The Sacramento Kings couldn’t have played any better yesterday evening. Scoring 41 in the third quarter of a season-high 120 points, they handed the Boston Celtics arguably their worst loss of the year.
Unfortunately, the Kings only seem to reserve that kind of effort against the league’s marquee teams.
“Sad to say (but) I believe so,” said Kings center DeMarcus Cousins of his team’s approach when facing the NBA’s most respected squads. “But, that’s something we’ve got to continue to work on. Approach (every team) the way we approach OKC or the Mavericks or the Celtics tonight.”
Last night’s win was a stark contrast to the Kings’ previous two games, where they surrendered a 16-point lead to the lowly Detroit Pistons and lost by 26 to a depleted Golden State Warriors’ team.
At 7-15, the Kings’ record against teams currently slotted to make the playoffs is nearly identical against squads on the outside looking in (8-14). But dive deeper into the numbers and they show a significant difference in the Kings’ effort against the NBA’s upper-echelon.
At 93.8 possessions per 48 minutes, the Kings rank third in the league in pace, which indicates how fast or slow a team plays. Teams like the Kings that rank high in pace typically record more possessions per contest.
Using figures from Hoopdata, the Kings average 96.5 possessions per game. But against teams who appear playoff-bound, the Kings seem to play to their strengths a little better, averaging 97.2 possessions per game.
And what about versus other lottery-bound squads? At 96.5 per game, the Kings’ effort seems to decline, as they record one fewer possession than their season average.
“I don’t know what it is,” said Kings guard Marcus Thornton after last night’s win. “Playing teams like Boston, the Lakers, Dallas, Oklahoma City, we up. We gotta get up for all games like that.”