With his team’s season already in a dangerous downhill spiral, coach Dave Joerger is ready to make changes designed to get the Sacramento Kings steadily flying again.
He’ll see if they have any effect Sunday when Sacramento welcomes the Toronto Raptors, one of the few teams they’ve beaten this season.
A new starting lineup is expected on the floor for the Kings at Golden 1 Center. Joerger pointed to the switch Friday after the Kings (4-9) lost their fourth straight contest, a 121-115 decision to the Los Angeles Clippers that wasn’t all that close. Sacramento trailed by as many as 26 points in the first half and 20 early in the fourth quarter.
“I’ve seen enough.” Joerger said after it was over. “We’re going to small.”
The Kings’ small lineup, featuring Ty Lawson and Darren Collision on the court at the same time as dual two point guards, nearly stole a win against the Clippers. They spurred a 29-11 blitz in the final quarter that put Sacramento only two down with two minutes to left.
Forwards DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay and Matt Barnes and guard Aaron Afflalo also were out on the floor as part of the small lineups the Kings used to make their run.
“DeMarcus is going to play center,” Joerger said. “I don’t know who else will play with him. It just gives us more zip, more life, more experience. That’s not a detriment to anyone else of what they’ve done.”
It does appear to be a reaction to the slow starts that have plagued the Kings during their longest losing streak since a five-game skid in March. The Kings allowed 40 points in the opening 12 minutes against Los Angeles, their worst defensive quarter of the season, and were down 16-6 almost immediately in a 110-105 loss Wednesday against San Antonio.
“I don’t think we’re coming out with urgency,” Cousins said after the loss to the Clippers. “Once again, we’re waiting until the last minute to play with energy, a sense of urgency. … If we don’t play with urgency and energy at the beginning of the game, it won’t matter what lineup we put out there.”
The Kings have used Cousins, Gay, Lawson, Afflalo and Kosta Koufos in the starting lineup in 11 of their 13 games, including in all four victories. But the presence of Cousins and Koufos in the middle has crowded the key and kept Lawson and Collison from having a lot of success driving the ball and kicking out.
Koufos didn’t play in the second half against the Clippers, and Lawson and Collison played with a faster pace.
Toronto (7-5) also would prefer to get moving quickly and give its guards a chance to score. DeMar DeRozan, the NBA’s leading scorer at 33 points per game, and Kyle Lowry (18.8 points, 7.3 assists) usually get Toronto’s offense started with drives to the key, and the Raptors are 5-2 when they combine for at least 50 points.
DeRozan tallied 30 in Toronto’s 113-111 overtime victory in Denver on Friday, the 10th time in 12 contests he scored at least that many.
“I’ve had a lot of help,” DeRozan told reporters after the win. “People have looked for me within the offense. Tonight it was JV (center Jonas Valanciunas) setting screens for me. When the defense packed it in on him, he got me the ball for shots.”
The Kings haven’t won since beating the Raptors 96-91 in Toronto on Nov. 6, and have defeated them three straight times. Gay had 23 against his former team in the first meeting. DeRozan scored only 23 in that one.