Exactly how long does it take something to become a habit?
In the NBA, that could be a matter of a few games or a few months.
The Kings are trying to make their spoken style of play a habit. Since the start of training camp, the Kings have talked about a team that puts defense first and couples that with crisp, efficient offense.
The Kings have shown they can do that, but consistency has been elusive. They return home for a long span of home games, having played 10 of 16 on the road to start the season.
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But they’re also returning after two of their more disappointing efforts in which their offense (namely turnovers) and defense have failed them in consecutive losses at Houston and San Antonio.
If the Kings are going to make the most of their time at home, they have to play better defense.
In Houston, the Rockets set season highs for three-pointers made and assists by an opponent. The Spurs matched the number of threes, had more assists and had the best shooting night of the season for a Sacramento opponent.
The Spurs’ 112 points matched the most the Kings have given up this season and were the most they’ve allowed in regulation this season.
It was the opposite of how the Kings played in beating the Spurs in Sacramento, when they defended well to overcome an off shooting night.
“I never know which team is going to show up,” said Kings coach Michael Malone. “Are we going to be a team that decides to defend for 48 (minutes) and value the basketball and play together? Or are we going to be a team that tries to outscore people and not defend. I think it’s been proven in our losses we can’t play like that.”
The Kings allow 97.9 points per game in their wins and 104.7 points per game in their losses.
It should be noted the Kings were not at full strength in either loss. Darren Collison and Rudy Gay missed the Houston game with injuries, while DeMarcus Cousins was sick and missed the San Antonio game.
But these Kings aren’t citing that as a reason to allow teams to score at will.
After all, the Rockets were down three starters last week. Still, there’s no panic among the Kings after going 6-4 on the road to start the season.
The Kings see their missed assignments on defense as things that can be fixed.
“Everything that happened (Friday are) things we can definitely clean up, and I’m definitely optimistic about moving forward,” Collison said. “Even though we played poorly, offensively and defensively, we’ll pick it up. We’ve just got to clean some things up. We should be ready to go” today against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Malone is a believer that bad offense leads to bad defense, and some of the bad offense is at fault lately.
The Kings gave up a season-high 32 points off turnovers to Houston and another 20 points to the Spurs off turnovers.
Gay said what the Kings need to do to play consistently is simple.
“Just being disciplined,” Gay said. “Being disciplined for the whole shot clock and executing on offense.”
Meanwhile, Malone simply doesn’t want to see the Kings seduced by a style of play that is fun but doesn’t produce wins.
Friday’s game was one of the Kings’ better offensive showings, but that was lost in how the Spurs scored better.
“It’s a mentality,” Malone said. “It’s a mentality and we have to have it. In our nine wins we’ve had it, in our seven losses we haven’t.”
If the Kings hope to have more nights like they’ve had in their nine wins, they’ll need that mentality.