NBA: Kings miss out on opportunity for big road win
By Sam Amick
PORTLAND, Ore. — With less than four minutes remaining at the Rose Garden on Tuesday night and the Kings trailing Portland by five points, an incredible thing occurred for the visiting team.
They moved the ball.
Francisco Garcia threw a skip pass from the left baseline to the right that found Spencer Hawes, and the center whipped it one more time to a wide-open Beno Udrih on the right wing for a three-pointer.
Even when the Kings’ offense was good against the Blazers, it was bad. And not surprisingly, they fell, 88-81, in what could have — make that should have — been a rare win against a playoff-caliber team on the road.
Instead, it was a quizzical performance from players and coaches alike. The Kings capped their evening in fitting form, hitting one field goal and scoring just five points in the final 4:40 of play after their 12-1 run to start the quarter tied the game at 74-74 with 8:12 remaining.
Rookie guard Tyreke Evans (18 points on 8 of 19 shooting, six rebounds, six assists) continued to drive into traffic down the stretch, spinning in the lane to no avail or going in fullback style despite the ominous presence of Blazers center Marcus Camby (five blocks). The veteran big man acquired by Portland just before the trade deadline affected nearly every play at the end.
He followed Kings center Spencer Hawes above the three-point line with 3:06 left to steal the ball and spark a Brandon Roy score that pushed the lead to seven points; he rotated toward Carl Landry down low, and his mere presence appeared to cause the Kings forward to shuffle his feet and get whistled for traveling; he swatted Francisco Garcia from behind in the lane, then did the same to Evans when he drove on Camby and Nicolas Batum.
And Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard the man who did the Camby deal was surely smiling somewhere.
“I thought our poise offensively down the stretch left a lot to be desired,” Kings coach Paul Westphal said. “I thought that Marcus Camby, even though his stat line (six points, eight rebounds, five blocks, four turnovers) wouldn’t knock your eyes out, really dominated the game for them on the defensive end and was very much the difference from where I sat.”
Yet while the Kings defended well holding the Blazers to 45.5 percent shooting and keeping any Blazer from scoring 20-plus points the offense didn’t react well to a rotation that ultimately included 12 players. Most notably, Udrih played just two second-quarter minutes after scoring seven first-quarter points and leading the Kings to a 29-25 edge.
Rookie point guard Garrett Temple who is playing on a 10-day contract saw nearly seven minutes of action in the Kings’ 13-point second quarter in which they hit just 8 of 16 shots. It was the only playing time for rookie small forward Omri Casspi as well, as he was activated after his one-game rest but played just 4:27 all in the second quarter. By game’s end, Udrih had 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting in just 28:44.
Overall, the offense was nothing short of offensive.
“It’s all about consistency with us, and continuing to work on always being aggressive, not letting a pressure defense like that take us out of our system,” Hawes said. “It’s set up to thrive against stuff like that, but we have to be aggressive, be strong with the ball and pick something like that apart.”