After watching the Denver Nuggets do more work in the paint than Monet on Wednesday night, Kings guard Tyreke Evans said he went home and watched the game before returning to the team's practice facility Thursday morning.
He was not pleased with what he saw.
"The guy that was (guarding) the ball was just letting the guy go," Evans said Thursday, a day after the Nuggets scored 92 points in the paint in a 122-93 win at Power Balance Pavilion. "It was just terrible defense.
"I understand we should help (on defense), but how can you help when it's that easy? You put the guy that's helping in a bad position. It was just bad."
Defending the middle has been a problem through the first quarter of the season for the Kings, who have the league's highest average of points allowed in the paint per game.
After the loss to the Nuggets, head coach Keith Smart said the Kings need to adopt a "We're going to live with the jump shot" mindset on defense.
On Thursday, he reiterated that, pointing out that the Kings have done a good job of defending perimeter shooting (the Nuggets shot 4 of 25 from outside the paint) but must clamp down on easy looks under the basket.
"Our focus has to be on controlling the paint," Smart said. "If teams are going to beat us with 92 points from three-point range, we'll go home and say they beat us from the outside."
The Nuggets found some of their open shots in transition. But they also were able to penetrate the Kings' defense off the dribble.
Smart counted 24 points given up by the Kings on plays where a Nuggets player either simply beat his defender one-on-one for an easy basket or got into the paint and drew a help defender, freeing up a teammate for an open look or put-back opportunity.
The Kings, Smart said, have shown flashes of being able to defend teams that get into the paint, citing their win over the San Antonio Spurs in which guard Tony Parker had 24 points but the Spurs as a team scored 40 in the paint below their season average. The question is whether the Kings can limit points in the paint consistently.
"It starts with everybody going and working as hard as they can man-to-man and trying to not let them get to the middle of the floor or the paint," said guard Jimmer Fredette. "We also have to help when there is a breakdown. It's a combination of both."
On help defense, Fredette said, "We're a step late, and we have to be a step early. We've got to anticipate it. We know what we're supposed to do. We just have to be there."
The Kings practiced early Thursday, hitting the floor at 10 a.m. Smart said he held the session before a previously scheduled noon meeting so that players could get back on the court and "get that bad taste out of their mouth."
Asked what was emphasized in the practice, Evans answered: "Man, just defense and transition."
The Kings are back on the road Saturday to play the Utah Jazz, which trails only the Nuggets in scoring in the paint.
Back-to-back practice days have been rare since Smart took over as head coach. Thursday's session included a transition defense drill that teams "normally do in training camp," Smart said, as he continues to teach on the fly.