After suffering a low-energy defeat to the Golden State Warriors in their season opener, the Sacramento Kings made all the right adjustments to slow down the offensive-minded Portland Trailblazers.
The Kings utilized stationary ball movement on offense and had a full game’s worth of efficient basketball, allowing only 10 turnovers in the contest. There was a clear focus on limiting the ball handling of each individual player, as the team swung the ball to eat up clock and find good looks down the stretch.
Rudy Gay gave Sacramento one of his best performances to date, scoring 40 points in 36 minutes on quality shots. He waited for the opportunity to utilize his mid-range game, contrary to his offensive efforts he gave through much of the preseason. Coming of screens and attacking the basket was not a problem for Gay, as he looked to take advantage of his matchup against Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum. He drew fouls in the fourth quarter as the Blazers posed a comeback through the efforts of Damian Lillard, and hit 11 of his 13 foul shots to hold off what is considered a superior team. Gay’s contributions did not go unnoticed by the Kings’ coaching staff, who has clearly given him the green light to take his shots- as long as they’re smart shots.
Darren Collison‘s play late in the game featured him running numerous pick and pops with DeMarcus Cousins which created open jumpers, most of which he drilled easily. He orchestrated Sacramento’s offense and spawned ball movement from every Kings player, who fed off his passing and shot-creating ability. Collison has found a good balance between maintaining his role as a true point guard and creating shots for himself to take advantage of. He had 17 points and 8 assists, many of which contributed to Gay’s offensive onslaught.
Jason Thompson continued to be a ball-stopper for Sacramento’s offense, as his poor shot selection and lacking offensive ability created two points on just 20 percent shooting from the field. Reggie Evans had more minutes than Thompson, a clear indication that Mike Malone and his coaching staff are well-aware of the low production from the power forward position. Evans finished the game with four points and six rebounds. Carl Landry contributed four rebounds an two blocks.
Portland’s defense lacked energy throughout the game, as late defensive rotations and weak stunts on low and high post players allowed Cousins to work in the paint and Gay to operate from mid-range. The Trailblazers gave Kings’ shooters too much room, and allowed second chance opportunities as they were outrebounded 49-38.
Coach Malone’s team took away all the right lessons from the loss against the Warriors, as offensive execution and efficiency through all four quarters gave them enough breathing room to fend off the Trailblazers.