The Kings let the five-win New York Knicks storm back in the fourth quarter in Sacramento on Saturday night to tie up a game they had been in control of. But it wasn't just the comeback that displayed problems. Throughout the entire game the dysfunction of the Knicks could not disguise the defensive issues the Kings are battling right now.
Since the coaching change from Michael Malone to Tyrone Corbin (six games), the Kings have given up 114 points per game to their opponents. The worst season-long average rests with the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves at 109 points per game. Long are the November days when defense was a key cog in the Kings' hot start to the season. From Oct. 29 through Nov. 30, the Kings allowed teams to score 100 points per game.
Despite the win over the Knicks, DeMarcus Cousins, who has battled illness over the last several weeks, wasn't happy with himself, specifically his defense, after a dominant performance. Cousins, who had 39 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks in 32 minutes, said he didn't play well, pointing out that he let Cole Aldrich have a good game (18 points and 7 rebounds). But beyond that, Cousins talked about the Kings needing to get back to how things were with the old team earlier this season.
"That's wanting to defend at a high level, you know taking pride in actually playing defense. Can't be a team that tries to come out every night and outscore people. That's not us, we defend and our defense transitions over to our offense," Cousins told Sactown Royalty. "We've got to get back to playing that type of basketball. Right now, we're taking steps back so we've got to get back on the right path."
Jason Thompson, whose defense alongside Cousins earlier in the season was much improved and helped contribute to the success, talked about allowing the struggling Knicks to score the way they did.
"We've got to finish. Still got to find ways to get stops. They're not a good offensive team, but still got to the 100s even though it was overtime. So got to find ways to limit them to one shot, finish with rebounds and get back to our defensive ways like we did earlier in the season," Thompson told Sactown Royalty. "You don't want to try and outscore them because there are going to be nights where you don't shoot the ball well."
In his postgame session with the media, head coach Tyrone Corbin broke down the problems the Kings are experiencing, specifically not being able to put a solid stretch of defense together.
"We don't complete plays. We're 15 seconds of good defense and slack up or 20 seconds of good defense and end up getting a stop and giving them a second opportunity. Or a slip back backdoor because we over-rotate, it's just small things that is kind of hurting us," Corbin said. "I think our initial part of our defense is pretty good when we do get back. There are times when we don't get back in transition, we're hanging out, ball watching...offensively we've been fine, just defensively, the different combinations we're trying, the pace that we're trying to play with, how that pace on the offensive end have to make sure it doesn't hurt us on the defensive end."
Darren Collison, who has 27 points and 10 assists against the Knicks, said he thinks the team can get back to where it was on defense.
"We show signs that we can get back to that. When we have guys in and out the lineup that throws you off a little bit. So defensively, I think we'll be fine, we've just got to find more consistency in the lineup and I think we'll get back to playing that real soon," Collison said.
The win on Saturday was a welcome sight for the Kings considering they now head out on a four-game road trip to close out 2014. Cousins characterized everything as "new" right now with a new playing style and new lineups. He characterized the upcoming trip as a good thing.
"There's a lot going on ... so getting on the road, kind of getting away from it I think would be pretty beneficial for the team," Cousins said.
For Collison, the road trip will give the Kings a chance to bond again.
"I think we need it. We need to get away for a little bit. We need to bond a little bit, get to know each other way more than we know each other already and just be around each other, have some fun. So I think this trip will be good for us," Collison said.