How many ways can you say the same thing? The Sacramento Kings are a complete mess on the defensive end and it’s getting worse, not better. On Sunday morning, the Kings walked into the TD Garden in Boston and gave up 74 first half points to the Celtics on their way to a 128-119 defeat.
It started from the opening tip. The Celtics took one open perimeter jumper after another. If it weren’t for a wide angle, you wouldn’t have even seen a Kings defender in the frame.
Avery Bradley got the party started, dropping in 12 points on 3-of-4 shooting from behind the arc in the first 12 minutes. By halftime, he had already surpassed his season average of 14.8 points per game, scoring 17 points before the break on his way to a 25-point night.
“We turned the ball over and then on offensive rebounds they kicked it out for threes so it was a little bit of both,” Rajon Rondo said. “We didn’t protect the three ball again. They got off to a great start -- 74 at half is not going to cut it.”
Boston hit 13-of-24 from long range, an improvement over the 18-for-28 the Brooklyn Nets dropped on the Kings two nights earlier. The Kings give up the most 3-point attempts (29) and makes (10.6) on the season. Even teams that don’t typically launch from long range are lighting the Kings up from deep.
“This is not only our problem, it’s the act of the NBA to play this way,” George Karl said. “This is what the NBA is going to, is transition threes. The two hardest things to cover is everyone in basketball in transition is taught ‘run to the paint, protect the basket, get control of the ball, then find your man.' Ah, well, we don’t find our man probably at the three-point line as well as we need to do right now.”
The rest of the league is not giving up 117.9 points per game over the previous eight contests. While teams are making adjustments, the Kings are regressing. They have given up 256 points over their last two contests. Thirty-point quarters by the opposition have become the norm, regardless of how offensively challenged they may.
Boston scored just 13 of their 128 points on the break. The Celtics hit the Kings exactly where they try to hit their opponents -- with the triple and in the paint. Despite not having a conventional post scorer, Boston torched the Kings for 62 points in the paint. Layups and 3-balls were scored with impunity.
Teams around the league know they can get open looks from the perimeter. The word on the street is that the Kings (1-7 over the previous eight games) don’t come out aggressive. And their opposition is coming out early and punching them in the face.
“If that’s what other teams are thinking, we got to find a way to change that,” DeMarcus Cousins said. “That’s a bad way of feeling about a team that you’re going to have an easy night. We got to find a solution because whatever we are doing right now isn’t working.”
“We haven’t found a way to get stops that should be our main focus of the night,” Cousins added.
The Kings big man hit a barrage of shots late to come away with another 31-point night. He dropped in 14 in the final quarter as the Kings made a run, but his effort through the first three quarters was questionable at best.
Cousins’ performance on the defensive end was similar to the rest of his teammates, and possibly worse. Watching Tyler Zeller, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk combine to score 48 points on 20-of-27 from the field was cringeworthy. It wasn’t all on the Kings All-Star, but he certainly wasn’t part of the solution, at least not on the defensive end.
Karl continues to promote that the Kings aren’t that far away from getting back on the right track. They didn’t completely roll over against the Celtics, even making a run late in the game, but the Kings can’t win playing on one half of the court.
“We’re in a losing mode, we’re losing games, but our basketball has not been bad basketball,” Karl said. “It’s been not-good-enough-to-win basketball. Which happens in the NBA every night. Just because you lose doesn’t mean you don’t play good basketball.”
The Kings were outrebounded by a total of 49-32. The Celtics outshot them 56 percent to 49.5 percent and Sacramento allowed the Celtics to hit 54.2 percent from behind the arc.
It’s hard to imagine many nights where posting numbers like that will win a game.
FORMER KING MAKES GOOD
Isaiah Thomas is doing exactly what he did in Sacramento two seasons ago, only he’s doing it for a winning team. The pint size powerhouse turned 27 years old on Sunday and celebrated by putting away his former team with an eight-point burst late in the fourth quarter.
Thomas finished the night with 22 points, nine assists, four rebounds, two steals and a block in just 29 minutes of action.
He is the leader of a very good Celtics club that improved to 31-22 on Sunday and he will join Cousins in Toronto next week as a first time All-Star.