Scoring is the least of Sacramento Kings trio’s top priorities
It’s no secret that the Sacramento Kings are a much tougher team to handle when Isaiah Thomas, Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins are at their best. With Thomas, Gay and Cousins, the Kings are the only team in the NBA that has three players averaging at least 20 points per game.
That is a luxury that can be both a gift and a curse.
“I really don’t care about that,” Kings head coach Michael Malone said recently of having three 20-point-per-game scorers. “I’d rather have three 15-point scorers that win a lot more games. But you have three guys in Rudy, DeMarcus and Isaiah who are very talented, who have proven when they play at a high level (that they) are very hard to guard. And as you mentioned, we’ve shown we’re a competitive team against some of the best teams in the league.”
After Sunday’s win over the Milwaukee Bucks, the Kings are now 19-21 when Thomas, Gay and Cousins are all in the lineup. They’re also 8-3 when all three score 20 or more points. Though they’re aware of the results, they believe they can have much more success when they’re purposely trying to make plays for their teammates.
“I think the approach we need to come to the game with is the fact that of course, we want to get ours and we’re proven scorers, but we have to get everybody involved,” Gay said after Sunday’s game. “And I think we’re a way better team when everybody’s getting their shots and being effective.”
For Gay, Thomas and Cousins, the focus isn’t to set the tone of each game simply by scoring. They all may be capable scorers, but looking to reach the 20-point threshold isn’t something they actively seek to do each contest. According to the Kings starting center, how they set the tone defensively can be a better predictor of their success.
“Our main thing is go out and defend at a high level and our defense turns into our offense,” Cousins said. “So, if me, Isaiah and Rudy have high-scoring games, that’s just credit to the other end of the floor. That’s our mindset going into games.”
The Kings have seen marked improvement in their defensive play during this late stretch of the season. Since the All-Star Break, Sacramento has posted a defensive rating of 104.1 points per 100 possessions. That’s better than the 106.3 points per 100 possessions they were allowing before the mid-season showcase.