Sports

Kings’ offense better but still needs improving

Greivis Vasquez knows he was brought to Sacramento to help improve the Kings’ offense.

Sixteen games into the season, the starting point guard is not ready to offer a detailed assessment.

“After 30 games, I can really tell you how’s our offense, how we’re doing, how we fit, whether we don’t fit,” Vasquez said. “As of right now, we’re still a work in progress.”

The Kings have shown some improvement this season. They are passing more, and their turnovers are generally low in most games. The hangup continues to be in the details of execution and shooting, which hurts them late in games.

As the Kings look to break through and end their second five-game losing streak of the season against the Los Angeles Lakers tonight at Sleep Train Arena, they could help themselves with improved offensive efficiency.

As of Thursday night, the Kings averaged the second-fewest turnovers in the NBA at 13.4 per game. They were 18th in assists at 21.1 per game but ranked 23rd in field-goal percentage (.431) and 3-point percentage (.332). The Kings were 21st in scoring at 96.9 points.

The Kings have a habit of extending scoring droughts that have proven too hard to overcome. Coach Michael Malone likes how the team has made an effort to shed its selfish, one-on-one team label but knows there are still areas in which to improve to help the Kings go from losing close games to winning them.

“Sometimes, we’re so late getting into our offense, walking up the floor, now you’re battling the shot clock,” Malone said. “That’s a problem at times, setting screens, getting teammates open. And then at the end, I think we generate pretty good looks, high-percentage looks. It’s a matter of knocking those shots down, and if we can continue to get better in those areas, that’s going to help hopefully shorten up those dry spells or help eliminate those dry spells.”

It also doesn’t help that of the Kings’ starting five, only DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson played together before this season.

“Our chemistry hasn’t been where we want it to be; that’s the biggest thing,” Vasquez said. “We’re really inconsistent on when we have to take a shot, when we have to pass the ball. Sometimes, we look really good, sometimes we just don’t. We just have to grow as a team and try to do a lot better.”

The inconsistency has been a problem during the losing streak. Four of the five losses have been by six points or fewer, three by two or fewer.

The only blowout was a 100-86 loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles on Nov. 24.

The Kings have beat themselves up after the close losses. In the past two losses to Golden State and Oklahoma City, the Kings had chances to force overtime. In a 103-102 loss to the Clippers in L.A. on Nov. 23, Cousins missed a contested jumper over center DeAndre Jordan.

The Kings are 2-6 in games in which they’ve led or trailed by five points or fewer in the final five minutes.

Having Cousins back tonight gives the Kings their favorite late-game option. He missed Tuesday’s loss against Oklahoma City because of a sprained right ankle but worked out Wednesday and practiced Thursday.

In addition to being the Kings’ leading scorer, Cousins has passed the ball well lately. He has 22 assists in his past four games.

The Kings’ offense would benefit from taking advantage of the attention Cousins draws to create better scoring chances.

“We have to make sure we put ourselves in position to give him an outlet,” Malone said. “Cut to the basket, put pressure on the rim, and he’ll find you. We just can’t stand there and let him get double-teamed and not offer any outlets.”

It’s all a work in progress.

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