The Kings continue to be puzzled about how to manufacture some liveliness in the first 12 minutes of a game.
Only twice in seven games have the Kings led after the first period. And only their 40-27 outburst last Thursday against New Orleans could be classified as a stellar start.
So when the Kings opened slowly again Tuesday night at Indiana, it wasn’t surprising. Nor was the final result, a 101-83 loss to the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Kings (1-6) have lost five straight.
Their 13 points in the first marked a season-low for a quarter and forced them to play catch-up all night. Kings coach Dave Joerger wants his team to play fast and with energy, and he said this effort doesn’t cut it.
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“By and large, the starting lineup, whoever it is, they’ve got to have more life,” Joerger said. “I mean, good gracious. We came out in the second half and we had more assertiveness and more athleticism, but just walking around, slogging around in mud kind of.”
That boost amounted to 18 points in the third quarter, not nearly enough to compensate for 30 points in the first half, which set a season low for the second consecutive game after scoring 32 against Washington.
“It’s happened both the last two games,” Joerger said. “They’re up by (a lot) at halftime and they relax a little, but it’s too late. You’ve got to make it competitive right from the jump, and we’ll keep working on it. They’re young guys and they’re going to get better.”
The Kings never led and trailed by as many as 28 points.
Their offense was expected to be slow to materialize this season. What’s most troubling is the lack of energy that has been repeatedly mentioned by Joerger and his players.
Point guard George Hill said they can start fixing the problems by “staying together.”
“It can be a lot of things but it ain’t the time to point fingers and things like that,” Hill said. “It’s a time to come together and keep being encouraging and try to help one another try to figure it out.”
A byproduct of the lack of aggression shows up at the free-throw line. Sacramento attempted just 14 foul shots, including two from the starters, and made seven.
“I think for the most part some of us are going to the basket and things like that,” Hill said. “Just trying to get a call, but trying to stay consistent, trying to make something happen.”
To become the uptempo team Joerger is building toward, the Kings need to learn how to effectively attack the rim and finish more often.
Rookie point guard De’Aaron Fox had a game-high 18 points off the bench, but 12 came in the fourth with the game well in hand. He shot only one free throw.
“We’re probably not aggressive enough,” Fox said. “Coach was talking about cutting out the floaters, just trying to get to the line and trying to be strong. If they don’t call it, finish it. That’s just something we’re going to have to work on as a team.”