Sacramento Kings

Houston Rockets beat Sacramento Kings with three-pointers

Kings guard Ben McLemore shoots over Houston’s Jason Terry on Thursday night. McLemore is hitting 40 percent of his three-point attempts.
Kings guard Ben McLemore shoots over Houston’s Jason Terry on Thursday night. McLemore is hitting 40 percent of his three-point attempts. hamezcua@sacbee.com

The Houston Rockets are firm believers in the three-point shot being key to success. Entering Thursday’s game against the Kings at Sleep Train Arena, the Rockets led the NBA in three-pointers attempted (34) and made (11.9) per game.

The Kings aren’t big on the three-point shot. They entered Thursday last in average attempts (13.8) and makes (4.4). The Kings were 28th in three-point percentage (.280), while the Rockets were 16th at .349.

The Rockets stayed true to their style, launching 41 three-pointers and making 13 in regulation, while the Kings were prudent with just four makes in 12 attempts in a game Houston won 113-109 in overtime.

The Rockets trailed by 12 points in the second half but made 7 of 14 three-pointers to force overtime.

The Kings looked to improve their three-point shooting after finishing tied for 27th in 2013-14 by making 33.3 percent of their tries. Kings coach Michael Malone said his goal was not to see the Kings take more three-pointers this season (they averaged 18 a game last season), but to become more proficient.

The Kings drafted Nik Stauskas to help in that area. They also hoped additions such as Omri Casspi, Darren Collison and Ramon Sessions would create better looks and improve the percentage.

“It was trying to get better three-point shooters, guys that could step up and make shots,” Malone said. “But the reality is, right now we’re not shooting a very good percentage. And if we’re not shooting a great percentage, the last thing I would want to do is shoot more.”

The Kings had only four players – Ben McLemore, Derrick Williams, Rudy Gay and Collison – shooting above 30 percent from beyond the arc entering Thursday.

McLemore led the way at 40 percent. Casspi (14.3 percent), Sessions (29.4 percent) and Stauskas (23.4 percent) have had their struggles this season from three-point distance.

McLemore has become the Kings’ most consistent threat from beyond the arc after making only 32 percent of his three-point tries last season by becoming better at reading defenses and playing off DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay.

“When Rudy and DeMarcus get double teams, just finding the open space on the floor,” McLemore said. “When defensive players double team those guys, just find a way to get open for those guys and get in their line of vision.”

McLemore said the only way the Kings will become a better three-point-shooting team is to stay aggressive in finding good looks.

“Try to stay focused, confident and knock down the shot when I’m open,” McLemore said. “I think we’ll do a better job. We’ve just got to find ways to create for ourselves and get that open shot and knock them down.”

Stauskas was the highest-ranked shooter by the Kings in the draft, which is why they were eager to select him with the eighth overall pick in June’s NBA draft. But the transition to being a good three-point shooter as a pro hasn’t been easy, and the rookie has struggled with his shot.

Stauskas said the Kings need to do more to play off their top scorers.

“If they’re getting doubled, then we can put ourselves in position to knock down open shots,” Stauskas said. “Because sometimes we are open, but we’re cross court where they can’t see us when they’re double teamed, so we have to do a better job of getting open.”

If that’s happening, Malone won’t have a problem with the Kings shooting more from long range.

“If we’re shooting good threes, uncontested threes, getting threes off ball movement and they’re not going down, I’ll live with that,” Malone said. “Nik, Ben especially, I want them shooting.”

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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