- Sometimes NBA games are like the Spurs thrilling OT win over the Rockets on Monday, which featured a dramatic return for "Linsanity", or the Heat's demolition of the Hawks, with LeBron James going into God Mode against a talented but ultimately over-matched Atlanta team. Then there are games like the Mavericks 119-96 win over the Kings, a blowout that was neither competitive nor very entertaining.
- Dallas played well, but it mainly came in the form of taking advantage of some terrible basketball from Sacramento. After hot shooting from behind the three-point line kept them in the game in the first quarter, the Kings spent most of the next three shooting themselves in the foot. The score was tied 29-29 before the Mavs went on a 32-4 run that essentially ended the game before halftime.
- Sacramento committed 19 turnovers which led to 25 fast break points for Dallas. The Mavs have struggled to control the defensive glass and execute in the half-court for most of the season; neither is a huge issue when the other team is letting you run 3-on-2 breaks for open dunks and 3's. It was an equal opportunity effort for the Kings: 8 turnovers from their bench, 11 from their starters.
- With Tyreke Evans injured, DeMarcus Cousins is the only legitimate NBA starter in the Kings line-up. He has always had remarkably poor body language, but he's really taken it to the next level in Sacramento. As a veteran DeMarcus watcher, my favorite moment on Monday came on a pick-and-roll he ran with Jimmer Fredette in the second half when Fredette didn't get him the ball. Cousins didn't seem angry as much as exasperated, as if he didn't believe he had to put up with that type of play from his teammates.
- At the same time, he and Chris Kaman seemed to be engaged in a mutual non-aggression pact on defense. Both guys had a great time spotting up for jumpers, taking each other off the bounce and shooting fade-aways off the dribble. Kaman finished the game with 19 points on 9-13 shooting, Cousins had 26 points on 10-17 shooting.
- Actually, I'll need to change my mind on my favorite DeMarcus play of the night. That had to be in the fourth quarter, when Cousins came down in transition and got the ball at the three-point line. He sort of paused for a moment, as if pondering whether he should take the shot (probably not a shot the coaching staff wanted their 6'11 270 low-post terror taking early in the shot clock) and then hoisted it up like "why not".
- Cousins is expanding his game -- attempting to turn himself into more of a perimeter-oriented player and score by taking off-balance shots, which will help him make up for a lack of lift in his legs. It's not like there's much going on in Sacramento right now, so why not try to develop your skills during a game? What's the difference? If I had to guess, I'll bet Cousins at the age of 28 is an excellent NBA player. Cousins at the age of 22 is probably going to drive Keith Smart insane.
- One thing that can't be tolerated is giving other players nut checks, which he did to OJ Mayo in the second quarter. These are grown men out here trying to make money; there's no time for that type of childish stuff.
- The main problem for the Kings is how little they are getting out of their last two lottery picks -- Jimmer Fredette and Thomas Robinson. Fredette has been playing better in recent weeks, but he looked like the vintage rookie edition on Monday, with 3 points, 0 assists. 2 turnovers and 2 fouls on 1-3 shooting in 8 minutes.
- Here's the type of night it was for Robinson. Last year, the 6'9 240 power forward would have destroyed Jae Crowder in an isolation. On Monday, in two tries, he committed a half-court violation while kicking the ball out of the post and then dribbled into a step-back 23-foot jumper with his foot on the line, the worst conceivable shot a player can take.
- I don't think it's a good sign that the Kings reportedly had Robinson as the No. 2 player on their draft board last season. I had him as the No. 6 player at his position -- he's not a guy who can get his own shot in the post or off the dribble or a guy who can live off taking jumpers. He's not a great shot-blocker or distributor either, which really limits what he can to do help you on the court.
- Robinson would really be best suited running pick-and-rolls, but that points to the biggest problem with the Kings roster: their players don't really complement each other. There's a reason that Amare Stoudemire was most successful as a small-ball 5 in Phoenix and New York, where he was sharing a front-court with either Shawn Marion or Danilo Gallinari. Robinson needs space in the paint to attack the rim and draw fouls; that's an issue with Cousins, who should be permanently stationed in either the low or the high post.
- At the same time, if you're going to commit to play a center without ups like DeMarcus, you have to, have to get a guy who can block shots in his stead at the power forward. Instead, Sacramento plays either a 3rd big man (Jason Thompson) and a scorer (Robinson) next to Cousins, one of the main reasons why their defense is so ineffectual.
- On the Dallas side of things, two plays that made me chuckle: Collison bungling a 3-on-1 and not even getting a shot out of it and Mayo taking a pull-up 3 on a 4-on-1. That's one of those shots you had better make if you're going to take it. The Juiceman, as has become the norm, knocked it down, but that's not a thing I want my top scorer doing on the reg. Collison, meanwhile, has not been able to unseat Derek Fisher as the starting PG, which is a fairly sobering indication of how little he's progressed since he came into the NBA four years ago.
- Jae Crowder had one of his best games all season, putting up a well-rounded 11/4/4/2 stat-line. He's been in a shooting slump recently, so he made a concerted effort to attack the basket early and not settle for long shots, which is exactly what you want to see happen. It's always nice to get an easy basket or two under your belt first; it does wonders for your confidence. Was it a coincidence that Buzz Williams, his college coach at Marquette, was in attendance tonight? I'm going to guess not.
- The Big Picture:
- Sacramento will be in the lottery again this year. It looks like it will be a fairly deep draft, so maybe they finally find a second cornerstone piece to build around Cousins. Dallas, meanwhile, begins a fairly winnable three-game road trip at Boston, Toronto and Minnesota (which may be Ricky Rubio's first game back). They'll need Shawn Marion back in the line-up though. On Wednesday, they play the Jet for the first time, which will be interesting. I expect he'll come out ready to play -- who exactly is Fisher going to guard when the Celtics go small with Terry and Rondo in the back-court? Yeeesh.
Mavs vs. Kings: An easy win
There isn't much to say about a game that Dallas had under total control for the entire second half. So I'm going to talk about DeMarcus Cousins instead.