It’s the coach’s job to find something for his team to work on, even when all appears well.
Michael Malone did that with the Kings, noting they gave up 72 points in the second and fourth quarters combined Wednesday night.
Considering the Kings won their fourth consecutive game by trouncing the Denver Nuggets 131-109 at Sleep Train Arena, Malone was doing what all coaches do by pointing out areas that need improvement.
As he reminded the media and his team, it’s still early in the season and the Kings cannot be satisfied with their 4-1 start, their best since the 2001-02 season.
“I’m happy we won,” Malone said. “I’m happy with all the good things we did, but I don’t want us creating poor habits. And to allow a team to score 37 points in the fourth quarter the way they did, as I told our team, is unacceptable … .
“We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard, and we have to defend for 48 minutes.”
There was much more on the acceptable side for Malone to sort through. The Kings committed only 13 turnovers, shot 55.3 percent, made 40 percent of their three-pointers and attempted 50 free throws.
“We’re playing in an attack mode, very aggressive,” Malone said. “And I think Rudy (Gay) and DeMarcus (Cousins) are playing at a very high level.”
Cousins played only 22 minutes, but that was far more of him than the Nuggets wanted to see. He had 30 points and 11 rebounds. making 10 of 14 from the floor and 10 of 11 free throws.
Cousins fouled out with 11:32 to play after picking up two offensive fouls to start the fourth quarter.
Gay was also efficient in tallying 29 points. He made 9 of 12 shots, including all three of his three-point attempts. Gay also converted 8 of 10 free throws and had three rebounds and two assists.
The Kings had six players in double figures. Carl Landry had 18 points off the bench as he continues to look healthy after playing only 18 games last season because of hip and knee injuries.
Gay said the teamwork that was discussed all offseason is manifesting itself in the good start to the season. More players are talking about trusting one another at moments when they would splinter in past seasons.
“We’ve been fighting and we’ve been playing with the confidence that we can beat anybody,” Gay said. “That goes to show when you go through times when you can’t score, you go down maybe six points, and we’ve done all that.
“We’ve been playing hard and coming out of those deficits and also making holes for other teams.”
Cousins sounded like Malone when asked what the Kings could learn from a win in which they led by 36.
“The second quarter we gave up (35) and in the fourth quarter we gave up 37,” Cousins said. “We can improve on that a lot. We can’t have breakdowns regardless if we’re up 30 or we’re up two. We can’t have those kind of defensive breakdowns, and we can’t relax the way we did (Wednesday).
“That game could have easily changed, but we stayed poised through it, and we pulled out a win.”
The Nuggets (1-3) again excelled at committing fouls against the Kings. After committing 35 against the Kings on Monday in Denver, the Nuggets had 37. The Kings weren’t much better, being called for 30 fouls.
Randy Foye led Denver with 19 points off the bench. Ty Lawson added 13 points and nine assists.
Follow The Bee’s Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.
KINGS AT PHOENIX
▪ Time: 6 p.m.
▪ TV: CSNCA