If the Kings were waiting for a game that would shock them into a sense of urgency, it might have come Sunday.
The embarrassment of giving up 46 first-quarter points might jolt the players’ pride or lead to a change in strategy, because these Kings are synonymous with allowing season and career highs.
The Boston Celtics were the latest beneficiaries, compiling season highs for points in a quarter (46) and a half (74) in defeating Sacramento 128-119 at TD Garden.
I think we’re all pulling our hair out trying to figure that out.
Kings coach George Karl, on his team’s defensive issues
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The Kings have lost three consecutive games and seven of their last eight. In the last seven games, they’ve given up at least 30 points in the first quarter, but the Celtics took it to another level.
Boston scored the most points by a Sacramento opponent in a quarter and a half this season. The Celtics’ total also matched the Brooklyn Nets and Golden State Warriors for the most points allowed in regulation by the Kings this season. The Nets beat the Kings 128-119 Friday.
Lately, nothing seems to spark the Kings at the game’s outset – neither the possibility of falling further behind in the race for the final Western Conference playoff berth nor speculation coach George Karl’s job is in jeopardy.
Karl isn’t sure how to fix the defense or prevent the team’s slow starts.
“I think we’re all pulling our hair out trying to figure that out,” Karl said of the defensive issues. “But this is not a time of year you get a lot of practice time. Do you want to zone up? Do you want to come up with a gimmick pick-and-roll defense? I think we’ve tried just about every one that I know of. I just think we’ve got to actually simplify and try to find something we can do more efficient.”
In the offseason, the Kings added more veterans to handle predicaments, but no one seems to know how to contain the opposition early in games.
Said Rajon Rondo, known for his dry humor: “Just try to hold the ball? Don’t take a shot? I don’t know what we can do to try to stop teams from scoring 30 (in the first quarter).”
Added DeMarcus Cousins: “I guess we’ve got to find a better energy and effort as a team. Be more engaged.”
The Celtics might have scored more if not for 24 turnovers, the most by a Kings opponent this season. Boston shot 56.0 percent and benefited from Sacramento’s perpetual inability to stop three-point shooters, making 13 of 24 from beyond the arc.
In the first quarter, Boston sank seven three-pointers and scored 12 of its 23 second-chance points.
46 First-quarter points by the Celtics
“We turned the ball over, and then on offensive rebounds they kicked it out for threes, so it was a little bit of both,” Rondo said. “We didn’t protect the three ball again. They got off to a great start; 74 at half is not going to cut it.”
Until the Kings figure out something, they’ll continue being the team opponents circle on the schedule in anticipation of a big offensive game or an opportunity to get on track.
“If that’s what teams are thinking, we’ve got to find a way to change that,” Cousins said. “That’s a bad a way for a team to be feeling, that a team is coming in and, oh, they can have an easy night. We’ve got to find a solution because right now whatever we’re doing isn’t working.”
Said Karl: “Our focus has got to be better. It’s got to be stronger; it’s got to be more defensive-minded. We just can’t give up the numbers we’re giving up.”
The Kings were down two players Sunday: forward Rudy Gay, who sprained his left ankle Friday, and guard Ben McLemore, who aggravated his sprained right wrist Friday.
- Opponent: at Cleveland
- When: Monday, 4 p.m.
- TV/radio: CSNCA, 950, 1140