Kings vs. Spurs: Per usual, defense is Sacramento's problem

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Kings lost because they couldn't get stops. News at 11.

There really isn't a whole lot more to say about the Kings' Sunday loss to the Spurs in a macro sense: Sacramento is bad at defense, especially on the road, and San Antonio is so seasoned and efficient on offense that it overcame a tight game to win late. The Kings' offense did implode in the final three minutes as San Antonio finished on a 10-2 run. Scoring two points in three minutes with six possessions is a real problem. But giving up 10 points in three minutes on six possessions is also a real problem! And when you take the full game into perspective, the Kings scored plenty of points. They didn't get enough stops.

From Pounding The Rock

From Pounding The Rock

The Spurs have the No. 4 defense in the NBA, giving up 101.1 points per 100 possessions; in San Antonio, the Kings put up an offensive rating of 113.9. (Offensive rating is points per 100 possessions. For a single game, you divide points by possessions and multiply by 100.) The Spurs have the No. 6 offense in the NBA, scoring 108.7 points per 100 possessions. San Antonio had an offensive rating of 122.7 on Sunday. The Kings offense was not the problem in the macro sense.

In a nice change of pace, the opponent didn't really kill the Kings from long-range; the Spurs were 8-24 from long-range. Instead, the Spurs lived at the rim. Some 43 of the Spurs' 94 field goal attempts (46 percent) were in the restricted area, per NBA.com/stats, and S.A. converted them at 62 percent. Those numbers were slightly better than San Antonio's season averages for those figures (44 percent frequency, 59 percent conversion).

The Kings can't defend the rim. This is a constant problem for the team. DeMarcus Cousins has done well defending the post straight-up, but opponents cut behind him pretty easily and he struggles guarding the roll man or rotating to help. Jason Thompson's defense has been problematic. The guards allow easy penetration; Ben McLemore and Marcus Thornton both got killed by Manu Ginobili off of the dribble. Manu Ginobili is like 70 years old. San Antonio is a fantastic offensive team, yes. But the Kings have allowed even bad offensive teams to go nuts for pretty much the same reasons: they can't defend the rim, they allow too much penetration and they don't guard the line well. At least they succeeded in one out of three categories on Sunday.

It'd make me feel a whole lot better to know that it is definitely a "we need better players" thing and not a "the scheme doesn't work" thing.

***

A quick note on Ben McLemore and the rotation.

The rookie was not good on Sunday. He had a rough time on offense, and he got torched quite a bit on defense. But he played 31 minutes, including all of crunch time. And I am totally fine with that, and legitimately prefer it to any other option. You don't learn how to play at the NBA level wearing warmups. You learn on the court. And Manu taught McLemore a few lessons on Sunday. Marcus Thornton wasn't doing anything on offense in his minutes either, and was worse on defense. (The Kings' worst defensive stretches, other than the final three minutes, were periods in the second and fourth quarters which featured Thornton-Travis Outlaw and a point guard [I.T. or Jimmer Fredette], a smallball four [Rudy Gay or Derrick Williams] and an undersized five [Quincy Acy or Thompson].

The Kings were tied with the defending West champs with three minutes left on the road with Ben McLemore playing 31 minutes. A competitive game and lots of valuable playing time for a rookie. What's not to like? I know that Malone needs wins, and I love watching victories -- Friday's game was incredible. But there's maybe nothing more important this season than developing McLemore. (Making Cousins efficient and reliably productive is maybe 1b on that list.) There's really no reason to complain about McLemore playing 31 minutes. The Kings are building for the future. McLemore is going to be a huge piece of that. He needs all the playing time he can get.

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