November 27, 2017, 5:41 pm
After 19 games the Kings sit at a 5-14 record. That places them 14th in the Western Conference just above the lowly Dallas Mavericks. Inconsistency has been a trademark for the Kings this season as they try to build towards the future.
It’s been a season that’s featured a seven-game losing streak, two straight wins over the Thunder and Sixers, a 46-point embarrassment against the Hawks, an impressive win against the Blazers and a complete performance against the Lakers. They’ve truly been all over the place so far and we’re only about a quarter into the season.
The 46-point loss to the then 2-12 Hawks is surely the low-point so far. There wasn’t a single positive to take from the performance and rightfully so. However, this did spark a lineup change that has changed the Kings’ fortunes for the better.
Since that loss the Kings have put together a 2-3 record, not great, but decent with all things considered. They probably could be sitting pretty at 3-2 if it weren’t for the third quarter collapse against the Clippers on Saturday. More on this later.
Two of the last three losses have been different to those earlier in the season. The Kings have displayed a little more cohesion as a unit and that’s a direct result of a more balanced lineup.
Willie Cauley-Stein has been one of the biggest beneficiaries from a move to the bench. In five games (28.9 minutes per game) off the bench he’s posting averages of 15.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.0 blocks on 45.0 percent shooting from the field.
In contrast his averages as a starter are far less appealing: 7.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 0.6 steals and 0.8 blocks on 45.0 percent shooting in 23.8 minutes per game (15 games).
Not only are his statistics good, but he’s making a positive impact on the floor and other teammates are benefiting too. He’s one of the key’s to Sacramento’s success and has publicly said he likes coming off the bench.
However, lets not get too carried away with individual performances as Hoop Ball’s Jon Schifferle covered that last week. His piece on the Kings’ beneficiaries from the lineup change can be found HERE.
Despite the uptick in cohesion and effort as a whole, the Kings are still searching for consistent performances for the duration of the game. This will take time and we may not see large steps taken in this department this season.
A lineup change can only do so much. Big losses will still occur throughout the season but it’s something we’re going to have to at least prepare for. But other nights the Kings may come out full of energy like they did against the Lakers last Wednesday.
They followed that up with a strong second half against the Clippers on Saturday and won three of four quarters. Normally when that happens, you’re in pretty good shape to get the victory. However, a 29-10 deficit in favor of the Clippers in the third quarter was enough to give them the edge and ultimately the victory.
A valiant effort by Buddy Hield wasn’t quite enough to dig the Kings out of the hole they put themselves in. It was a winnable game against a team without three key starters. The difference was that the Clippers never gave up despite being down big at halftime and that’s something the Kings can learn from.
Just because you’re up big, or down big, doesn’t mean you take your foot off the gas and Sacramento have been far too guilty of this in recent seasons. It’s a process and something that will (hopefully) change over time as this team grows.
Growing pains were expected, but their early season play has been somewhat underwhelming. The positive, though, is that they’ve made strides over the past week or two to becoming a more consistent team and that’s all we should be asking for at this point.