In a plot twist that everyone saw coming, the Sacramento Kings fell to the surging Washington Wizards on Sunday in a game that was never really close. Sacramento was buoyed by the return of Rudy Gay and Marcus Thornton, but still managed to play themselves out of a win. So how are the Orlando Magic able to pull off similar feats with different — and successful — results?
Well, taking a look at both squads, you would think these two have the same bloodlines. Orlando is a mid-market city like Sacramento — both cities cannot afford big-name stars and rely on draft imports and trades to lure talent. Like the Kings, they are also scraping the bottom of their respective conference, but the Magic just beat the two best teams in the league, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Pacers, in two nights. The Kings have some work to do.
Sacramento started out the season with promise, only to slide back into their old habits. Head coach Mike Malone, who is most likely feeling some pressure, has failed to get the team to buy into his defensive game-planning as the Kings sit at 28th in the league in defensive efficiency. That, and the Kings’ inability to get scoring outside of its core trio of DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay and Isaiah Thomas are prime examples of why this team is struggling.
Now, it’s not all a downer for Sacramento. The Kings have won some signature games and have a few blowout victories on their resume this season, and it’s not like the Magic are the toast of the East. However, the young Kings are failing to close the deal, and that is a problem that will only be rectified with more experience. But if Orlando can do it, so can the Kings. Sacramento ultimately must put two and two together and defend.
Defending at the 3-point line would be a good place to start. Sacramento lets opponents shoot 37 percent from beyond the arc, a top-10 feat. The Kings also allow opposing teams to shoot 47 percent on average from the field. While the Magic are right there with them on perimeter defense, they are getting things done and winning games that the Kings are throwing away.
With a new arena on the horizon and stable leadership under them, the future looks bright for the Kings. However, the foundation for the road to a title starts with good defense. If the Kings can’t master that, they’re in serious trouble, and that could mean a one-and-done tenure for coach Malone.