To play the way Dave Joerger wants the Kings to play isn’t easy.
That whole play defense for 48 minutes concept is designed to wear down opponents. But before it can do that, the Kings have to master playing with the fortitude necessary to carry out that plan consistently.
“It’s not something you can just come out and do,” said DeMarcus Cousins. “It’s a mindset. It takes a lot of energy and effort and also a lot of focus. You can talk it but you’ve got to go out and perform it on a nightly basis.”
Though there were moments Cousins thought the Kings were lackadaisical defensively, they still held the injury-depleted New Orleans Pelicans in check well enough for a 102-94 victory Tuesday night at Golden 1 Center.
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It was also the first game of the season for Darren Collison, who missed the first eight games due to an NBA suspension for pleading guilty to misdemeanor domestic battery.
That the Kings would nitpick at holding a team to 45.2 percent shooting and under 100 points is a sign that perhaps Joerger’s message is becoming something the team will absorb and implement regularly.
It was the second consecutive win for the Kings, who relied heavily on defense for a win at Toronto on Sunday. Prior to that, Joerger was worried about the Kings slipping in the defensive focus.
He didn’t like that the Pelicans scored 46 points in the paint, but overall, Joerger liked how the Kings competed.
“When you are playing that hard it takes it takes a while to learn to play that hard on a nightly basis,” Joerger said. “We are learning that and I was impressed.”
Gay said the process of becoming a good defensive team can be challenging. But the defense is helped when turnovers are at a minimum. The Kings had only 10 turnovers
“It’s not easy to be good, that’s part of it,” Gay said. “If that was the case, we’d been good a long time ago. It’s not easy to be good. You’ve got to be disciplined and that’s one thing, (Joerger) wants us to be disciplined and be the same team night in and night out.”
Cousins led the Kings (4-5) with 28 points. Gay added 21 points and Arron Afflalo had 15 points. Collison had nine points off the bench.
Anthony Davis led New Orleans (0-8) with 34 points.
The return of Collison should help an offense that has shown a tendency to stall and not play with the pace to be efficient. Collison ended up playing 28 minutes and had four assists, too.
“He did a great job,” Joerger said. “He’s worked hard and stayed after it. Spending time with the coaches and learning and making sure he was up to speed on everything.”
Collison entered the game in the first quarter to cheers. He traveled with the team on its five-game trip, so he’d seen up close how the team struggled, losing four straight before winning at Toronto.
He’d practiced with the team, but acknowledged playing in a game still feels different.
“It’s always tough playing your first game after everybody’s had their legs up under them,” Collison said. “I think the season is going to be just fine for my and my teammates. I didn’t look like I was losing a lot of breath or I was tired or out of shape.”
Collison said Joerger could have tried to get more out of him.
“I would have loved to play more but I know what coach was thinking,” Collison said. “It just felt good to get on the court.”