Ready or Not, Here 'Reke Comes
And though it didn't end with glass slippers or even confetti, Evans proved he belongs in the NBA.
Through 3-1/2 quarters, Evans matched Paul's play, which is saying something, because Paul was electric. Missing his ol' oop partner Tyson Chandler and relying on fewer snipers on the perimeter, Paul took matters into his own hands much of the game. He finished with 31 points. But 13 of those came in the final six minutes of the game, where Paul shredded Evans around picks and pressed the ball in transition to help the Hornets come from behind to secure the team's first win.
Until that six-minute mark, it was Evans leaving Paul in the dust. Until the final three minutes, Evans had racked up 22 points with Paul guarding him almost exclusively -- or trying, at least. At times 'Reke relied on high screens from Jason Thompson and Sean May. But more frequently, Evans toyed with Paul in an isolated high dribble, waiting for the perfect moment to blow by the All-Star for a layup or a dump pass. (These dump passes added up to little, as frequent receiver Thompson blew ungodly numbers of layups, shooting 4-of-16 for the night while taking only four shots outside of eight feet. This will not typically happen.)
Evans also avoided mistakes through most of the game ... until the final moments struck. In fairness to Evans, the rest of the Kings blew it as well: Kevin Martin, who shared J.T.'s paint misery all night, had a few poor plays in the last five Sacramento possessions, including a blocked three-pointer to seal the loss. The final result relegated Evans to footnote status, but have no doubt that during the game Evans vs. Paul was the story ... because 'Reke made it so.
You can tell Paul understood that. After the final buzzer, CP3 sought out Evans, hugged it out, and spoke in the youngster's ear for several moments. I have no idea what Paul told 'Reke, but I can only imagine it was a bit more than your standard welcome to the NBA. Anyone who watched Evans scorch the world's greatest point guard for 36 minutes of basketball has to believe Evans will be competing with Paul for attention in years to come.