The Kings were down 19 in the second quarter. I didn't recall that fact until the last few moments, because the comeback in the third came so swiftly and effortlessly. But seriously, the Kings were well on their way to embarrassing and ignonimous defeat before settling for disappointing and imbecilic defeat.
While Spencer's suit got me laughing early on, some taped comments by Kenny Natt shown early in the game really stuck in my craw. Natt said that the best way to improve the defense was to ... pass the ball better on offense.
I typically defer to a coach's experience in matters of defense. But I find this hard to believe. The Kings passed BEAUTIFULLY Friday against Utah. And the defense out-and-out stunk. The same goes for Sunday's second half: but for a spurt of missed OKC shots in the early third, the Thunder scored efficiently all night. The Kings passed well in total. It just doesn't compute.
I wouldn't have let that get my goat if I hadn't watched San Antonio vs Boston earlier in the day. Man, those teams play defense. The Spurs fight so hard on defense that it's a serious shock when Ray Allen gets open off a screen. San Antonio is amazing at a) limiting three-point attempts, and b) minimizing three-point percentage. How? The opponent never gets a three off without a hand in the face. We always hear our broadcast team bemoan a King running out on a shooter and going right past them -- this can lead to the shooter taking a dribble to get free and burying a long two. I have a feeling the coaching staff argues the same point: don't overcommit on three-point shots. As such, our defenders step out toward the shooter and put a hand up ... but almost never leap or run full-on toward the shooter. And guess which team has the highest opponent three-point percentage in the league?
When you don't overcommit, you stand the risk of not really committing. This wasn't so much a problem against OKC because no team in the league takes fewer threes than the Thunder. But it's been a problem all year, and the lack of catch-up speed/effort also affects interior rotations. Spencer Hawes commits on rotations, but that usually results in an And-1. Jason Thompson commits on rotations, but that usually results in two free throws. There's never a back-up plan. If a guard overcommits on a shooter to deny the open three, the player can step in and get an open jumper ... because no one is backing up the initial defender. There is really no committment among the players on defense, and that results in open shot after open shot. Against Boston and San Antonio, scorers don't just have to beat one guy. They have to beat the whole team. Obviously, that's not the case in Sacramento.
I fear we have left our lane -- we began with a discussion of Natt's comments on offensive passing leading to better defense. As I said, I typically defer. But the problems on defense seem so ... obvious? fixable? that Natt's stated strategy comes off as concession. It's really Sloan in every way -- score and foul, score and foul -- but Natt doesn't have Sloan players. The plan fits the talent on offense -- Beno Udrih is a better scorer than passer, so it makes sense to institute a ball-sharing system featuring the high post and lots of cuts. But there really is no plan on defense, let alone one which plays to the strengths (relatively speaking) on the players on the roster.
To be fair, defense isn't something you teach in a couple months. And for all we know, that Natt comment could have been taken out of context. But it's discouraging on its face. If Pete Carril is Natt's offensive coordinator ... does he need a defensive coordinator too?