Image by Ron Nabity
Originally published on SacramentoPress.com on Dec. 6, 2012
The Sacramento Kings returned home to defeat the struggling Toronto Raptors 107-100 on Wednesday night, Dec. 5, for just their fifth win of the season.
A big part of the victory was the return of Kings guard Tyreke Evans, who missed the previous two games due to a bruised left knee.
Evans returned to his starting shooting guard position and got off to a slow start, but quickly found himself as a key piece of the victory as the team pulled away late. The fourth-year guard scored 10 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, including two big three-point shots that put the Kings ahead for good.
“I was just trying to get a feel for it,” Evans said of his return to the court. “When you sit out for a long time like that, it’s always tough just trying to come in and play good, so I wasn’t trying to force it. I was trying to take what the defense was giving me, I was thinking too much. In the second half, I started being aggressive again and getting to the line.”
Kings head coach Keith Smart appreciated the aggressiveness they saw from Evans, as his effort assisted in the team’s 56 points in the paint against the Raptors. The ability to get into the paint with ease and then pass if needed was missed during Evans’ absence from the hardwood.
“We weren’t getting into the paint,” Smart said, following the game. “We weren’t getting the basketball in the paint. In the last couple of games, the guy that got into the paint to move the ball to other people was Jason Thompson, and he had 18 of those trips of getting into the paint and moving the basketball. I thought our guys did a great job and obviously Tyreke did a great job with getting into the paint with his penetration.”
Evans credits the Kings’ loss to the Los Angeles Clippers to his motivation to be aggressive and try and get into the paint in order to force the defense to make a play.
“That’s one thing that I wanted to do tonight was drive the paint and draw the fouls and get into the paint,” Evans said. “When we played the Clippers, they got into the paint a lot so I just wanted to get into the paint a lot.”
Evans’ aggressiveness earned him a trip to the line 12 times, though he made just seven shots.
The guard’s biggest contribution toward the victory came when the game was tied 95-95, with just 2:16 remaining on the play clock for the game. Ironically, it was arguably Evans’ weakest part of his game that made the biggest difference.
Forward John Salmons drove the floor and kicked it out to Evans on the wing, who took the wide-open three and made it. The pair hooked up on the exact same play on the next drive, earning the same results to give the Kings a late six-point lead 101-95.
Afterward, Evans looked at the Raptors bench with something to say.
"They were just talking over there, you know. They said, ‘Leave him open,’ and I said, ‘Leave me open and I'm going to keep shooting it,’ and I just made the shots."
Evans also made his presence felt on the defensive side of the court as he came back down the floor to block a three-point attempt by Raptors guard Kyle Lowry as Toronto was attempting a late-game comeback.
Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins knows that Evans can be a dangerous player if he can consistently hit the outside shots.
“I just told him after the game, ‘That’s the first time since I’ve been in the league that I’ve seen you hit two threes in a row,’” Cousins said. “I’m happy for him, he’s been working his tail off, especially with his outside shooting. If he continues to get confidence in his jump shot he’ll be an incredible player.”
Smart has confidence in Evans’ spot shooting, just believes that he needs to be committed to it at times and not always put the ball on the floor to drive.
“He works at it,” Smart said. “We share with him, I share with him, and everyone else has said that ‘When you’re spot shooting, your percentage is very good. And when you’re spotted up there and shooting your three, it’s a good shot for you.’ He got there and made those two threes, and I was very happy with the way he hit those two shots. He didn’t have a thought of putting it down and driving in traffic.”
Evans, along with the play of Cousins, can be a dangerous tandem in the NBA when both are playing well.
“I think it starts with us two. DeMarcus in the post and me in the pick-and-rolls getting into the paint,” Evans said.