Friday night’s overtime loss at Portland led Kings coach Dave Joerger to dust off a term he already has used a few times this season: “Catastrophic” turnovers.
For Joerger, this especially applies to turnovers that don’t result in a dead ball – such as a steal or bad pass. Not only do they squander an offensive possession, they usually prevent the Kings from setting up their defense going the other way.
The Kings committed a number of those among 15 turnovers in Portland. And the Trail Blazers converted them into 25 points in a 122-120 win, showing why certain turnovers can be so costly.
“Teams in the league now aren’t just coming down (the floor) two-on-one and getting a layup or an and-one,” Joerger said Sunday. “They’re coming down, getting in the paint, kicking it out and hitting those 3s on you. That hurt us in both the Laker game and in the Portland game.”
The Kings also turned the ball over 15 times in Thursday’s loss to the Lakers, leading to 13 points. It hasn’t been an egregious problem – as of Sunday, the Kings’ 14.3 turnovers per game ranked 14th in the NBA. But they were allowing the ninth-most points off turnovers in the league at 18.7 a game.
Underscoring the effect it can have on their defense: Before playing the Lakers, the Kings had committed a total of 21 turnovers in their prior two games – both wins and two of the three games this season in which the Kings held their opponent under 100 points.
Joerger said turnovers were down in those games partly because the Kings were in more of a set offense and limited the faster play that can lead to transition mistakes, like home run passes up the floor that are stolen.
“I think some of them are just careless,” Joerger said. “The long passes, I love the fact that guys are out running and we’re looking for our teammates. Those are good. But we’re not completing them. Nothing bad happens if you don’t throw that pass. Something bad can happen if it doesn’t get there.”
The Kings haven’t had much time to practice their offensive sets since the season began, amid playing 11 games in 17 days. But they are in a four-day stretch without a game, affording a chance to hit the practice court.
After taking Saturday off, the Kings practiced Sunday afternoon and focused mostly on things like late-game and late-clock situations. Joerger described it as more of a “mental” day before ramping up activity Monday.
Having introduced some offensive concepts “on the fly” in the first weeks of the season, Joerger said he may not even try giving more to his players during this break. The Kings return to the court Wednesday to begin their first extended homestand – five games, all against teams that made the playoffs last season, starting with San Antonio.
That is followed by a six-game trip to the East Coast and Texas. The Kings play 19 of their first 31 games on the road, a schedule that drew a wry response from guard Matt Barnes.
“When I played for the Clippers, our schedule was patterned to us,” Barnes said. “It was good travel, good homestands; it catered to us. This is a ‘Who gives a (darn) about the Kings’ type of schedule. We’ve just got to be ready to play every game every night, and the schedule will balance out at some point.”
It is giving Joerger’s staff an early gauge on three areas where it wants improvement. Along with the defense, Joerger said the Kings want to play better on the second night of a back-to-back after a loss – which mirrors the urgency of needing a win after a loss in the postseason. So far, the Kings are 1-2 in those situations.
“And we want to be better at home,” said Joerger, whose team is 2-2 at Golden 1 Center. “So we’ll see if we can knock off some of these teams and get ourselves a little bit of momentum.”