The NBA is a league that focuses a lot on who is in the starting lineup. The five who start the game are typically the most talented and give their team the best possible chance to win. However, the bench unit’s role in the success of a team is often undervalued but not ignored.
The most successful teams can rely on their second unit to not only maintain the effort and results of the first unit, but also build upon it. The depth of a roster can be just as important as the superstar, captain, or team leader.
The Sacramento Kings bench was instrumental in their team’s 116-101 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night. They outscored the Thunder bench 34 to 27 and provided the energy needed in the first half to build a comfortable lead.
“The bench was fantastic in the first half,” Kings head coach Dave Joerger said after the win. “Garrett Temple is playing well. Kosta (Koufos) is playing better. Guys are starting to fit into what we ask them to do.”
Joerger’s recent adjustments to the starting lineup, including moving Ty Lawson and Kosta Koufos to the second unit have paid off with back to back wins over proverbial playoff teams.
“We are real confident. We understand our role, to bring energy, push the pace, Garrett Temple said after the game.“We did a great job tonight. It started on the defensive end and led to the win.”
With the exception of the win over the Raptors in Toronto, the Kings’ bench has either drawn even with, or outscored their opponent’s bench in their victories.
Heading into last night’s bout with Oklahoma City, the Sacramento Kings had the 13th ranked bench in terms of scoring and positive in scoring differential. To put it into perspective, the Thunder’s bench, considered to be their main weakness, is ranked 15th in offense.
While middle of the pack is not ideal, both teams’ benches rank higher than six playoff teams, including the Portland Trail Blazers, Golden State Warriors, and Cleveland Cavaliers.
“We are gelling well,” Koufos said. “It’s a different dynamic. Push the ball and use the screen and role. We complement each other very well.”
Koufos has appeared a lot more comfortable with the second unit, which he attributes to, “more spacing and free play.”
Lawson has also seemed to benefit greatly from coming off the bench for the first time last night. He has taken the ball handling duties away from Temple, allowing Temple to play where he is most comfortable, which is off the ball.
“We have enough veteran guys to understand how to play with the players on the court,” Temple said. “It’s all about understanding what the other guys are going to do. That’s really helped us as of late.”
Sacramento’s depth was considered to be one of their greatest assets coming into this season. As the Kings start to put more pieces of the puzzle together, the team’s potential is becoming more apparent.
They look to continue the positive trend Friday night when James Harden and the Houston Rockets come to the Golden 1 Center.