PHOENIX If there is a cliché about the importance of statistics, it probably applies here. Because when it comes to Keith Smart and his defensive grading system, he's not likely to deviate from it when substituting players.
That was evident in Wednesday's win at Golden State, when the Kings' leading scorer and rebounder, center DeMarcus Cousins, and starting power forward Jason Thompson did not play in the fourth quarter, even though they weren't having bad games based on their offensive numbers.
Smart's grading system isn't based just on defensive statistics such as steals and blocked shots. It rates players for being in the right defensive coverages, being in the right spots on the floor, and if they take gambles that hurt the team, among other aspects.
"The one thing about the grades is it just lets you know when I make a decision, here is the reason," Smart said. "The grade and the numbers don't lie. They come together."
Smart jokingly described his reliance on defensive grading as his "Moneyball" approach to coaching, a reference to the advanced-statistics approach of baseball's Oakland A's.
Toney Douglas and Patrick Patterson immediately made an impression with their defensive play after being acquired in last month's trade with Houston. Chuck Hayes and John Salmons also have been among the higher-graded players much of the season.
So while a lineup might look unconventional, Smart said there is a plan if he's looking for defense.
"When I make a decision, it's pretty much based closely to that," Smart said. "Sometimes I go the other way, but overall I try to stay close and consistent to that."
Smart, however, has no plans to use the grading system to go with an all-defensive lineup to start a game because all defense early could put the Kings in a deficit.
"I haven't thought about that yet," he said. "Because then we won't score really well."
Et cetera Thursday's game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center was the second in back-to-back nights. It was the 16th back-to-back for the Kings this season.
Sacramento has one more back-to-back this season, April 14-15 at Houston and Oklahoma City, respectively.
Forward James Johnson is still away from the team for personal reasons. He has missed the past 10 games.
Saturday's game against the Lakers will be the first of a five-game homestand.