The Sacramento Kings played their best defensive game of the season and still lost, 75-71, Sunday afternoon at home to the New Orleans Hornets.
That’s how things can go for a team, now 4-8, attempting to find its way. The Kings lost a four-point game because they made just 60 percent (9 of 15) of their free-throw attempts.
Conversely, New Orleans (11-1) missed just one of 16 free-throw attempts.
Sacramento lost because it had 13 possessions during the fourth quarter’s final six minutes and made just two of 10 field-goal attempts and committed three turnovers.
That usually will not result in victory.
The Kings committed 22 turnovers that New Orleans turned into 23 points. That's nearly one-third of the team's scoring.
It was a team-wide Kings turnover fest. Three players committed three turnovers and three committed four.
Coach Paul Westphal said half of those turnovers were unforced and shouldn't have occurred.
“What we’re doing is very simple,” he said of the team's offense, “and we’re not running something different at the end of the game that we’re running all through the game.”
So the Kings aren’t executing. That statement also could be taken that perhaps they need to do some things differently down the stretch to give defenses other options to consider.
However, moving the ball to the open man truly is what the Kings need. Many times during the game, the Kings fail to make the simple pass to the open man. It’s not rocket science.
The Kings would like to play an up-tempo offense and passing, not dribbling, the ball up court is a key. Then making the next pass to the open man is key to offensive success. Often, that will be Tyreke Evans making that first pass to the open man. And until it is, the Kings offense will not smoothly function.
Granted, the Kings are a young squad, but youth has nothing to do with playing unselfishly and intelligently.
Certainly experience on New Orleans’ behalf and inexperience on Sacramento’s side played a role in the game’s final minutes. The Hornets basically kept the ball in the hands of point guard Chris Paul and forward David West. Those are two experienced and proven closers.
That’s two more than Sacramento has right now. Paul set up two plays off pick-and-rolls that led to West making two open wing jump shots. West made his last two shots to finish eight of 19 from the field.
However, no matter what plays are drawn up by any coach, a player has to make shots.
Additionally, the Hornets lead the league in defensive field-goal percentage at 42.5. So it’s not a complete surprise the Kings struggled offensively. The true surprise was Sacramento limiting New Orleans to 32.2 percent shooting.
The Kings have improved defensively in their past two games heading into Monday night’s game at Utah.
And as Westphal said, “It’s just a shame to play that well defensively against a team with one of the best records in basketball and walk out of the gym with a loss.”
It also was a shame to waste Donte Greene’s 15-point, 10-rebound performance in 32 minutes.
Indeed. The Kings, however, will not win many games with 14 assists and 22 turnovers. That’s unacceptable.
The overall concept is playing consistently at each end of the court and that’s what the Kings still are striving to reach. Playing on the road in Salt Lake City against the Utah Jazz is not the ideal situation, but it's what the Kings have before them tonight.