Unbalanced effort throughout for the Nuggets, who just seemed to work in spurts, which flew in the face of a determined, sustained effort from the Kings in this win. There were some bum moves and selfish plays littered here and there from Sacramento, but that's to be expected. I've never seen a rookie big man force shots like DeMarcus Cousins(notes). I know he's only 20, but this is some frightening stuff.
He's frighteningly good, though. Twenty points and six in only 29 minutes for the rookie, who missed just five shots in 12 tries.
More promising? Tyreke Evans(notes) got his smooth back. Lilted his way to 27 points on only 18 shots, only took (and missed) one three-pointer, dished 12 assists and pulled in five rebounds. A superb, warming, night from Tyreke. From the whole team, really, because every team deserves a game like this. A dominant win against a pretty good team at home, something to keep the crowd happy. The nationally televised stage only adds to it. It wasn't fun watching the Nuggets take some possessions off, but it was great to see the Kings bring it, in a year to forget.
Let's just leave it at that. The Kings have had this sort of solid young talent all year, and there's no point in talking too much about Denver's night off or where things have gone wrong in the past in California's capital. All at once the group overcame injury, confidence, competence, and issues with NBA knowledge to drop 127 points per 100 possessions against a team that was in the Conference finals a year and a half ago, and it was great to watch.
Just when I was ready to hand Ron Adams the Coach of the Year award, the Thunder turned their defense around in the second half, and took down a Dallas Mavericks team that really had no business beating the Thunder without Dirk Nowitzki(notes) and Caron Butler(notes).
Oklahoma City's defense has suffered since Adams, the current Chicago Bulls assistant coach, left the squad last summer, but it was nice to see a bit of the old Thunder activity creep back into things. Just 15 points in the third quarter for the Mavs, and 25 points (down from over 30, in two previous fourth quarters against OKC this year) in the fourth; aided by a few DeShawn Stevenson(notes) threes that didn't really affect the game in the final minute.
Offensively, the Thunder picked it up in the second half with good passing and good activity, Eric Maynor's(notes) four assists off the bench helped, as did Serge Ibaka's(notes) enthusiasm (13 and eight rebounds in 33 minutes for Serge, making all six of his attempts).
Dallas was pretty sound itself, offensively, coming through with 109 points per 100 possessions, but nine combined turnovers from Jason Terry(notes) and Jose Juan Barea(notes) hurt, as did Jason Kidd's(notes) ohfer seven shooting. Also, while I've long admired Brian Cardinal's(notes) ability to positively impact a game without doing much in the box score, I would have liked to see Alexis Ajinca's(notes) length and athleticism used against a Thunder team that has plenty of both.
We've been picking apart the Thunder all year, but this is still a team with a rock solid nine-man rotation, and the team is on pace for 54 wins this year (after 50 last season) despite no major (or minor) personnel upgrades over the offseason. This would be good. Keep on, kids.