SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings can take a punch, but can they throw one? In one of the recurring themes of the 2017-18 season, the Kings were too nice Wednesday evening against the Utah Jazz and they got their lunch money stolen.
“I just told them we need to play with more life, we need to play with more athleticism, and we need to play with a lot more nasty,” Dave Joerger said following the Kings 120-105 loss to the Jazz.
The Kings have talent, but so far this season, they are lacking in the nasty department. As the season passes the midway point, opponents continue to look extremely comfortable playing against a Sacramento team that ranks 29th in the league in defensive rating.
Against Utah, it was rookie Donovan Mitchell that dismantled the Kings’ sets. With his shooters dropping in bombs from the outside and his bigs setting picks, the 13th overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft looked like a superstar.
“Same thing he’s been doing all year - he’s been scoring the ball,” De’Aaron Fox said of his fellow draft classmate. “That’s what he came out and did today.”
Mitchell came in averaging 18.9 points per game, which is tops amongst rookies. He dropped 34 points on 14-of-19 shooting while dicing up the Kings defense.
“We let them go in the paint so many times,” Bogdan Bogdanovic said. “That opened some easy buckets for them and some wide open threes.”
Sacramento’s communication breakdowns were obvious. They cut into the Jazz lead on multiple occasions, but then they would leave a shooter open and pay the price.
Rodney Hood scored 25 points shooting over the Kings defense. He knocked down 4-of-9 from behind the arc and added
Joe Ingles chipped in 14 points on 4-of-7 from deep, including three makes in the third quarter as Utah turned the screws on Sacramento.
“I don’t think we are physical enough,” Bogdanovic said. “We’ve got to play tougher and to bring some dirty game on the floor and some smart decisions, like when it’s time to help and when it’s time to not help. We’re still learning, we’re still new.”
Bogdanovic held his own against the Jazz, scoring a career-high 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting and a perfect 6-for-6 from behind the arc. Willie Cauley-Stein added a 26-point, 10-rebound double-double, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
Call it a lack of energy. Call it nasty or dirty. The Kings need to find a way to make their opponent feel them more on the court or it’s going to be a very long final 38 games to the season.
After dropping six straight, it doesn’t get any easier for the Kings. They embark on a six-game trip beginning Friday in Memphis. Maybe they can find themselves on the road.