...but overtime wins still feel good.
It was a sloppy 1st quarter. Pulling to a point at the end of 1, a testament to being more talented, but certainly not to better execution. There's a school of thought that the Kings are better poised for a quantum leap forward. Their personnel has promise. Reigning rookie of the year Tyreke Evans had star written all over him, though his sophomore season has seen a remarkable ability to miss shots. Casspi appeared to be a find at SF, though his second season does not seem to be building beyond his first. And if Cousins ever figures out a way to shoot better than 42% from the field, he could be beastly. There's real talent on the Kings team. Add to that they no longer have Spencer Hawes* to weigh them down. All consider, records aside, one might expect this things to be a real contest, just as it was exactly a month ago when they faced off in Sacratomato.
And it was a real contest, as close as you can get for 48 regulation minutes, before winding up as a bittersweet victory, made rather less exuberant by watching Monta Ellis wind up in Tom Abdenour's care in the closing seconds of the game (and closing days of Abdenour's tenure with the Warriors).
Were you somehow able to watch without any knowledge of the score, it was a hard game to gauge. On one had, you had unexpected delights like a Vladimir Radmanovic driving dunk about a 1/3rd of the way through the second period.
It was closer than it ever should have been, and had the outcome been otherwise, these details would hardly be worth mentioning: Radmanovic is driving and dunking. I mentioned it before, but it still amazes me. It would seem a clear sign that things are going well. Andris Biedrins, not normally know as a gifted in man defense, made DeMarcus Cousins look bad, allowing him to pick up his dribble, make 17 pointless shifts and moves before taking a falling fadeaway that negates any semblance of advantage that a 7 foot tall behemoth should have over almost anyone in getting an easy basket. Biedrins, not normally gifted in man defense, made Cousins look bad, allowing him to pick up his dribble, make 17 pointless shifts and moves before taking a falling fadeaway that negates any semblance of advantage that a 7 foot tall behemoth should have over almost anyone in getting an easy basket.
Such are signs that things are going well. In such light, it's preposterous that Sacramento was neck and neck through a half , absurd that a strong 3rd quarter didn't put the Kings away, that the Warriors trailed by 9 in the 4th, that it took an extra five minutes to seal a victory for the home team.
Of course, these preposterous moments seem far less so in light of the larger picture, that same larger picture that blurs by the good feeling of Monta's latest clutch jumper from the left elbow to keep hope alive. The ephemeral glimpses, tantilizing teasers of better play would be overwhelmed by an endless stream of Kings shooting free throws, but Evans showing up in a way that has not been so common this season, by the 21 points Cousins dropped on our front line where he looked much the opposite of an inept rookie that one play against Biedrins might have otherwise suggested.
Such were the signs that this was going to go down to the wire, that two works in progress were battling with the good and the bad on their respective squads; battling with themselves (almost) as much as with the opponents in the other jerseys.
In the end, it was exciting, full of hope and excitement, but tainted, more so if Monta's injury proves to be significant.
Take home this: David Lee remembers how to score efficiently. Stephen Curry scores 34 in workman manner such that he does not get mentioned until the penultimate paragraph of the recap. Monta takes over when he needs too. That spot on the left elbow holds magic for Monta.
And it was a win. Phew!
[*lest we forget, Spencer Hawes sucks, always did suck and anyone who ever held hope that he would be anything better than a player who sucked was delusional.]