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Kings’ offense goes cold in loss to Hornets

Sacramento Kings guard Darren Collison (7) drives to the basket against while being defended by Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) and Charlotte Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) during the first quarter.
Sacramento Kings guard Darren Collison (7) drives to the basket against while being defended by Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) and Charlotte Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) during the first quarter. aseng@sacbee.com

Adrenaline eventually wears off, and emotion can carry a team only so far.

For the Kings, that’s when the reality of life without DeMarcus Cousins sets in and the struggle to score becomes obvious.

On Saturday, the Kings couldn’t get going on offense and lost to the slumping Charlotte Hornets 99-85 at Golden 1 Center.

The Hornets had lost five in a row, nine of 10 and 12 of 13, surrendering at least 105 points in 12 of those games. But the Kings lacked the offensive efficiency they displayed against Denver on Thursday, when they scored 116 points against one of the NBA’s poorer defensive teams.

Before last weekend, the solution was simple when the Kings’ offense needed a spark: Get the ball to Cousins and hope he can score or set up a teammate.

Now the Kings must find other ways to end their droughts.

“I think that’s kind of like every other NBA team,” Kings forward Anthony Tolliver said. “The one thing we don’t have is that big guy that’s going to go score 30 every night. So we know it’s going to have to be a collective effort.”

The Kings shot 39.2 percent. They had only 58 points through three quarters and finished with only three fast-break points.

“(Saturday) we just didn’t make enough shots,” Tolliver said. “It’s going to be like that sometimes. Other nights, like Thursday, we made almost everything. At the end of the day, it’s going to be a process. We’re just going to have to work through it.”

The Kings dribbled too much Saturday, coach Dave Joerger said, contributing to their 14 turnovers. They also have new players learning the system and holdovers in new roles.

“We would like our point guards in those positions (dribbling), playing in pick-and-rolls, so we’ve got to stress certain things and get the ball in certain areas of the floor,” Joerger said. “We can struggle to score, and we talked about it the other night. Just try to help each other to score, move the basketball after an initial action, whatever it is, and then try to drive it from there. You might not be able to drive it just coming down the court. The idea of trying to move it after you get into the paint would help.”

Charlotte shot only 40.0 percent, but the Kings couldn’t contain center Frank Kaminsky, who made a career-high five 3-pointers in scoring a game-high 23 points to go with 13 rebounds.

The Kings, meanwhile, did not get the scoring from the center position they did against Denver. Willie Cauley-Stein, who had a career-high 29 points Thursday, went 0 for 5 from the field and scored only two points.

Charlotte denied Cauley-Stein the easy looks at the rim the Nuggets allowed. The Hornets also took the Kings’ perimeter players out of their games.

“I think teams are definitely going to start doing that now, playing the pick-and-roll where we’re not getting layups and dunks,” Cauley-Stein said. “And they’re going to challenge us from the 3-point line. But me personally, I’ve just got to find other ways to make an impact.”

That’s the challenge for the Kings, who played well entering the All-Star break largely because of the double- and triple-teaming Cousins drew.

Ben McLemore led the Kings with 18 points, eight in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach. Buddy Hield scored 13 of his 15 points in the fourth.

“Our job is to try to get better every day, and we see some improvement,” Joerger said. “ ... You keep trying to learn.”

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

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