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Kings have work to do on defense

The Memphis Grizzlies gave the Sacramento Kings a lesson on how defense can translate into wins.

Photo by Kimani Okearah

The Sacramento Kings faced a Memphis Grizzlies team Tuesday night that had some wounded pride and they were ready to pounce. After getting thumped by 50 points by the Golden State Warriors the night before, the Grizzlies took their frustration out on the Kings at Sleep Train Arena by doing pretty much everything better than them. From points in the paint, to controlling the pace, to out-rebounding, to making free throws, the Grizzlies outmatched the Kings without the services of the injured DeMarcus Cousins and the newfound depth of their roster could do nothing to stop it.

Following the 103-89 loss to the Grizzlies, Kings head coach George Karl and some of his players discussed what went wrong.

George Karl: "A really good defensive team beat a team that thought we could play offense against them and our offense was pretty well controlled by their defense."

"Our running game never broke open and our defense, again we didn't protect the basket, we gave them a lot of paint points ... We didn't make many defensive plays. And I think with Cuz out we have to get some offense from our defense and we didn't do that very often tonight."

"Our response was probably the biggest disappointment. I didn't think we responded with any attitude or energy. At times we did, but we never could get a momentum with it."

"They cut off our penetration and then we missed free throws when we did make good plays. Missing free throws has a way of being a negative confidence, it brings frustration, disappointment and then all the sudden you get heavy. And I thought you saw a Memphis team play with a lot of basketball pride because what happened last night (the 50-point loss to the Warriors)."

Darren Collison: "We're not playing together defensively. We're not doing the things that we need to do to win games defensively and it's starting to hurt us ... Defensively, we were awful, myself included and everybody else that played in that game. It's one thing to play defense, but it's another thing to play team defense."

"I just think we didn't get enough stops, they did a good job of slowing the game down and looking for the mismatches. We tried to play small ball. We wanted for it to work to our favor but it didn't ... This is a game that we tried to play with our pace and it was a game where they wanted to slow it down and give it to Zach Randolph because they knew we were going to play small. In that situation, we've got to come out with a double team, we've got to rotate, and before we even double teamed, they already and the ball in the paint."

Kosta Koufos: "We have some things we need to work on defensively. I think once we get ourselves more established defensively it will transition to our offense. It's early in the season but we know we've got to make some more strides."

Rudy Gay: "We came out sluggish. They had a better sense of urgency. This is a game that, anybody who watched that last game, knew that they had to come out and get. ... It's the NBA man, they just got beat by 50 the night before so anything can happen."

"The ball movement stopped, we made it hard on ourselves. We made it really hard on ourselves." "They're a good defensive team, I've been there and I've been a part of it. They try to take away your strengths as much as possible. They close the paint, make it hard for you to drive and make it tough on you."


Normally, in these posts I include a series of quotes about what went right, but there was so little that went right it wasn't a topic that could even be tackled by the players in the post game. The Kings shot 24-40 (60 percent) from the free throw stripe and let the Grizzlies have their way in the paint. The inability to capture and maintain momentum from the second quarter on sucked the life out of the arena and seemed to rejuvenate this wounded Grizzlies squad. To their credit, however, despite the bad performance against a tough defense, the Kings only turned the ball over 13 times and continue to show they are making strides in that area compared to last season.

A few other side notes:

  • Karl was asked about starting shooting guard Ben McLemore's poor play lately (he scored 2 points on 1-5 shooting in 20 minutes Tuesday in a game that the Kings desperately needed someone to knock down some shots) and if he thought he would be forced to make a change. Karl responded with, "I would rather not talk about that right now. I'd rather look at the video first."
  • There was a very somber vibe in the locker room after the game, which is a good sign pointing to the whole team caring about winning and hating to lose. That isn't something that has always been present in the Kings locker room following losses.
  • The "Rajon Rondo as a mentor" storyline is going to be repeated a lot this season, but it is hard not to notice it. He is doing everything he can to try to will his teammates on the floor (calling team huddles, trying to direct traffic, setting guys up under the basket when the offense isn't clicking). He was also seen quietly meeting in a huddle with Rudy Gay, Caron Butler and Kings Assistant General Manager Mike Bratz in the locker room after the game. Rondo may be a step slower and still has trouble getting his shot to go down consistently, but he continues to be the type of vocal leader this team hasn't had in a long time.
  • Karl said he expects his team to play with pride tonight in Phoenix against the Suns: "If we play with pride I think it will be a fourth-quarter game and we have a chance to win it. I'm confident that our guys that will have that basketball pride that comes from getting your butt kicked."

One last note, welcome to Kimani Okearah, who will be taking photos for us at games this season and took the shot above, which illustrates the type of defense we saw against the Grizzlies.