Pinpointing the Sacramento Kings’ problems over the last few games isn’t as difficult as trying to seek out what they’ve done well. The latter list dwindles by the day, as the Kings struggle for air, barely afloat in the unforgiving waters of the regular season.
Saturday night, Sacramento defended the Portland Trail Blazers’ pick and roll attack better than the previous night, limiting Damian Lillard to 1 of 15 shooting, but somehow managed to look every bit as bad as they did Friday. Ultimately, offensive woes overshadowed any defensive improvements in Sacramento’s 96-85 loss to Portland.
The Kings’ 46.2 percent field goal percentage is deceptive, as much of that was salvaged late in the night, when the game was already out of reach. In the final quarter, Sacramento was able to put up 31 points, but it was the only the first quarter of the game that they managed to score over 20 points.
Minutes into the fourth quarter, there were still only two Kings – Isaiah Thomas and DeMarcus Cousins – in double figures, but 10 of Thomas’ then-12 points came in the first quarter; Sacramento was hardly getting any contributions from the rest of the team. Again, Cousins was one of the only Kings players aggressive enough to draw fouls, taking 11 of the team’s 14 free throws.
Aside from Cousins, the Kings failed to have much impact in the paint. Instead, many settled for jump shots that weren’t falling. After the game, Malone said he’d rather players in a shooting slump attack the rim and attempt to get to the foul line than continually take long-range shots.
The Trail Blazers, on the other hand, sunk the Kings for a second straight night due in large part to their ability to create and make open jumpers. While Sacramento restricted Portland’s effectiveness with the pick and roll, the Trail Blazers were still able to get past defenders and into the paint.
When Kings players came to help teammates who couldn’t stay in front of their own man, openings popped up and the Trail Blazers exploited them, routinely finding the open man on perimeter – through three quarters, Portland shot 50 percent from beyond the arc.
Like the night before, many of the Trail Blazers’ open looks came on second-chances; once again, Sacramento was killed on the glass, out-rebounded by Portland 52-33 and surrendering an eye-popping 19 offensive boards.
Cousins – the only Sacramento player with more than three rebounds (12) – had another wasted effort Saturday, putting up 33 points in the Kings’ loss. Friday, Sacramento looked set up Cousins to score in a variety of ways – using pick and rolls/pops and screens off the ball, among other things – but Saturday he was able to simply establish himself in the paint by posting up. Utilizing his repertoire of post moves, Cousins made his way into the heart of the defense, and also scored off of a couple putbacks.
With the loss, the Kings fall to 1-5 to start the season, and Malone didn’t beat around the bush when approached with the question of whether or not he’d alter the lineup, calling out players’ effort and competitive mindset.
“I think we have a lot of guys that just care about themselves on this team and if their game isn’t going, they quit playing,” Malone said. “Changes will be made before we play on Wednesday.”
Courtesy of Ervins Strauhmanis | Flickr