Kings Blog

DeMarcus Cousins says defense is Kings concern, not offense

Golden State’s Klay Thompson, driving against DeMarcus Cousins in the third quarter on Friday, set an NBA record with 37 points in the period.
Golden State’s Klay Thompson, driving against DeMarcus Cousins in the third quarter on Friday, set an NBA record with 37 points in the period. The Associated Press

By now, we all know the Kings want to play at a faster pace on offense.

But the numbers show Sacramento isn’t all that much different on offense since the switch to Tyrone Corbin as coach on Dec. 14.

Where the Kings are different is on defense. By most metrics, they’re worse at stopping teams.

One King in particular is tired of hearing about pace and said it’s time to stop using that as the reason the Kings haven’t played winning basketball in more than a month.

“It’s starting to become an excuse, (and) we don’t need another,” DeMarcus Cousins said. “Our style of play has nothing to do with us defending somebody. Our style of play changed with us trying to get into a quicker offense.”

The Kings want to get into their offense quicker, which actually is something they’ve talked about since the preseason when the emphasis was to get the ball across midcourt with 21 seconds still on the shot clock.

But after watching the Golden State Warriors score 126 points on Friday, with Klay Thompson scoring a record 37 of his 52 points in one quarter, Cousins wasn’t worried about offense.

The Kings shot 45.3 percent and averaged 101.1 points in their first 24 games. Their 19.5 assists per game were 29th in the league, but they averaged a league-high 32.2 free-throw attempts through Dec. 15.

Sacramento was tied for 14th in offensive efficiency rating (points per 100 possessions) at 103.6 and 16th in pace (possessions per 48 minutes) at 95.7. The Kings’ defensive rating through 24 games was 104.2, 12th highest in the league.

The Kings are averaging 102.6 points under Corbin (19 games). They’re shooting 46.1 percent and averaging 26.7 free-throw attempts, the most in the league since Dec. 16, Corbin’s first game.

The Kings are 18th in offensive efficiency (102.2) since Dec. 16 but fifth in pace (99.24) over that span. They’re tied for 27th with 19.9 assists per game.

But as Cousins noted, defense is the real issue. The Kings’ defensive efficiency rating over their last 19 games is 107.6, third highest over that span.

Cousins believes the Kings can play defense.

“I know what this team is capable of,” Cousins said. “I believe in this team. It’s just about us coming out and doing it.”

The Kings are allowing 107.9 points per game over the same span, the highest in the league entering Sunday.

The 101.3 points the Kings allowed per game in their first 24 games were the 11th most in the league, but they had the seventh-best field-goal percentage allowed (.439).

The field-goal percentage allowed (.469) since the emphasis on pace is seventh worst in the league.

Some would argue increased pace invites worse defense because the opponent gets more possessions.

Cousins doesn’t want to hear that.

“It has nothing to do with the way we defend,” Cousins said. “It should not change a guy’s effort. It should change how a guy comes in and competes. It’s an excuse.”

The Kings have a chance to end their six-game losing streak Monday against the New York Knicks.

The last time the Kings played New York, on Dec. 27 at Sleep Train Arena, they blew a late lead and needed overtime to hold off a struggling Knicks squad that managed to score 129 points, the most the Kings have allowed this season.

Cousins said it’s up to the players, not the coaching staff, to show the resolve needed to defend well.

“Each individual on the court knows if they’re coming out and playing hard,” Cousins said.

Cousins said he does that already.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I come to play every game, every single game.”

The Knicks are coming off a loss but had won three in a row. The Kings are coming off their most lopsided loss of the season and were on the wrong side of a historic shooting night by Thompson.

Moving on from that is simple.

“At the end of the day, it’s about coming out and competing,” Cousins said. “Just come out and compete at a high level. Man up and compete and play team basketball. We do that, a lot of these situations we wouldn’t even have. Just come out and compete.”

Follow The Bee’s Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.

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