The Kings’ plan to play at a high pace is showing on the scoreboard in the early going.
Sacramento is averaging 123 points and has shot better than 50 percent in both regular-season games. However, their opponents are also scoring at a high level while shooting with accuracy.
The New Orleans Pelicans did both in a big way Friday, handing the Kings a 149-129 loss at Smoothie King Center. The hosts’ scoring total was a franchise record. But they continued to learn in their young season, taking a lesson to prepare them for their second road game Sunday at the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Kings will probably face a Thunder team with point guard Russell Westbrook, who has sat out the beginning of the season while recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery on Sept. 12. Like the Kings, the Thunder have lost the first two games.
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But coach Dave Joerger isn’t discouraged.
“We have things to work on certainly, but I like what I see,” he said. “I saw some really good things offensively (Friday). I see a lot of things defensively that can be learned through experience. It just takes time as younger guys learn how to play against older guys.
“I am not fired up about giving up 149, but I do like what I see from a lot of our guys.”
Kings guard De’Aaron Fox said the team’s offense isn’t an issue and the high number of points being scored against them is a result of faster play, which has also led to a lot of fouls. For example, Sacramento was whistled 26 times Friday, just one more than New Orleans.
“With pushing the pace, that means both teams are going to get more possessions,” Fox said. “Right now, we are getting a lot of fouls and putting the team on the free-throw line a lot. That’s definitely affecting our defense.”
What the Kings faced was a team matching its approach and speed. The speed of the game also suited what the Pelicans wanted to do, coach Alvin Gentry said.
“I think we’ve got to lock in a little more defensively, but I want us to play at that pace,” he said. “More so than anything, I think we did a good job of finding the hot hand. When (Nikola Mirotic) got going, we ran a lot of good stuff with him.”
Fox said the Kings need to work on defending the perimeter better. New Orleans had eight different players with at least one 3-pointer and as a team shot 16 for 31 for 51.6 percent.
“Teams are shooting 3s extremely well against us and that’s the shot of the NBA,” he said.
Marvin Bagley III finished with 19 points Friday and eight rebounds. He committed his fifth foul late in the third quarter, but Joerger let the rookie play on, only sitting him for less than two minutes in the fourth.
He logged a team-leading 33 minutes Friday after getting just 12 in Wednesday’s opener. Bagley’s numbers looked good, but he didn’t seem too concerned with his statistics.
“I did all right. I’d like to win and get us going in that direction, but it’s a process,” Bagley said. “It’s Game 2 of a long season, so we’ve got to figure out what we need to do to pull games like that out.”
Part of what will help the Kings be able to do that is getting stronger and more experienced, Joerger said.
“We have people going past us, going over us, and going through us,” Joerger said. “I thought they were more physical than we were and they got in the lane early in the game. Once they smelled that, it was tough. ... We got into some foul trouble with our bigs early that maybe or maybe not took away some aggressiveness.”