The Sacramento Kings defeated the Denver Nuggets 131-109 on Wednesday, improving to a 4-1 record on the season. Following the game, head coach Michael Malone and his players shared their thoughts with the media on what went right. They also stressed the need to keep their foot on the pedal with a full 48 minutes of defense as they hit the road for their Friday matchup with the Phoenix Suns.
What Went Right
Michael Malone: "What I am really happy about is 21 assists and only 13 turnovers. 13 turnovers is our target number. If we can stay at that number or below, we're going to be amongst the league leaders in fewest turnovers per game. But to see Carl Landry getting his rhythm back and give us the presence he's giving us in the post off the bench; Ray McCallum comes in and plays very aggressively with confidence; it's good to see Ben McLemore make a few shots tonight; and then obviously when you have a team that gets to the foul line 50 times, we're playing in attack mode, very aggressive and I think DeMarcus [Cousins] and Rudy [Gay] are playing at a very high level right now."
DeMarcus Cousins (Asked about the team's growth and the improvements on offense): "Defense - guys buying in. Embracing the fact that we're a defensive team. Accepting that the main goal every night is to win the game regardless of who has the hot night...I think the defensive part is helping the offense. Us playing defense the way we are, communicating, playing together, being on one string I think is helping on the offensive end as well. Because playing defense that way, I believe, helps build chemistry with trusting one another and it's going over to the other side of the floor."
Ben McLemore: "Team effort man, that's what we've been doing is playing as a team and moving the ball…defensively, we've been great. We want to keep that and stay locked in and keep the same focus and same game plan each and every night."
Jason Thompson: "Moving the ball. Our defense was really good. We rebounded the ball good as well too so been aggressive on both sides of the floor, cutting the turnovers down and assists are high."
What Went Wrong
Malone: "Tonight was a Jekyll and Hyde night. The first and third quarter our defense was phenomenal. Second quarter 35 points allowed, fourth quarter 37 points allowed. So I'm happy we won. I'm happy with all the good things we did, but I don't want us creating poor habits and to allow a team to score 37 points in the fourth quarter the way they did, really as I told our team, that's unacceptable...we have to defend for 48 minutes."
Darren Collison: "I think we've got to do a better job of pushing the lead up. There was a couple of times where we were up by 10 and then the lead came under 10. It's one of those things where it's hard when you are up by 20, it's hard to play with that same effort. You want to continue to play with that same effort. So we've just got to lock in mentally. I think we gave up too many points in the second and fourth quarter so we've got to do a better job of doing that."
Cousins: "Can't have breakdowns regardless of if we're up 30 or we're up two. Can't have those types of defensive breakdowns and we can't relax the way we did tonight. That game could have easily changed."
Thompson: "If we get a lead, the NBA is a game of runs, but just to keep it going, not look at the scoreboard and know what it took for us to get that lead and just keep it consistent regardless of who is on the floor."
What's Next: Phoenix Suns
Malone: "Phoenix is a team that is going to try to run you out of the gym, they're going to play three point guards at times, so we have to make sure we're getting back. We gave up 23 fast-break points tonight, which is not good. And then we have to contain the ball - another area that we really struggled in tonight - because [Goran] Dragic, [Eric] Bledsoe, Isaiah [Thomas] are all going to be in attack mode and looking to get into our paint to create shots for their teammates."
Collison: "Three really good guards, but we're not worried. The biggest thing is we've got to play our game, we've got to do what we do and what got us here. They're going to play their game, we've got to play our game and we're going to see whose game fits better. I think right now, we have a good thing going and there's no point in adjusting to anybody else. I think we've just got to play our style of basketball."
Cousins (was asked about how he approached the matchup with Miles Plumlee): "Phoenix is a good team. Not really concerned about matchups. Really concerned about the way we go in and play. Not really concerned about the individuals on the team, I'm worried about my team and how we go in there and perform."
McLemore: "We've got to stick together and keep this momentum going where we're playing as a team, moving the ball. With them being a fast-break team we've got to get back. That's one of the things the coaches are going to stress a lot is getting back and that's with any team. But with that team, they want to get up and down, it's getting back."
Thompson: "It's a run-and-gun team, you've got to protect the ball, can't turn it over. They want to outscore you. We can score the ball, but also we can't let them score and be in their comfort zone. So we keep defending like we have been and rebounding and we should come out with a W."