovers, they remained turnover-free  for the last eight minutes of the game. In games where they gave up leads because they couldn’t make shots down the stretch, the Kings made seven of their last 13 shots of the game when Portland cut their lead  down to four points.

Thanks good good defense by Samuel Dalembert and Jason Thompson, the Kings also held Aldridge to only nine points while missing 10 out of 14 shots. It’s the first time he was held to single digits since Dec. 5.

These are qualities of a good team, qualities that the team has shown on occasion. The best quality of all is having the consistency to close out games by making free throws, making shots and protecting the ball late in the game.

Player of the Week

Evans had a great scoring week scoring 77 points, making 30 out of 58 shots (51.7 percent) in the past three games. In that span, Evans has averaged 25.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 2.6 steals while playing 45 minutes per game.

As mentioned before, Evans also scored a career-high 35 points in the overtime loss against the Warriors.

Rookie Performance

Despite last night’s play, DeMarcus Cousins put up some poor performances against  Portland. In Sacramento, he scored only five points making two out of 11 shots for 18.2 percent.. In last night’s game he scored 14 points in less than 15 minutes but he racked up five fouls in that span, an average of one foul for nearly every three minutes.

In the span of three games, Cousins has averaged 13.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and one block in 26.3 minutes per game. Unfortunately for him, he averaged four turnovers per game.

Pooh Jeter attended college at Portland for four Years and finally had his homecoming last night. He put up only seven points in the last three games but he was able to entertain over 20 friends last night according to the Sacramento Bee, making one of only two shots.

Play of the Week

It’s not every day you see a player go behind the back for a lay-up. That’s exactly what Evans did to the Blazers’ Wesley Matthews last night.

What’s Next?

The Kings will host the Charlotte Bobcats tonight. NBA Hall-of-Famer Michael Jordan owns the Bobcats and watched the Kings beat the Blazers last night. The Kings will travel to Los Angeles to face the Lakers on Friday and will fly back home to play the red-hot New Orleans Hornets.

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Posted by on Jan 25 2011. Filed under Kings/NBA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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