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Kings want to continue to pick up pace regardless of their lineup

No matter who is on the court for the Kings, playing with pep and ball security remain priorities.

The lineups have changed, and coach Dave Joerger has shortened his rotation, but that doesn’t mean he wants to abandon the principles he’s preached since training camp.

“Whether we play big or small, turnovers is a big issue,” Joerger said. “And also we’ve got to play with pace. We need all five guys to get up and down the floor, whether we shoot quick or not, just to get into offense quicker, get the defense on the move a little bit.’ 

The Kings entered Friday’s game against the Houston Rockets having totaled 26 assists in each of their past two games, both wins. The ball movement was better partly because the Kings got the ball across halfcourt quickly.

That has been stressed but not always executed. Playing with more pace also keeps the Kings from relying on one player, usually DeMarcus Cousins or Rudy Gay, to bail them out of a tough spot with a contested shot.

“I thought our second group (Wednesday) night, they came in and played with a lot of pace,” Joerger said. “They went fast up and down the court so we were able to move the ball, and that stuff gets contagious. And I think it’s a fun way to play.”

Joerger, however, does not want the Kings sprinting to take the first shot they see with no regard for the 24-second shot clock.

“Our intention is not to shoot quick unless we have something that’s nice and open,” Joerger said. “We’d gotten out there to where we were getting down to 12, 13 on the shot clock before we’d make our first pass.”

Overall, Joerger said he’s pleased with the Kings’ progress as they finished their five-game homestand.

“We’re getting better,” Joerger said. “We’ve played some good teams. We’ve played better as of late. Toronto was a good (win) for us, and we had a good, professional win against an Oklahoma City team on the second night of a back-to-back (for the Thunder). We’re starting to find a nice mix of chemistry between guys that are playing together at different times.”

Joerger went back to the starting lineup he used two games ago to face the Rockets. Ty Lawson started at guard with Darren Collison instead of Arron Afflalo.

The frontcourt of Cousins, Gay and Matt Barnes was the same for the third straight game.

Notes – The biggest change for the Rockets under new coach Mike D’Antoni has been moving star guard James Harden from shooting guard to point guard.

Harden entered Friday averaging a league-leading 12.5 assists. His 28.7 points per game ranked fourth in the league.

“It’s a little bit more difficult to guard him than it was in the past,” Joerger said.

After watching a lot of game footage of Harden, D’Antoni decided to give him a look at running the offense.

“I knew he had some characteristics of a point guard,” D’Antoni said. “And he was making plays anyway, so why not just give him the responsibility and try something different. I didn’t know for sure if that was the right way to go, but he’s embraced it on and off the court, and he’s done a terrific job so far.”

▪ Playing in Sacramento the day after Thanksgiving meant former Oak Ridge High School and Cal star Ryan Anderson was in town for the holiday. The veteran forward signed a four-year deal with the Rockets in July.

Anderson is averaging 12.3 points on 38.4 percent shooting this season.

“I think he’d like to be shooting a little bit better, but that’ll come,” D’Antoni said. “I don’t think we’re worried about that, but he’s been great. Just his presence on the floor opens everything up for James, so he’s a good fit for James. He spreads the floor; he can rebound. There’s a lot of good things that he does, so he’s been super.”

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

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