Indiana Pacers

Kings takeaways: What we learned in tough 119-105 loss to Pacers

kingstakeawaysusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Kings takeaways: What we learned in tough 119-105 loss to Pacers

BOX SCORE

The Kings ran up against a buzzsaw Friday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. After losing their first three games to open the season, the Indiana Pacers came into Friday night at 19-6 over their previous 25 games and riding a four-game win streak.

Sacramento looked solid early, but the shots stopped falling and a very good Pacers team took advantage. Indiana valued the ball, knocked down their 3-pointers and played an efficient game to come away with the 119-105 victory.

T.J. Warren has given the Kings fits for years and Friday was no different. The combo-forward led all scorers with 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting. Warren was one of seven players to score in double-figures for the Pacers as they ran over the Kings.

Here are three takeaways as the Kings dropped their second straight game to fall to 12-16 on the season.

Holmes, sweet Holmes

Richaun Holmes is one of the best bargains in the NBA, which he once again reminded everyone watching the Kings and Pacers on Monday.

The 26-year-old center is a defensive stalwart that makes the Kings a better team. Against Indiana, it was his offense that made the difference.

Holmes knocked down his first nine shots to finish with 20 points. He added nine rebounds and blocked a shot in his 24 minutes on the court.  

A quarter to remember

Bogdan Bogdanovic missed the game in Indiana with a sore right ankle, but the Kings have another Serbian sniper ready to take on the scoring load early in Nemanja Bjelica.

From the opening tip, Bjelica was aggressive against Domantas Sabonis. He attacked the Pacers big in the block and then drew him outside for a few long balls as well. Bjelica scored 13 points in the first quarter as the Kings got off to a good start. 

As quickly as it started, Bjelica’s hot start went away. He couldn’t buy a bucket after the first 12 minutes, finishing with 13 points on 5-of-15 shooting. 

When Bjelica is hitting his shots, the Kings are a very different team. When he’s not…

Going big

With the game slipping out of control in the third, coach Luke Walton went with a jumbo look. It didn’t last long, but for a stretch, Walton used Cory Joseph with Harrison Barnes in the backcourt. He shifted Marvin Bagley to the three and left Bjlecia and Holmes in the frontcourt. 

Walton needs to find creative ways to get both Bagley and Holmes on the court at the same time. This was one way to do it. Eventually, Walton will have no choice but to play the pair together. 

Bagley is the scorer and Holmes is the defender. Neither can stretch the defense, but someone has to cover up for Bagley while he learns the defensive sets.

Glenn Robinson laughs at notion injury-riddled Warriors are tanking

robinsonap.jpg
AP

Glenn Robinson laughs at notion injury-riddled Warriors are tanking

SAN FRANCISCO -- As the losses continue to mount and with their All-Star core sidelined, the Warriors are battling the chatter of tanking, eliciting a familiar reaction among players. 

"I laugh at that stuff," Warriors forward Glenn Robinson admitted Friday morning. "A lot of people think we're just coming out here tanking and not playing hard and not trying to win. But we come into work every day, we're working hard, we're competing." 

Despite the effort, Golden State continues to struggle. In the last month, seven players have gone down with injuries, including superstar guard Steph Curry, who is expected to be sidelined until February with a broken hand. Of the nine players who suited up in Wednesday's loss to the Lakers, none were on the team last year. 

As a result, the Warriors have lost 10 of their first 12 games, including their last two by an average margin of 20 points. The output is a far cry from Golden State's performance in recent seasons. Over the last five years, the Warriors won 78 percent of their games -- marking the best run in NBA history over the stretch. Still, Robinson remains upbeat. 

"The best times come after you've been humbled," he said. "I think that's something we're all going through, that's something the organization's going through. A lot of teams got our mark. The Warriors have been kicking people's a--es for the last five, six years and so everybody wants to come in and come hard against us."

Robinson, who signed a one-year, $1.8 million deal with a player option last summer, has a similar story as the rest of Golden State's battered roster. The onset of his career has been defined by movement, as he played for three teams in his first three NBA seasons. He seemed to gain traction in Indiana, where he became a solid rotation player for the Pacers behind star forward Paul George. 

In 2016-17, Robinson shot 39 percent from 3-point range. However, after signing a two-year deal with the Detroit Pistons last season, he struggled, averaging just 4.2 points and 1.5 rebounds while shooting 42 percent from the field. In Golden State, he hopes to find success despite a depleted roster. 

"The goal for myself and the goal for everybody should be playing as well as we can, competing, playing hard and try to stay here," Robinson said. "Because I've been on teams where this could be a stop where guys could play for points and guys could play for whatever just to go their separate ways but I think staying together is the biggest thing because we got to continue to see the big picture both this year and next year when guys get healthy."

[RELATED: Ask Kerith -- How die-hard Warriors fans can remain optimistic]

Hope may be on the way for the Warriors to balance scales going forward. Curry, Green and Thompson all are expected to be healthy by the start of next season, bringing back the core formidable enough to compete in the Western Conference, a plan Robinson hopes to be a part of. 

"That's why I came here, he said. "It's a place where I really want to make my stamp in the league."

Why Kings remain focused on improving defense as preseason continues

kingsdefenseap.jpg
AP

Why Kings remain focused on improving defense as preseason continues

SACRAMENTO -- Defense. Defense. Defense.

Sometimes you have no choice but to reuse an opening line from an earlier piece. For the Kings, the focus was  -- and will be -- on the defensive side of the ball from now until the point where the team starts to improve.

“It didn’t look very good, did it,” coach Luke Walton said Tuesday when asked about the Kings’ defense last week in India. “That’s why we’re addressing it. It’s something that we as a group have to get much better at. There’s no reason to panic. It’s two and a half days of prep work before we flew out there and Indiana is a very good team.”

Walton is correct when it comes to the Pacers, the Kings' opponents in a pair of preseason games last week. Nate McMillan’s crew finished last season 48-34, earning the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.

While the Pacers added a few new faces in free agency, they still have a core group of players and coaching staff that has been together for a few years. That is not a luxury that the Kings have at this point.

“It’s just about continuing to put in work and getting reps at our coverages and then the want to from out guys,” Walton said. “Our guys want to become a good defensive team, so it will happen. It just takes time.”

With two new starters and plenty of additions to the rotation, the Kings are trying to jam as much as they can into a short amount of time. A week-long trip to India didn’t help matters. 

Walton and his staff now have two weeks to install both an offense and a defense before Sacramento opens the regular season on Oct. 23 against the Suns in Phoenix. 

“We’re working on it, we’re working on it every day,” Marvin Bagley said. “We’re getting new calls in, we’re just figuring it out.”

In their two preseason games in Mumbai, the Kings allowed 132 points in an overtime loss and 130 the next night. Sacramento allowed Indiana to shoot 51.6 percent from the field in the first game and 52.1 percent in the second.

“We’re on the fly with it,” Bagley added. “We’ve got to keep going, keep getting better, keep continuing to lock in these practices we have and we’ll be alright.”

The Kings hope to improve on its 39-43 record from last season and qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2006. But first. they’ll need to find chemistry on defense.

“Both of those games we let them score way too many points, too many fouls, too many straight line drives, layups, open threes,” De’Aaron Fox said. “It’s something we know we need to work on. We know offense isn’t a problem.”

The Kings scored an average of 118.5 points in the two contests, but they struggled just about everywhere defensively.

Both Bagley and Fox pointed to now having game film to work with. It’s one thing to practice against teammates. It’s a completely different feeling to face another NBA team.

“We have a foundation of it now, it’s just getting better at everything, getting all the terminology down, communicating," Fox said. "I think that’s one of our main aspects, we need to communicate. Kind of just taking it personal on defense, being able to keep guys in front of you, that’s the name of the game.

“... You can have all of these concepts and all the team defense, but at the end of the day, you have to have guys that can stand their ground."

The Kings are going to be a work in progress on defense for the foreseeable future. They’re still installing their base defense and haven’t even started building in some of the more crucial sets. With everything new, this process likely will stretch through the preseason and into the first quarter of the season.

[RELATED: Why Fox thinks 'Air Drake' could help Kings in free agency]

The defense has another test coming up Thursday when the Suns roll into Sacramento for the preseason home opener at Golden 1 Center. While Phoenix won just 19 games last season, Devin Booker is a big-time scorer and his team can go on runs in a hurry.

Sacramento will be without Harry Giles (sore left knee) and Tyler Ulis (hip) for a third straight game, and veteran guard Cory Joseph (calf) is unlikely to play as well.