The Kings want to play faster. But that’s what the Denver Nuggets do better than them.
Still, the Kings tried, but their defense failed again, and the Nuggets sprinted past the Kings too easily, too often.
The Kings reverted to their old defensive ways, highlighted by a third-quarter collapse as the Nuggets ran by and out-hustled the Kings for a 118-108 win Friday night at Sleep Train Arena.
The Nuggets erased a six-point halftime deficit by opening the third quarter on a 22-4 run on their way to 64 second-half points.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
It was a contrast from Wednesday, when the Kings allowed season lows in points and field-goal percentage in a win over Oklahoma City.
“I believe every guy in this locker room knows why we lost,” said Kings center DeMarcus Cousins. “It’s because we didn’t defend. We can’t not defend against a team like that. (They’re) too high-powered offensively. We basically played their game. That’s how they wanted to play, and we’re not that type of team, and that’s the type of results you get.”
The Kings have spent the past 12 games trying to increase their pace on offense, but the result has been a 4-8 record, and most nights they’ve been bad on defense.
Friday’s effort fit the description of many Kings’ losses of late. The opponent shot well (55.3 percent), making the Kings’ scoring output irrelevant.
The Kings made 25 shots in the first half, a season high for a half, but the lead was just 60-54. The Kings shot 58.1 percent, but they allowed the Nuggets to shoot 54.5 percent.
“Everything was going so well for us in the first half,” said Kings guard Darren Collison. “They were shooting a high percentage, and I think it caught up with us.”
It did in a major way. The Nuggets shot better (56.1 percent) in the second half while the Kings tailed off (39.5 percent).
Collison said even though the Kings led at a halftime, it wasn’t a comfortable advantage.
“We weren’t getting stops, we were just outscoring them,” Collison said. “And that’s kind of scary going into the second half because you know you’re not going to shoot the ball extremely well throughout the course of the game. We stopped hitting shots, we didn’t play defense.”
And as coach Tyrone Corbin pointed out, the Kings became enamored with playing Denver’s style of basketball.
The Kings don’t have the depth on the wing that the Nuggets have, but they tried to keep pace by taking jump shots instead of going into the post to Cousins, who admitted even he was taking too many jump shots.
It speaks to the Kings’ struggles to master the high-tempo offense the organization wants while trying to utilize their biggest advantage, Cousins.
“It’s enticing, but it’s what they do,” Corbin said. “As we try to increase our pace, we have to be smart about who we play that pace against, and if it’s in their favor, we want to slow it down. We have a big asset inside.”
The Kings (15-21) weren’t aggressive enough, especially against a team that’s prone to fouling a lot and was thin in the frontcourt.
The Nuggets had only one true center healthy, rookie Jusuf Nurkic. JaVale McGee was out with a left lower leg strain and Denver traded its other center, Timofey Mozgov, to Cleveland earlier in the week.
Cousins finished with a game-high 32 points to go with 13 rebounds and a season-high four blocks. But he also had seven turnovers.
Rudy Gay added 22 points and Collison had 15 points and seven assists. Rookie Nik Stauskas had 13 points off the bench for Sacramento.
Six Nuggets (17-20) scored in double figures, led by Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo, who each scored 22 points.
Nurkic had 16 points and eight rebounds.