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The Sacramento Kings need to find their offensive flow

Early shot-clock three-pointers and a lack of lane penetration killed the Kings on Thursday evening.
By | 28 Comments | Apr 21, 2023

Apr 20, 2023; San Francisco, California, USA; Sacramento Kings guard De'Aaron Fox (5) picks up his dribble before shooting the ball against the Golden State Warriors in the second quarter during game three of the 2023 NBA playoffs at the Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret that the Sacramento Kings have struggled with their outside shooting in the playoffs. After finishing the regular season among the leaders in three-point attempts (6th) and makes (5th), the long-ball seems to have abandoned Sacramento, as they’re knocking down just 27.4% of their attempts, ranking 14th of the 16 postseason teams. In a not-so-encouraging twist, De’Aaron Fox has morphed into the Kings most reliable sniper from deep, as he’s making and taking the most three-pointers, and he’s tied for the highest percentage at 33%. The team’s shooters, Keegan Murray (12.5%), Kevin Huerter (15%), and Harrison Barnes (28.6%) have completely disappeared from the shot-making map.

This sort of phenomenon can be linked to several factors. The Warriors are the defending champions for a reason, and they’re playing solid perimeter defense. Domantas Sabonis has struggled to facilitate from the post against Kevon Looney and Golden State’s active hands, recording 10 assists to 13 turnovers. This Kings team is also full of guys with little to no playoff experience, and the moment may loom large for some of them, especially a rookie like Keegan Murray.

Beyond those potential causes, a definable problem facing the Kings is their developing love affair with early-clock three-pointers. Instead of forcing the Warriors to play full defensive possessions and move around the floor to prevent lane penetration, Sacramento is often settling for the first open look they get, never allowing their offense to establish a flow, with Thursday night’s performance at Chase Center standing as the best and worst example of those poor habits.

Heading into Game 3, the Kings sported a massive size advantage with Draymond Green’s suspension. The dream, and the likely game plan, was to live at the rim and punish Golden State from the inside out. However, a severe lack of discipline on Sacramento’s part quickly turned into a nightmare offensively.

Instead of taking advantage of the quickness of De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk and the size of Domantas Sabonis and Alex Len, the Kings launched a barrage of three-pointers early and often on Thursday night, and they never adjusted their approach when their shots failed to connect. During the regular season, Sacramento averaged 6.3 three-point attempts very early in the shot clock (18-22 seconds remaining), and they converted on 39.2% of those shots. Last night, Sacramento attempted nine of those shots, making just two.

While a few extra early three-pointers can’t take the full blame for a loss, Sacramento’s shot selection looks even worse through the early shot clock (15-18 seconds remaining) lens. Through the first 82 games of the season, the Kings averaged 7.7 per game. Last night, Sacramento attempted a whopping 16 early shot-clock three-pointers. They made one.

Of course, it’s easy to find causation through correlation when contemplating Sacramento’s addiction to early shots on Thursday evening, but what happens when the perspective is changed to more in-rhythm situations in which Golden State’s defense was forced to defend for more than a few seconds? During the regular season, the Kings made 38.6% of their 16 three-point attempts with an average amount of time (7-15 seconds) remaining on the shot clock. During Game 3, a night in which the Kings seemingly couldn’t hit anything from deep, Sacramento also attempted 16 three-pointers during that span. They hit seven of those attempts, good for 43.8% of their attempts.

These extra, ill-advised early shot clock three-pointers must have come from somewhere, as the Kings didn’t attempt all that many extra field goals on Thursday night, and those missing attempts can be found in the paint. Over 30% of Sacramento’s field goal attempts originated in the restricted area during the regular season, a total of 26.6 per game. At the Chase Center, that number plummeted to just 11 shots, accounting for 11.9% of their field goal attempts. The Kings allowed Golden State to dictate when and where they attempted their shots, and the results were about as bad as imaginable.

While it’s impossible to perfectly pinpoint why the Kings are struggling so badly from beyond the arc, two factors stand out as abundantly clear. First and foremost, Sacramento’s shooters simply need to hit their shots. The team’s best shooters can’t shoot in the teens for the rest of the series if the Kings want to advance. Beyond that very basic approach, the Kings also need to help themselves, and their shooters, by getting into the flow of their offense before raining down three-pointer after three-pointer. Their entire offense is built around the principle of lane penetration leading to open shooters, not the other way around. If the Kings fail to make the Warriors move and shift and switch on defense and allow Golden State to dictate the terms of their offensive approach, they will continue to struggle from beyond the arc, something they can ill afford to continue doing against the hungry defending champions.

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discocricket
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April 21, 2023 11:52 am

Spot on. I was screaming in the game thread about not shooting so many threes. It’s a bit concerning that Mike Brown is saying after every game that we are mostly taking good threes. We need to move the ball and get into a couple of offensive actions before expecting our guys to shoot their way out of a slump.

In addition I thought we made several poor lineup choices last night. I never want to see Lyles plus Len again. Len on a switch vs a four or five out set is begging for trouble, and Len really clogs things up for Monk and Fox on offense.

AmateurNerd
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April 21, 2023 11:54 am

I watched the first half and then turned it off. That was a good call. Many of those threes were ugly–barely grazing the rim, not even close. Add to that the innumerable instances of Kangz players dribbling off their feet, passing the ball into the body or arms of an opponent, or just straight-up losing control of the rock for no clear reason other than a lack of coordination, and it felt like watching a middle school team that was nervous about having parents in the stands for the first game. Just really, really ugly. I love the Kings and this season, but last night was peak KANGZ.

Also — Domas just needs to shoot now and then when the Warriors leave him wide-open with the ball at the free throw line. It’s a free throw! Just shoot it!

Last edited 1 year ago by AmateurNerd
RobHessing
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April 21, 2023 12:07 pm

The Kings 3 point shots were 42.4% of their total shots in the regular season. Their 3 point shots in their three post season games are 41.4% of their total shots. So amazingly, they are actually shooting a smaller percentage of 3s in the post season.

They are also averaging 3 more FTs per game than in the regular season.

So oddly, they are taking a higher percentage of 2s and getting to the line more often.

RobHessing
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April 21, 2023 12:25 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

Adding to this, the Kings are basically playing at a pace that has added 9 possessions per game over the regular season. 7 more shots, basically 1 more trip to the line, and 1 more turnover is the average result of these extra 9 possessions.

I get where Brown is coming from. You have the younger team, so push the tempo and try to tire the Dubs out, while simultaneously attempting to give them less time to set their defense. The more frenetic pace is going to lead to lower shooting percentages and higher turnover rate, but if the pace has an even larger impact on the opponent, it is a net gain. So far this seems to have worked 2 out of 3 times (though there are certainly other contributing factors).

It has been a helluva adjustment for me watching a team take so many 3s this season, but I can’t argue with the larger sample size results. And with Looney wearing Sabonis like a suit, I understand why Brown is trying to initiate the offense even more quickly than usual.

There have been only a handful of games this year where both Huerter and Monk have been off, and in those games the results were predictable. This was sort of the case last night, though they are not even close to being the only reasons the Kings fell short. I don’t know if there was a game this year where Monk, Huerter, Lyles, and Murray shot a combined 10.5% from deep. Throw in Mitchell and that group was 3-24 last night. And there’s your ballgame.

I agree that a bad look early in the clock is no bueno. But this team has been taking clean looks all season long, regardless of what is on the shot clock. And here this team is, up 2-1 and with the homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Last edited 1 year ago by RobHessing
Amonk81
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April 21, 2023 12:31 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

Yes on all points. I’d like to see more kickouts, when getting in the lane, especially from Sabonis.

This could provide ball movement. Sabonis has been weirdly just going headlong to the hoop, looking to force it up come hell or high water. Like he’s already decided what to do.

MichaelMack
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April 22, 2023 11:25 am
Reply to  RobHessing

Well said Rob.

InsufferableSacFan
April 23, 2023 8:58 am
Reply to  RobHessing

Agree with all points. Mike been really stressing pace. Domas’s assist to turnover rate is extremely high compared to RS. In third game his rebounding disappeared in second half.

Last edited 1 year ago by InsufferableSacFan
aplumley
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April 21, 2023 12:41 pm

Fox pulling up early in the shot clock to hoist a 3 is unacceptable. He put up 9 threes yesterday and many of them were early in the shot clock. I know some went in, but it isn’t where he adds the most value. He should be shooting threes under very specific circumstances. 1- The defense is daring him to and leaving him open. 2- Late in the shot clock and they need to get a shot up. 3- They are down late in a game and it’s worth the gamble. Heat checks are unacceptable.

Monk, Huerter, and Murray have perpetual green lights. If they are open they have to take it. Domas should be taking more IMO. They are daring him to take that shot. He’s a career 33% shooter from 3 and hitting 37% this year. Take the shot and draw Loony away from the basket. Between his reticence to take the outside shot and the poor shooting of the shooters, it’s making it too easy for GSW to collapse on the penetrator.

I feel like we haven’t seen even a mediocre version of this team so far and they are up 2-1. Hopefully they find themselves in Game 4.

Sacto_J
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April 21, 2023 1:56 pm
Reply to  aplumley

I think Fox has earned the right to heat check damn near any time he wants to. My other quibble is that Domas doesn’t need to shoot outside shots just for the sake of shooting outside shots. He’s wide. The. F. Open. around the 15 foot mark all. game. long. I said somewhere else, C-Webb would’ve feasted on that. Sabonis really needs to develop a mid-range threat, show the opposition he can’t be left unguarded or all of the off-ball motion gets clogged up. There’s your reason he’s not dropping 7+ dimes a game right now.

aplumley
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April 21, 2023 3:49 pm
Reply to  Sacto_J

Fox has earned the right to heat check damn near any time

I disagree. His TS% on 3s is 48% and as a team their TS% is around 56%. A Fox 3, early in the shot clock when there’s an opportunity to get a better shot is a bad shot. By comparison TS% on a Keegan 3 is around 62%.

Socalpurplecurse
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April 22, 2023 3:20 pm
Reply to  Sacto_J

You hit it dead on, we have yet to make adjustments, if Looney is going to sag and clog the lane then we need to abandon making him the playmaker from the top key and turn home into a screen setter and play thru the pick and roll. The handoffs aren’t working at all and he refuses to shoot the midrange. We need to go heavy on pick and roll action and open things up that way. If Domas ever acquires a midrange shot he’d be a top 3 Center easily and a superstar not a fringe star.

andy_sims
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April 21, 2023 12:52 pm

I’d been wondering why they don’t run Sabonis out of the high post, which should pull Looney or Green away from the basket. I know they’ve kind of been giving Sabonis that shot from the nail, but in those cases, he ought to move toward the rim while his teammates keep relocating. Or just make the shot. He really ought to be at about 70% from that distance when unchallenged.

It’s tough for a guy to rack up assists at his normal rate when no one is hitting shots, but the pick & roll has been pretty reliable so far, and my sense is that it’s being underutilized.

As ever, converting from distance cures all. It’s not as if the GS defense is doing anything exceptional in that regard, but maybe Brown needs to line up Huerter, Barnes, and Murray, and slap them like Moe does the Three Stooges.

Moe Harkless would have been great for that, he has hands the size of small dogs.

Adamsite
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April 21, 2023 1:13 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

I’ve been wondering where he PnR has been as well. Fox and Sabonis should have used that a ton last night. Instead it was Fox shooting from deep and Sabonis attempting to bully Looney in the paint. IMO, Fox should have been looking to get into the paint more and Sabonis should have been operating out of the high post.

Jack
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April 21, 2023 7:21 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

IMO Sabonis looks like he is afraid of the Warriors’ He isn’t taking care of the ball and misses so many layups. In the three games I have watched Sabonis has not taken a mid range 14 to 16 foot AT ALL. I have watched him in other games and has done all that well. I also think he is too unselfish as a player and needs to take charge and shot some of those mid range shots. Would that not bring Looney or Green out to defend those shots leaving back doors open. Murray looks like he has lost all confidence in his shoot and has even played better defense during the regular season.Huerter IMO fouls too much especially on plays outside the realm of drives. We need Barnes to anchor the first team as he mostly does. We need Monk to do his thing. Last game 4 points.

Adamsite
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April 21, 2023 1:09 pm

Horrible shooting by Keegan, Huerter, and Barnes aside, Fox and Sabonis should have feasted last night. They are like different players over the last 3 games.

Fox did not touch the paint nearly enough and is settling for too many 3’s and long 2s. He is averaging 9 3PTA a game the last three games compared to his 5 3PTA during the regular season, all while increasing his FG attempts from 18 to 24. Basically the Warriors are daring him to shoot. The stat that stands out most to me is that Fox has attempted 6 total shots at the rim over three games.

SneakerKing
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April 21, 2023 2:14 pm

Someone needs to nut check Huerter. If it weren’t for Monk hitting shots in the first 2 games, the Kings aren’t ahead in this series. Huerter, Monk, and Keegan need to come alive from 3 or we’re going home after 6 games.. If Huerter comes alive from 3, I think that unlocks the Kings offense and we’re onto the next round. We need a Huerter game. NOW.

Jack
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April 21, 2023 7:36 pm
Reply to  SneakerKing

And Murray and Barnes and Monk and Lyles. How can we ever going to win this series if we don’t shoot the ball. This is what basketball is all about. Basket and ball go hand in hand. When I played basketball I was what they call now as a shooting guard. We didn’t have threes back then but I could shoot any where on the court. I had my bad days but never like what these Kings shooters are doing. Maybe one or two a night will have bad games but not everyone of them for 3 straight PLAYOFF GAMES. You are professionals that have played your entire game on at lot of courts and have had success many times over. Start proving it.

Kosta
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April 21, 2023 3:14 pm

Need to get our mojo back.

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RobHessing
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April 21, 2023 3:25 pm
Reply to  Kosta

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Klam
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April 21, 2023 3:58 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

I love that scene. One of my all time favorites.

Ellis5
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April 21, 2023 7:52 pm
Reply to  Kosta

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WizsSox
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April 21, 2023 3:40 pm

Just wanted to pop in and say thoughtful analysis Tim. Good idea to check percentages at various times of the shot clock. Interesting point.

Personally I agree with Brown and would just keep encouraging them to shoot open shots early in the shot clock or not. If they can’t shoot a reasonable clip from 3 the Kings aren’t likely to win the series anyway, regardless of Game 1/2 results.

Let’s hope at least 2 of Huerter, Barnes, Murray or Lyles can find their stroke.

UpgradedToQuestionable
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April 21, 2023 6:45 pm

I thought the Kings also broke down defensively- Davion had an off night (and deservedly, he’s been superb against the games premier playoff backcourt scoring PG, he can’t be expected to hold him down every game).

But the Warriors had a motion offense for their squad which often left Sac flat footed and by the end of the 3rd – I saw less effort on D which carried into the 4th.

I was just as surprised by the confusion on D as the lackluster shooting

UpgradedToQuestionable
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April 21, 2023 7:26 pm

oh – and did anyone check those rims? Were they verified correct height by Kings staff?

macdoogs
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April 22, 2023 3:23 am

Fox and Domas are clearly the stars, but Monk Huerter, Keegan, and sometimes Lyles are kind of where we live and die. When huerter is on, our offense hums. When he’s off… No bueno. When Monk and Keegan are hitting their shots it adds a huge boost to the team, same with Lyles.

The Warriors really aren’t playing amazing defense but their points can add up quick if we’re not at least matching them. Game 4 needs to be treated like game 7 and we need to come out with alot more than we have been. We can’t keep coming out flat and losing the 1st quarters of every game and then hope we turn it on like we’ve done all season

Dan Houlder
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April 22, 2023 5:11 am

Not really worried. Despite the shooting woes, we’re up 2-1.

The Kings just need to keep doing what they’re doing.

Jack
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April 22, 2023 7:25 am
Reply to  Dan Houlder

No they don’t. They need to shoot better or forget the playoffs,

Dan Houlder
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April 22, 2023 8:52 am
Reply to  Jack

The Kings have slumped from the three-point line a few times this season, and each time comments have popped up about how they need to drive more, or simply to shoot better.

I’m sure every player already knows they need to shoot better.

My point is that when the shots start falling, the complaints disappear.

And each time, it seemed that the Kings just kept doing what they were already doing.

So they’ll do that once again.

Slumps from three are normal.

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