Kings porous defensively, disjointed offensively in glaring loss to the woeful Nets 109-100

March 2, 2017

NBA, Sacramento Kings


Sacramento Kings Brooklyn Nets during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, March 1, 2017. The Nets won 109-100. (AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

By Morris Phillips

SACRAMENTO–Not enough defense early, and far too little offense late would be a fair label for the reconfigured Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.  But a more bottom line analysis had its roots elsewhere on a night in which the NBA’s worst team snapped a 16-game losing streak, leading start to finish in a 109-100 victory at the Golden 1 Center.

Both the Kings and Nets should have been equally energized with their prospects for a rare victory enhanced by facing each other.  But the Nets alone seized that storyline from the game’s opening tip.  Consequently, King’s coach Dave Joerger could decipher his team’s malaise, but not prevent it.

“We didn’t come out with enough force to start the game and they physically manhandled us around the perimeter of the floor,” Joerger explained.

While the Nets made nine of their first 11 shot attempts and led 21-6 at one point, the Kings struggled to run their offense, and get out of each other’s way.   The Nets surprised with accurate three-point shooting–they made six from distance in a 35-point first quarter.  The Kings started slow personified by a pair of turnovers by surprise starter Skal Labissiere.

The Kings’ responded initially with offense; Aaron Afflalo contributed 10 points in the first quarter as the Kings sliced the Nets’ lead to four, 35-31, after one.  But the Kings would score just 69 points over a final three quarters littered with tentative play, over dribbling and stilted ball movement.  Sacramento finished with just 12 assists on 35 made baskets, and seven of the Kings that saw action failed to record a single assist.

“I don’t think we’re necessarily focusing on playing the right way,” said Darren Collison, who had the only two assists credited to the team’s five starters.  “I know we have a lot of guys who are unselfish but when you see a guy like DeMarcus Cousins, your best player out, a lot of guys try to take it upon themselves to score, to make a play, instead of just letting the game come to them.”

Defensively, the inbalance in the Kings’post-trade roster is glaring, with guard Ben McLemore routinely matched with bigger forwards in the Kings’ three-guard starting lineup.  With not enough bodies in the frontcourt, and Brooklyn’s Robin Lopez bullying his way to the hoop, the Kings suffered a huge disparity in points in the paint on Wednesday.   But the interior defense was just a part of it; the hot-shooting Nets finished with 11 made threes, at least one from eight different players.

Brooklyn had dropped 27 of 28 overall since winning at home the day after Christmas, and Wednesday marked only their third win this season on the road.  The Kings have dropped three straight since beating Denver in their impressive debut following the Cousins trade.

And whatever designs the Kings maintain on making the playoffs in Cousins’ absence took another blow.  With the loss, and the Timberwolves’ surprising, 27-point road win at Utah, the two teams are now tied for ninth, with three other teams just a game back.  Of the five teams looking to unseat the Nuggets for the final postseason spot in the West, the Trailblazers have the fewest road games (9) and the most recent–last season–playoff experience.

At least, the Kings do have a leg up in the “moronic” trade competition. The Pelicans registered their first win since trading for Cousins, but ironically did so without the former King, who was suspended for last night’s game against the Pistons for his ongoing accumulation of technical fouls.  So the standings are: Kings, Pelicans 1-3; Cousins 0-3 and still looking for his first victory in the Big Easy.

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