Kings struggling to find lineups that work, get torched by Pacers

James Ham

How do you put it all together on the fly?

The Sacramento Kings (12-16) were besieged by injuries early in the season. De'Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley are back, but adding two primary scorers is proving to be an issue for the Kings.

After a couple days of practice, the Kings still didn't look right Friday night in Indiana and they were no match for a very good Pacers team. There were a few bright spots in the team's 119-105 loss, but there is no time left for moral victories.

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"Unfortunate game for us tonight, I thought we'd be better, play better after two solid days of practice," coach Luke Walton told media members following the game. "I liked our offensive mindset in the first quarter, but we didn't play defense all game."

The barn door was left wide open. Indiana took advantage of the lack of continuity with the Kings. They attacked the rim and shot a robust 52.3 percent from the field and 45.2 percent from behind the arc.

"If you let your man just go right by one-on-one, it's tough to get any stops," Walton added. "That's what I saw early on."

Sacramento's guards need to do a better job of keeping their opponents out of the key, but it's not all on the backcourt. Teams are abusing the Kings' bigs in the pick-and-roll and it's because of this issue that Walton has searched for alternatives.

Wide open looks at the basket required the Kings to make adjustments, like running a zone defense. The zone led to wide open 3-pointers for players like Doug McDermott and T.J. Warren.

"You have to be able to guard your man in this league - keep them in front of you one-on-one," Walton said. "We did not do a good job of that tonight."

This might not be a long-term issue for the Kings. They've made adjustments and shown the ability to defend over the last couple of weeks, but a well-oiled, veteran team like Indy can pick apart a team searching for answers like the Kings.

"You just go through this, it's a long season," center Richaun Holmes told media members. "I feel like they did a good job of just getting to their spots tonight. They got to wherever they wanted to go and I just feel like we have to shore it up."

Domantas Sabonis bullied the Kings in the post. He got his body on Sacramento's bigs and made a tremendous impact from the opening tip.

"I feel like they imposed their will in the game and we didn't respond," Holmes said.

The physical nature of the game in the blocks forced Walton's hand. As soon as the Kings tried to gum up the post and slow Sabonis, Pacers coach Nate McMillan countered by flooding the floor with shooters.

"We've got to focus on the game plan a little bit better, pay attention to the details throughout the full course of the game and we just have to eliminate our breakdowns, because over the course of a game it adds up." Cory Joseph told reporters. "There are some things that people may not be able to pick up on and we've just got to pay attention to the little things, the details."

A lot of the interior post issues have to do with the Kings' bigs. Holmes is the best interior defender on the roster. Not only can he guard in one-on-one situations, but he's shown an ability to dominate as a team defender, especially in the pick-and-roll.

Walton has struggled to find sets where Holmes and Bagley can play alongside each other. He even tried an all big lineup with Joseph at the point, Harrison Barnes at the two, and a frontline of Bagley, Bjelica and Holmes.

It was a short-lived experiment, but the move highlighted the lengths that Walton is willing to go to in search of answers.

This was the first time this season that Walton played the combination of Bagley and Holmes together for any length of time. While they combined for 37 points on 15-of-22 shooting, they also ran a massive negative in the plus/minus category.

You can't judge the game solely on plus and minus, especially with such a small sample size. Those numbers are based on more than one player's performance.

The two players catch your eye every time they step on the court. Holmes with his alley-oop dunks and Bagley with his advanced offensive game.

"They've both been playing well for us," Walton said. "The energy they play with, the athleticism, the pressure they can put on the rim, helps us."

Putting pressure on the rim is a good thing for the Kings, who have primarily been a perimeter team this season. Holmes is the best pick-and-roll player Sacramento has. Bagley is easily the best low post threat on the team.

They play very different styles, which can be awkward for their teammates. The players around them have to adjust dramatically, depending on which player is on the floor in any given moment.

[RELATED: Next step for Bagley to take]

More changes are on the horizon for the Kings. Walton has yet to insert either Bagley or Fox back into the starting lineup, but it's inevitable. These two are the cornerstones of the franchise and they both opened the season with the starting unit.

Integrating two major cogs after time away due to injury is difficult. The team will struggle certain games and look unbeatable in others. Patience has worn thin with the fanbase, but injuries and youth are part of the game.

Kings struggling to find lineups that work, get torched by Pacers originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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