Most nights, scoring hasn’t been the Kings’ biggest problem this season.
It was Saturday.
Sacramento shot only 35.5 percent, its second-worst performance of the season, in a 95-90 loss to the Detroit Pistons at Sleep Train Arena.
Only the Kings’ 30.8 percent in their season-opening loss to Golden State was worse.
The Pistons (5-19) had lost 13 in a row before winning Friday at Phoenix. The Kings have lost three in a row.
Sacramento coach Michael Malone, however, was not discouraged by the offense.
“Disappointed we didn’t make shots, but I thought we missed a lot of great looks,” Malone said. “That third quarter really hurt us.”
In the third, the Kings shot 5 of 28 as the Pistons opened the period on an 11-0 run to take a 54-46 lead they would not surrender.
The Kings led 46-43 at halftime because they shot unusually well from three-point range.
The Kings made 7 of 14 three-point attempts in the first half, a season high for made threes in a half. They finished 11 of 29 (37.9 percent), both season highs.
The Kings are second to last in three-pointers attempted and made per game this season.
But Malone wasn’t bothered by the abundance to long-range shots Saturday.
“We were getting them off of drive-and-kicks and ball movement,” Malone said. “It wasn’t come down and jack threes. … Judge it on the quality of the shot, how you’re getting the shot. As long as we’re getting open looks, my hope is we’ll start to knock those shots down.”
Scoring is a lot tougher without center DeMarcus Cousins, who missed his ninth game because of viral meningitis. The Kings are 2-7 without him.
Cousins’ absence puts more pressure on Rudy Gay to produce.
Gay led the Kings (11-13) with 20 points on 6-of-22 shooting, and added eight rebounds and eight assists. Carl Landry had 15 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.
Josh Smith had 21 points and season highs of 13 rebounds and five blocks for Detroit (5-19). Greg Monroe led all scorers with 24 points off the bench for the Pistons.
Malone took some positives from the offense Saturday.
“I wasn’t overly disappointed with the offense,” he said. “I thought there was a lot of improvement with our execution, our ball movement. I thought in that third quarter we got a little stagnant at times, tried to do a little too much because we were struggling, but overall I wasn’t overly disappointed with the offense.”
Transition defense, however, was a problem.
Detroit scored 31 fast-break points, the most by a Sacramento opponent this season.
“We know we can’t rely on our shooting,” said guard Darren Collison. “This game was more on our defense, especially in transition, getting back and continuing to help each other out on the defensive end.”
Malone changed his substitution pattern off the bench. Instead of Ramon Sessions, second-year guard Ray McCallum backed up Collison.
McCallum hadn’t played in four of the previous five games. He had seven points and two assists.
Malone said he would take the rotation on a game-by-game basis but was pleased with McCallum’s play.
“I felt Ray earned the opportunity to play, and I felt he did a terrific job in the minutes he got,” Malone said.
Ryan Hollins started at center for the Kings on an emotional day. His father, Dernier Hollins, 61, passed away Saturday.
Gay said that even amid the losses, Hollins’ desire to play says a lot about how the Kings are coming together and supporting each other.
“The sacrifice he even made playing (Saturday) ... “ Gay said. “One of the toughest days in his life, it says a lot about the future of this team. That’s unbelievable, the sacrifice he made (Saturday) not to be with his family at a time of mourning, especially with somebody he was close to, somebody who raised him. To even want to be with us means a lot. ... Everybody out there, pray for his family.”