Sacramento Kings

Kings’ preseason finish raises concerns

Kings coach Michael Malone said defense remains an issue with his team, and he hopes his starters realize they must play with a sense of urgency now that the regular season looms.
Kings coach Michael Malone said defense remains an issue with his team, and he hopes his starters realize they must play with a sense of urgency now that the regular season looms. Sacramento Bee file

The Kings played their final two preseason games with a goal to find cohesion with their starting lineup.

That didn’t happen, even though the opposition was set up to give the Kings plenty of confidence.

The San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers rested top-line players for key stretches or the entire game. The Spurs sat Tim Duncan, 2014 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter and did not play Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili late. The Lakers were without Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Carlos Boozer and Jordan Hill.

That didn’t matter. The players on the floor, including some who did not make the Spurs’ or Lakers’ final roster, made the Kings’ regulars look bad.

“Our starting group has to realize the sense of urgency is here,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “There’s no more preseason games; it’s real on Wednesday night. And if they play like that, we’re going to do like we did (Friday), get in guys that bring some energy.”

The Kings won their preseason finale 93-92 against the Lakers. But the win came thanks to the likes of Ray McCallum, currently the Kings’ third point guard, Reggie Evans and Trey Johnson, who was waived Saturday.

The group that started the third quarter against the Lakers was Darren Collison, Ben McLemore, Derrick Williams, Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins. Williams started the game in place of Rudy Gay, who was out because of a sore jaw.

But even without Gay, the Kings did not expect to look so bad against the Lakers in the third quarter, especially with the team supposedly treating the game like a regular-season contest to prepare for the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday.

“I thought that starting group in the third quarter was awful,” Malone said. “We played no defense.”

Defense remains Malone’s biggest concern. Statistically, the Kings were OK on defense in the preseason. Opponents shot 44.3 percent and averaged 98.3 points.

Those are numbers the Kings would welcome during the regular season. But some of those numbers were boosted by playing a non-NBA team, Maccabi Haifa.

Malone also was not happy with how some opponents met little resistance during the preseason, especially in situations where the starters should have been dominant.

For Malone, it wasn’t about wins and losses but how his team looked, and he hopes to see a more consistent effort this week.

“No disrespect to the Lakers, but there’s no Steve Nash, there’s no Kobe Bryant, there’s no Carlos Boozer, there’s no Jordan Hill,” Malone said. “We allowed a bench unit in San Antonio to beat us, and we allowed a lot of their bench players (Friday) to really beat us. Our defense is not where it needs to be. Teams are scoring way too easy.”

The Kings will be at full strength against the Warriors. Gay’s CT scan Saturday revealed no fracture in his jaw after he was elbowed by Lakers rookie Julius Randle.

McLemore, who left the game against the Lakers because of a gash above his right eye that needed five stitches, passed a concussion test and will be available.

Follow The Bee’s Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.

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