Late in the fourth quarter Saturday at Sleep Train Arena, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry drove into the lane against the Kings’ defense, kicked a pass out to Draymond Green and curled untracked into the left corner, where he received a quick pass from Klay Thompson. With no defender within 10 feet, the league’s top scorer unleashed a quick three-pointer and turned to face the Kings’ bench before the shot dropped in.
Few teams have the shooters or ball movement of the Warriors. But other opponents are firing away from beyond the arc against the Kings, who are allowing a league-high 29.2 three-point attempts per game this season.
Granted, that is partly because the Kings already have matched up four times against the Warriors, who lead the league in three-point percentage (42.9) and attempts per game (30.2). But Nov. 27 against the Kings, the Minnesota Timberwolves attempted 25 threes, compared with their league-low average of 15.2. The Milwaukee Bucks, who average 16.4 three-point attempts per game, shot 31 against the Kings on Nov. 25.
I think we have to be more consistent with our defensive intensity.
Kings forward Rudy Gay
Not all of those shots are wide-open looks: The Kings’ opposing three-point percentage of 36.0 is tied for ninth-highest. But the sheer volume of attempts has led to the Kings allowing a league-high 10.5 made three-pointers per game, contributing to their league-worst scoring defense (108.6 points per game).
Asked whether the long-range tendency has been more the result of the opponents’ styles or aim to exploit an area of the Kings’ defense, coach George Karl said: “It’s probably all of the above.”
“Probably weak pick-and-roll defense and we’re not a great rebounding team – offensive rebounds turn into three-balls with a lot of teams in this league,” Karl said Monday. “The three places three-balls happen are transition, offensive rebounds and, usually, breakdowns in defensive coverage.”
Overall, Karl said he thought the Kings did some good things defensively in Saturday’s loss to the Warriors. But like the overall defensive effort, staying with assignments on the perimeter and closing out to contest three-point looks continue to be inconsistent.
“I think it’s an up-and-down thing,” forward Rudy Gay said of the perimeter defense. “We have games where we shut people down, and we have games where guys are shooting threes, making them and going off. I think we have to be more consistent with our defensive intensity.”
The Kings could get a boost in that regard Wednesday against the New Orleans Pelicans with the expected return of Omri Casspi, one of their more energetic presences who has missed the past four games because of upper back soreness. Casspi practiced fully Monday and said he should be ready by Wednesday.
“I’m sure he’ll be playing,” Karl said.
Casspi’s return could help the Kings shore up their rebounding – the forward is their third-leading rebounder with 6.7 per game. So might Willie Cauley-Stein, who played nine minutes against Golden State after missing two games because of a right middle finger laceration.
The Kings are entering a four-game stretch against Western Conference teams that offers an opportunity to make a move in the standings. After the 11-win Pelicans, the Kings face the Utah Jazz, which is two games ahead of Sacramento for the West’s eighth playoff seed. Then come the Los Angeles Clippers and the conference-worst Lakers, bringing Sacramento to the halfway point of the season.
108.6 League-worst points per game allowed by the Kings
“It gives us a chance to get our feet under us, having a couple days off, a couple days of practice like (Monday),” Gay said. “But basically, we have some teams that we think we can beat, and we have to take advantage of our schedule right now.”
None of the Kings’ next four opponents is a top-10 team in three-point percentage or attempts. But the Kings’ must address defensive problems besides those on the perimeter.
“It’s not all on just the perimeter players,” guard Darren Collison said. “Trust me, it’s a list of issues that we have on the defensive end. That’s just what it is right now.”