When Keith Smart coached the Warriors last season, the one thing you could count on most nights was maximum effort.
That kind of effort had been lacking with the Kings over the past week and played a part in coach Paul Westphal being fired Thursday.
Smart took over for Westphal, and for the first half, the Kings played like they had in losing five of their last six games. The Kings shot poorly, committed turnovers and fell behind by 21 points at halftime.
Smart's message to the Kings at the half was simple: play hard.
The Kings did just that and overcame the halftime deficit to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 103-100 at Power Balance Pavilion in Smart's debut as head coach.
The team, which looked listless in getting blown out Wednesday night at Denver, outscored the Bucks 35-18 in the fourth quarter.
The Kings don't know all that Smart plans to implement, but that shouldn't stop them from hustling. And that hard work was enough for a win Thursday.
"That's the trademark of how we want to play," Smart said. "No matter what the score is. If you're down by 20 in the fourth quarter, it's probably going to be hard. But if you're down by 20 in the first, you've got a lot of game."
Having coached under Hall of Fame coach Don Nelson with the Warriors, Smart is not averse to trying unconventional lineups to produce positive results.
That was the case Thursday when Smart used four perimeter players Jimmer Fredette, Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton and John Salmons and either DeMarcus Cousins or Jason Thompson at center most of the fourth quarter. The lineup allowed Fredette to set up teammates and freed the rest of the team to attack.
It worked, as the Kings shot 13 of 21 in the fourth and still outrebounded the Bucks 14-5. The Kings also had five steals in the fourth.
And for the first time this season, the Kings didn't cave in when a team jumped on them.
"We kept attacking," Fredette said. "We kept putting them on their heels offensively and defensively. That was the biggest thing for us. I think sometimes lately when a team got us down, we would let them keep going. This time we really pushed back and started putting them on their heels."
Evans had 26 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Thornton had 27 points. Cousins had 19 points and 15 rebounds before fouling out with 4:36 left to play.
That was enough to overcome a good game by Bucks guard Brandon Jennings, who finished with 31 points and seven assists.
Cousins said it felt "fun" to play Thursday, a feeling the Kings haven't had during their recent slump.
"It felt like we were just out there playing free, but we've just got to keep working with (Smart)," Evans said. "He's a great coach and he's planning new things for guys to get looks at the rim and looks at the basket. We've just got to work with him."
The bad news for the Kings was an injury to Chuck Hayes. He dislocated his left shoulder fouling Drew Gooden and left the game with 5:59 left in the second quarter. Smart said he would have more information on Hayes today.
Hayes organized a players' meeting and film session Thursday to help the Kings get focused after their loss at Denver.
KEITH SMART AT A GLANCE
Born: Sept. 21, 1964
Birthplace: Baton Rouge, La.
Family: Wife Carol, sons André and Jared
College highlight: Made the game-winning shot for Indiana in the 1987 NCAA Tournament final.
NBA draft: Golden State, 2nd round in 1988 (41st overall)
NBA coaching record: Cleveland, 9-31, .225; Golden State 36-46, .439