Kings

Kings fall flat in defensive meltdown against Spurs

Kings

There's always that one quarter that seems to be the Kings' Achilles' heel in each of their losses. 

Wednesday night was no different than Monday's loss to the Phoenix Suns. One quarter is all it took for an opposing team to build an insurmountable lead against the Kings. 

Losing 136-117 to the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night at AT&T Center, the Kings found themselves down 14 points early after a 34-20 first quarter from the Spurs. 

A 14-point deficit is very difficult to overcome when your defense continues to surrender 30-plus points in each of the remaining three quarters. Similar to the Spurs' opening quarter Wednesday, a 31-12 third quarter by the Suns on Monday proved to be the difference. 

“I gotta go back and watch because I'm as surprised as you are," Kings coach Luke Walton said after the loss. "We watched it as a group last night when we got into San Antonio. We watched that third quarter and we watched that fourth quarter, to visually see the difference, talk about it. I don’t have an answer for you, because I thought we were going to come out with much more energy than that tonight.”

Two common themes in each of the disastrous quarters against Phoenix and San Antonio are a lack of scoring and a lack of defense. Not exactly a winning formula. So which one is the issue? Or is it both? 

 

“Defense. Absolutely defense, no question about it," Walton said. "We’ve talked about it all offseason, we’ve worked on it, it’s our top priority. All four quarters they scored over 30 points tonight. That’s where it’s gotta stop, it has to stop. We’ve committed to each other to make that a priority. There’s going to be nights where you can’t make shots in this league, and we’ve done a good job up to this game and half of the Phoenix game was that we gave ourselves a chance to win every night."

“We’ve had two really sluggish starts," center Chimezie Metu added. "The second half against Phoenix and the start to the game tonight. Basically trying to play catch up. You can’t do that if you want to win games consistently. We gotta come out better against [Oklahoma City Thunder].”

Seemingly, the only bright spot for the Kings on Wednesday night was De'Aaron Fox, who had a monster game, scoring a season-high 37 points on 14-of-24 shooting from the floor. 

After the game, Fox broke down exactly what went wrong on defense against the Spurs. 

“We just got hit first," Fox said. "That was the difference in both of these games. Phoenix hit us first in the third quarter. Just coming out here, you don’t want to be on the defensive going into a fight. This team hit us first and we were playing from behind the rest of the way.”

“Freedom of movement is a big talk in the league. As a defense what you’re trying to do is take away the offense's freedom of movement … Tonight it was just too easy, they felt free. Now you have guys shooting 3s and they're shooting more 3s as a team. What we’re trying to do is take away their freedom of movement.”

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Walton mentioned in his postgame press conference that Thursday's practice will be heavily focused on defense. On Friday, Sacramento travels to Oklahoma City to face off against the Thunder, a team many expected to set up camp near the bottom of the league standings from start to finish. 

Having beaten the star-studded Los Angeles Lakers twice already this season, the Thunder are not to be underestimated. If the Kings want to build momentum, it begins with a clean game against a (still) very beatable team on Friday at Paycom Center.