Kings play ‘horrible’ defense in loss to Heat

The Kings have been labeled selfish on offense for years.

But lately, they’ve shown they can be individualistic on defense, according to guard Isaiah Thomas.

“Defense is where we’re horrible,” Thomas said. “Usually it’s a team is playing selfish on offense, but we’re playing selfish on defense. We’re not playing as a team on the defensive end, and it’s showing. We won’t beat nobody if we keep doing that.”

The latest example was the Kings’ 122-103 loss to the Miami Heat on Friday at AmericanAirlines Arena.

For the second consecutive game, the Kings allowed a season high in field-goal percentage as Miami shot 61.4 percent. It also was the most points the Heat has scored this season and the worst road loss of the season for Sacramento.

The Kings have lost three consecutive games, all on their four-game trip that ends Saturday night at Orlando.

The defensive woes are the same that have bothered the Kings all season.

“We have nobody that can contain the basketball,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “They get by us at will. We have no rim protection; we have nobody protecting the basket.”

It mattered little to Malone that the Kings shot a season-high 58.1 percent or that DeMarcus Cousins scored a game-high 27 points.

That’s because Malone wants the Kings to improve defensively, which isn’t happening. Sacramento allowed a season-high 70 points in the paint, easily surpassing the previous worst of 48 (twice).

“Obviously, the message is not getting through,” Malone said. “They’re not accepting it, they’re unwilling to accept it ... I’m not sure what the problem is. I have to find five guys starting (Saturday night) in Orlando that are willing to compete on the defensive end of the floor, because I’m getting tired of looking up at the scoreboard and seeing teams score well above 100 points and shoot well above 50 percent against us.”

Malone said he would try to make the message clearer, but Thomas said it’s not Malone’s responsibility.

“Coaches can’t do nothing,” Thomas said. “It’s the players that play. We have to go out there and have a mindset of being a defensive player and giving the effort. Defense isn’t easy. I don’t know if guys think it’s supposed to be easy but it’s too hard, so they’re not doing it. First off, we’re not communicating – that’s half the battle right there. Secondly, we’re not helping each other, not giving the effort. It’s embarrassing.”

The Kings (7-18) erupted for 36 points in the first quarter, their highest-scoring opening period of the season. But keeping up with the Heat (20-6) was too much, considering Sacramento’s poor defense.

So even though the Kings matched their season high for points in a half, they trailed 67-61 at halftime.

“For the most part, it’s just basketball,” forward Rudy Gay said. “We have to play on a string and get back, myself included. All of us have to get back and play team defense.”

But the Kings haven’t shown a commitment to defense.

“I question how many guys we have on this team that take pride in their defense,” Malone said. “A lot of guys are worried about their numbers and their offense, and they’re not committed to the defensive end of the floor. That’s apparent every night you watch us play.”

Malone said his message won’t change but isn’t sure the Kings’ mentality will change.

“I haven’t seen too many guys that didn’t appreciate defense become defensive-minded players,” Malone said. “We’re going to try, and we’ve been preaching it since Day One.”

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