Sacramento Kings

Team chemistry has improved 3-point shooting, Kings say

Sacramento Kings forward Matt Barnes (22) and forward Anthony Tolliver (43) celebrate their during the game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Calif., on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017.
Sacramento Kings forward Matt Barnes (22) and forward Anthony Tolliver (43) celebrate their during the game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Calif., on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017. hamezcua@sacbee.com

Guard Darren Collison seemed surprised when told the Kings’ 18 3-pointers in a win over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night set a franchise record.

“Especially with all the shooters that’s been through this organization,” Collison said. “You think about Peja (Stojakovic), and Mike Bibby. Those are good shooters themselves. So that’s a good accomplishment.”

As franchise marks go, 18 is a modest number. The Houston Rockets earlier this season set an NBA records with 24 3-pointers in 61 attempts against New Orleans . The Kings probably don’t belong in the same long-range league as the Rockets, Warriors and Cavaliers.

But after a cold start this season, the Kings’ 3-point shooting has improved markedly over the past month. Sacramento shot a season-high 56.5 percent from beyond the arc in a win over Detroit on Jan. 10. Before that, they ranked 16th in the league in 3-point percentage at 35.3. Their 38.9 percent in games since Jan. 10 ranks fifth.

Have the shots or shooters improved?

“A combination of both,” said forward Anthony Tolliver. “We had so many new guys (early), you’re still trying to figure out where you’re going to get shots, how it’s going to all work out. You’ve got to build trust in each other, too, confidence in each other and everything else. The ball’s moving better; there’s more trust between us as teammates.”

The Kings are not hoisting up dramatically more 3-pointers, and if the quality of the looks has increased, it’s been only slightly.

Of all the shots the Kings have taken since Jan. 10, according to NBA.com, 14.6 percent have been “open” 3s with the closest defender 4 to 6 feet away, not much higher than their full-season share of 12.7 percent. Their percentage of “wide-open” 3s (13.9) has not changed in that span.

The Kings, moreover, have been without Garrett Temple and Omri Casspi, two of their better long-range shooters, due to injury. Yet more 3s are falling.

“We’ve still got good shooters,” Collison said. “Rudy (Gay) and Casspi are some of our better shooters, but Ben (McLemore’s) stepped up; he’s always been a real good shooter. Matt (Barnes has) always been a real good shooter. A.T.’s been a good shooter. We have some guys that can shoot the ball.”

McLemore, whose role has increased amid injuries on the wing, is 16 of 32 from beyond the arc in his past six games. He displayed his confidence during one sequence of the Kings’ 105-99 win over New Orleans on Sunday.

With the score tied 56-56 in the third quarter, McLemore caught a pass from center Kosta Koufos and made a 26-foot 3-ponter. After the Kings forced a turnover, DeMarcus Cousins again found McLemore, who immediately made another 3 from the top of the key, forcing the Pelicans to call a timeout.

“It looks good, right?” a grinning McLemore said later about his long-range shot. “Like you said, it’s all in confidence … I’m shot-ready all the time. And it’s falling.”

Cousins was actually the Kings’ top 3-point shooter for a stretch early this season. But when other players are making 3s, it opens up opportunities for Cousins in the lane and makes opponents think twice about double-teaming him. When they do, Cousins, who has had the ball more under coach Dave Joerger, can find teammates on the perimeter.

Collison is currently the Kings’ top 3-point shooter and seventh in the NBA at 42.4 percent, followed by Tolliver at 40.6 percent (tied for 23rd) and the injured Temple at 36.7 percent (tied for 63rd). In mid-December, Temple was the only King in the league’s top 40.

“It’s the same looks; it’s just that we’ve been playing together for a while now, (and) we have an idea of where the shots are going to come from,” Collison said. “We’ve got to continue to help space the floor out for DeMarcus, so that’s good for us.”

Though they were out-shot on 3s by the Pelicans, the Kings are 17-9 when they have a better 3-point percentage than their opponent and 6-24 when they don’t. So Tolliver said the recent uptick in long-range shooting is encouraging.

“Whenever you’re feeling good and you’re playing together and the ball is moving, you don’t feel like you have to rush it or take a bad shot (and) you’re going to make more shots,” Tolliver said. “The ball movement and the confidence in your own shot, it all goes hand in hand.

“At the end of the day, it’s more about kind of the way we’re playing. That’s the reason why the percentages are going up.”

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