Why can’t every night be like Jan. 11?
That was the last time the Kings won a game, defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers 103-84 thanks in part to committing a season-low five turnovers.
Five turnovers. So, yes, the turnover-prone Kings have the ability to take care of the ball.
But for these Kings there have been too many nights in which they haven’t done that, especially during their current seven-game losing streak – the team’s longest of the season.
Since beating the Cavaliers, the Kings are averaging 18.6 turnovers per game, leading to 20.6 points for opponents.
As the losses pile up, the Kings are throwing the ball around more. And when opponents turn up the pressure, the Kings play right into their hands with ill-advised passes and forced offense.
“We’ve just got to screen better, be more patient with the offense, trust the offense,” said guard Darren Collison. “I think at times when we’re losing we tend to try to take over the game ourselves and that’s how turnovers happen.”
The Kings average 15.8 turnovers entering Thursday, fourth most in the NBA. The team has averaged 17.7 turnovers in their 28 losses this season. In the team’s 16 wins, the Kings average 14.5 turnovers.
DeMarcus Cousins leads the team with 140 turnovers in 32 games, an average of 4.4 per night, which is tied for the league lead with Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams.
Rudy Gay said the solution is simple.
“Take care of the ball,” said Gay, who averages the second-most turnovers on the team at 2.6 per game. “Better spacing, move ball, smart passes, making passes to the right man. Correct basketball stuff.”
Similar to Collison, Gay said the Kings find trouble when they try to do too much.
It’s not as if turnovers haven’t been a problem in the past. They’ve been an annual problem, a key reason why the Kings’ offense struggles to generate assists (an NBA-low 19.6 per game) while piling up turnovers.
“We’re thinking pass second, instead of making plays for a teammate,” Gay said.
In the Jan. 11 game, the Kings made solid decisions and didn’t go for the risky, highlight play. It was easier to do with a lead, which they had most of that night against the Cavs.
When things have gone badly for the Kings, they compound mistakes with multiple turnovers that turn a close game into a blowout.
“It seems like when we do turn it over, we do it in a bunch,” said Kings coach Tyrone Corbin.
Getting back to making the simple play is also what Corbin stresses. Sometimes the Kings hurt themselves with a wayward pass. Other times, the turnovers come on offensive fouls when a player is trying to make a play for himself instead of giving up the ball.
“Sometimes we’ve got to make sure we don’t try to make the home run play,” Corbin said. “Just make the simple play and not continue to hurt ourselves.”
In Wednesday’s loss in Toronto, Cousins committed nine turnovers – the second time he’s had at least nine during the losing streak.
As his coach has echoed, Cousins has said he needs to make better decisions with the ball.
“One of the things we’ve talked about is when we put the ball in his hands teams are coming after him, doubling him and coming after him,” Corbin said. “And we’ve talked about when they do come after him the way we need to space the floor and just try to make the simple play sometimes instead of trying to split two guys or getting offensive fouls because of the way they’re playing him.”
The Kings don’t necessarily need another five-turnover game to beat the Cavs tonight, but they can’t have another 18-turnover night like they’ve had over the past seven games if they expect to win.