Entering this season, the Kings had hoped they'd have a big home-court advantage. But they often came out with a home-court malaise that included slow starts and subpar efforts.
Lately, the Kings had been stuck in such a funk, dropping the first four games of a five-game homestand and extending their home losing streak to a season-worst five games.
So coach Keith Smart changed things up in practice. He got a little louder and demanded the players go a little harder, and something clicked for one night.
The Kings didn't look sluggish at all, playing the fast-paced, team-oriented style that tends to bring them victories, and beat the New Orleans Hornets 121-110 Wednesday night at Sleep Train Arena.
"The emphasis in practice the last couple days has been running," Kings guard Marcus Thornton said. "Getting the ball up in 14 seconds and making something happen, and it carried over to the game."
Smart said he had to "take over" practice with a more vocal approach to get the Kings back to playing the style that best suits them.
"You can't do that for 82 games," Smart said. "I'll be done. That's where pros come in. That's why I tell them they've got to be professionals. Professionals set the tone of a practice, of a shootaround."
When Smart is looking for a "professional" on the Kings, that often means John Salmons.
The 11-year veteran responded with a team-high 22 points. He had five points in his previous three games.
Salmons said it wasn't as if Smart went berserk in Tuesday's practice. But the change in Smart's demeanor definitely caught everyone's attention.
"We still were practicing hard," Salmons said. "He was just a little more animated, and guys were going hard. And I think the style of play rubbed off. He was preaching playing faster."
Smart doesn't plan to make that a regular approach, saying he'd last just 35 games if he had to be that animated all the time.
"I can't do this every single day," Smart said. "I can't do what I had to do the last two days to get us up to this level to play tonight. That's where the pros come in."
Thornton and Jason Thompson each had 20 points as five Kings scored in double figures.
"(Smart) wanted us to run," Thompson said. "We want to be able to make plays with a lot of time on the shot clock rather than trying to start with only a short amount of time and get into our plays quicker. Trying to play some defense and finish it with rebounds."
It also helped to be playing a team that like the Kings has struggled most of the season.
In their final game of the season against a team with a losing record, the Kings (28-50) took advantage. The Hornets (27-52), one of two teams below the Kings in the Western Conference standings, have lost 10 of their last 11 road games and ended this trip 1-4.
The Kings also won their 20th home game. The last time they won that many at home was the 2007-08 season, when they went 26-15.
The Hornets had a scare when Anthony Davis, the first pick in last year's draft, left with 5:45 to play after drawing a charge from Thornton. Coach Monty Williams said he didn't believe the injury was serious.
Eric Gordon led New Orleans with 23 points, and Brian Roberts scored a career-high 20 points off the bench.