The Kings’ cold third-quarter shooting and poor transition defense led to their third straight defeat, falling 95-90 to the Pistons on Saturday night at Sleep Train Arena.
Sacramento (11-13) struggled in the third stanza shooting 5-for-28 from the floor, while scoring only 14 points and witnessing a three-point halftime lead transform into a seven-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter against Detroit (5-19).
“That third quarter really hurt us—I think that we shot 18 percent,” said Kings coach Michael Malone. “That makes it hard to build a lead and win games when you aren’t making shots.”
“I thought that in the third quarter we got a little stagnant and tried to do too much because we were struggling.”
Sacramento also bailed out a Pistons offense that has struggled to score points this season -– 28th in the NBA in scoring due to poor transition defense.
“The key to the game is that you can’t give up 31 fast break points,” said Malone. “To start the game, it was Andre Drummond out-running us for dunk after dunk.”
“Thirty-one fast break points is ridiculous, but aside from that, I thought that our guys competed. We hurt them on the glass.”
The Kings were plus 12 in rebounds on the night without DeMarcus Cousins for the ninth consecutive game due to viral meningitis. Sacramento is now 2-7 in his absence.
“We’re not playing the right basketball,” said point guard Darren Collison. “DeMarcus does a lot of good things for us but he also bails us out because he’s so talented.”
“You never want to just rely on just one guy just trying to bail you out; you want to continue to play the right way and I don’t think we’re playing the right way defensively first. So when he comes back, he’s going to bail us out -– but at the same time we’ve still got to be able to play good basketball.”
The Pistons frontcourt capitalized on Cousins’ absence helping Detroit secure just its fifth win of the season.
“I give them credit,” said Malone. “Monroe was terrific off the bench, he had 24 points. Josh Smith had a great game—he had 21 points, 13 rebounds, and five blocks. They were very active and effective. I’m just proud of how our guys competed.”
Detroit, playing the second game of a back-to-back after winning in Phoenix 105-103 on Friday, limited Collison to three points on the night and also held Gay to just 6 points in the second half.
“I think we did a really nice job on Rudy Gay, made it tough on him,” said Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy. “He’s a great, great player. I thought we made it difficult on (Darren) Collison.”
“I thought defensively, we did the things we wanted to do.”
THE GOOD: Removing the third quarter, the Kings shot 62 percent from the floor -- including 48 percent from 3-point range -- and had 20 assists on 28 field goals.
“To be very honest, I wasn’t overly disappointed with the offense tonight,” said Malone. “I thought there was a lot of improvement in our executing and with our ball movement.”
THE BAD: The Kings allowed 31 fast break points -- a boon to the struggling Pistons who average only 11.5 fast break points per game and only 93.4 total points per game.
THE TAKE: Sometimes there’s no substitute for putting the ball in the basket and the Kings have been competitive without Cousins.
“I judged it on whether or not we got good looks instead of making the shots,” said a process focused Malone. “I thought we got a lot of good looks tonight that just didn’t go down for us.”
The Kings have lost three straight games by a total of 12 points and the seven losses without Cousins have been by an average of seven points per game.
The Kings can only hope that Cousins returns soon and that the squad is stronger after the experience of missing the six-foot eleven center.