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The Kings have a 2nd Quarter Problem

Sacramento is one of the worst 2nd quarter teams in the entire league. What's the deal?
By | 26 Comments | Dec 13, 2023

Dec 6, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; LA Clippers guard James Harden (1) shoots the ball against the Sacramento Kings in the first half at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Before the season, Mike Brown stated that “Good is the enemy of great”.  The Kings had just come off their best season in almost two decades, but Sacramento’s coach wasn’t satisfied.  The Kings needed to be better, and the path towards getting better was going to be a lot harder than the one they took last season.

“A lot of times if you are good, you get too comfortable. And if you get too comfortable, and you’re OK with the position that you’re in, it makes it extremely hard to be great. So for us, we’ve got to win the day every single day. And we’ve got to be OK with open and honest communication with each other. We’ve gotta be OK with the mental and physical stress that it takes to just be a little bit better. You’ve got to be OK being uncomfortable so it helps us prepare for a deep playoff run.”

So far, the Kings haven’t done a great job of dealing with adversity.  Yes, they have the same exact record (13-9) after 22 games as they did last season, but games like last night’s blowout loss against the Clippers have been far too common an occurrence. The Kings lost by 20 points last night, the fourth such time already this season that the Kings have lost by 20 or more points.  Last year, they only had four 20 or more point losses over the entire season. On the other side, the Kings have also yet to have a win by more than 20 points this season compared to three at the same point last season.  That’s a big reason why Sacramento’s net rating is negative despite a 13-9 record.

So what’s going wrong? Why does it seem like this year’s Kings team has more trouble hanging onto leads and also digging themselves into bigger holes than last season’s team?

One of the biggest culprits for Sacramento’s woes has been compounding issues in the 2nd period. This year’s Kings team also seems to have a very big 2nd quarter problem, as pointed out by NBA.com’s John Schuhmann in his latest Power Rankings.  The Kings have a positive Net Rating in every single quarter outside of the 2nd quarter, where they transform from one of the best teams in the NBA to one of the worst.  The Kings have a -15.5 net rating in the 2nd quarter, with the only team performing worse being the Ja Morant-less Memphis Grizzlies.  In the 13 games the Kings have won, they’ve actually managed to have a positive net rating in that 2nd quarter even if just barely at 0.4. In their nine losses however? That net rating plummets to an absolutely ludicrous -38.8, which matches the eye test.  The Kings have seen multiple leads disappear and deficits turn insurmountable, and it all tends to start in that crucial 2nd quarter before the break.

Last night against the Clippers, the Kings didn’t get off to a great start but the game was still within reach at eight points. The Clippers turned that eight point lead into a 19 point lead in just over four minutes into the 2nd quarter, with the Kings not getting a single stop until James Harden missed a three pointer with 7:28 left.  In fact, the only stops the Kings got for most of the quarter were when the Clippers missed a three pointer. It wasn’t until Russell Westbrook turned the ball over with 2:06 left in the quarter that the Kings got a real stop, and by then that eight point first quarter lead had turned into a nearly 30 point Clippers lead that the Kings didn’t have the energy to come back from, especially on the 2nd night of a back to back.

The Kings didn’t seem to have this much trouble in the 2nd quarter last season.  Last year’s Kings team actually had a slightly negative net rating in the 1st quarter (-1.4), but were positive in the 2nd (3.0), 3rd (3.9) and 4th (4.8).  Last year’s team seemed to just need to get warmed up, whereas this year’s team tends to start fast and then peter out before ramping back up as the game goes down.

This doesn’t really seem to be a bench issue either, or at least not just a bench issue. One of the reasons you might think to look at when it comes to 2nd quarter woes is that the bench comes in and they aren’t nearly as good as the starters (and Sacramento’s starting lineup has a stellar net rating), but Sacramento’s starters still tend to play the most minutes in the second quarter and are vastly underperforming their usual standards.  De’Aaron Fox leads the team in second quarter minutes, but posts a -11.8 net rating (he is positive in every other quarter).  Domantas Sabonis is really bad in the 2nd quarter, posting a terrible -26.8 net rating (he is also positive in every other quarter), and Harrison Barnes (-18.6), Kevin Huerter (-17.3) and Keegan Murray (-14.2) aren’t much better. In fact the only Kings player on the entire team with a positive net rating in the 2nd quarter is JaVale McGee at +16.9.

Now, there is one other factor to consider, and that is that certain teams seem to just give the Kings trouble. After last night’s loss to the Clippers, the Kings have now lost nine games on the season, but to just four different teams.  The Kings are a combined 1-9 against the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, L.A. Clippers and New Orleans Pelicans and 12-0 against everyone else.  Even that one win against those teams featured the Kings having to make a 24 point comeback and Malik Monk to hit an absolutely insane game winner off the glass.

The Warriors make sense as a tough opponent for the Kings; no team is more familiar with Sacramento’s strengths and weakness as a team after how much these two teams have played each other.  The Rockets are much improved this season, and the Kings were also without De’Aaron Fox and on the road for both of those games, but they did a good job of shutting down the paint and making life difficult for Sacramento, especially Domantas Sabonis.  The Pelicans are just a brutal matchup for the Kings, with bigger size at almost every position and the Clippers feature two Hall of Fame two way wings and another Hall of Fame guard who is starting to get into a rhythm, as well as a big man who has the strength and size to give Sabonis trouble.  Six of these nine losses have also come on the road, and three of the worst ones being on the second night of a back to back.

But if the Kings want to be great and not just good, they’re going to need to figure out their issues in the second quarter and against certain teams. This isn’t a league where you can afford to be inconsistent or not play for all 48 minutes.  The Kings need to find a way to bring the energy in every quarter and whether it’s at home or on the road.  Yes, there are some personnel changes that will likely be needed (namely more wing depth and a reliable backup PG), but this is the team we have now and they need to be better, especially in the tough Western Conference.

The Kings are going to be back at home for a six game homestand starting Thursday against Oklahoma City, and hopefully this early season adversity will temper them for future battles, but they’ll need to figure out these issues soon.

 

 

 

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Hobby916
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December 13, 2023 12:55 pm

Is there a way to look at what lineups/players tend to play together in the 2nd quarter? It might be nothing, or might be something (what the hell do I know), but maybe the rotations in the 1st half need to be adjusted a bit?

RikSmits
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December 13, 2023 3:02 pm
Reply to  Aykis16

I’m just spitballing here but I think that Huerter is the main guy for the DHO offense with Domas and it seems that the DHO is the main cog of putting our efficient offense into gear.

You put Malik there and the offense gets a bit more freelance and less structured.

Also, and I am again spitballing again, but with Fox being so clutch in the 4th, perhaps it improves the stats in the 4th quarter and lowers them in the 2nd?

Amonk81
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December 13, 2023 3:58 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

Agree about the DHO-though it’s also being limited- without Sabonis.

Running pick and roll is good but definitely need to find their O without Sabs. And Sabonis has to continue taking and making mid range.

then again, this could just all come down to lack of defense and fight.

TheBaker
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December 14, 2023 9:06 am
Reply to  Hobby916

Also spitballing, but usual substitution patters have Domas coming out a couple of minutes before the end of Q1, with Fox coming back in with mostly the second unit. Domas doesn’t usually return until a good amount of time has passed in Q2. I would chalk it up to a lack of continuity, and really, a lack of Domas’ creation.
That’s really more of me complaining that I don’t like Fox coming out in the 1st Quarter at all. I’d rather see him get a break sometime in the second Quarter.

Hobby916
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December 14, 2023 9:12 am
Reply to  TheBaker

I agree. That is why they need a big that can replicate what Domas does to a certain extent. McGee and Len just don’t do that.

lazlohollyfeld
December 13, 2023 3:27 pm

The Kings may well have a 2nd quarter problem but perhaps that’s due to a larger mental toughness issue. Last night, both teams were on a back to back but it was the much older team that played with intensity and shot well rather than the younger legs on the Kings. Sure, the Clippers didn’t have to travel but that’s barely an excuse. To go from hitting 25 threes the night before to having only 4 heading into garbage time is just a lack of mental toughness. That may explain the 2nd quarter problem. The Kings know how to score and get teams down by double digits in the 1st but they let those teams back in because they haven’t learned how to consistently put the hammer down and put teams away early. We’ve seen them put the hammer down at times, so it’s not outside the capability of the team. It’s just they need to become a team that locks down early and often. Jacking up threes less than 10 seconds into the shot clock with bad spacing for a rebound is almost like a turnover and it’s been a problem in the games they’ve lost. Consistency is the mark of a great team and also great teams know if the three isn’t going, they work the ball down low, draw fouls (and make them), score in the paint (we have one of the best players in the League for that), and play lockdown defense. For all four quarters. They can do it but they haven’t shown the mental toughness this year that would take them from good to great.

Kfan
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December 13, 2023 3:32 pm
Reply to  lazlohollyfeld

Interesting points. Could also explain why we get blown out, but haven’t really blown anyone out.

RikSmits
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December 13, 2023 11:59 pm
Reply to  lazlohollyfeld

I’m not disagreeing with your general points.

However, I doubt that mental toughness is one of the top ten reasons for making or missing 3’s.

Amonk81
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December 13, 2023 3:55 pm

I hate the excuse that other teams have hall of gamers/talent. So do Sac. I just don’t love what they don’t get from Sabonis (their other all star) when DHO taken away. Or from Huerter and others

And I think this all speaks to the issues of not winning in the playoffs/playing playoff winning hoops.

1/2 court/DHO not what it was because Sabonis has proven to be limited and guys sag off. Defense is still an issue as well. Woth Sabs but also Huerter/Monk etc etc.

The Kings need to get wing defenders 2/3/4 in if they want to make a playoff run.

and I am in agreement with Coach Brown. Winning in the regular season is fine, but that’s not the goal. They’ve got to get new talent in or the talent they have needs to improve enough to win the playoffs. As I said, previously, I don’t care about the rest.

TerzoM
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December 13, 2023 5:08 pm

comment image

Klam
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Nostradumbass 18
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Nostradumbass 18
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December 13, 2023 5:33 pm

OT: Green getting suspended indefinitely.

TerzoM
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December 13, 2023 6:06 pm
Reply to  Klam

And Klay benched all of 4th quarter. It would have been nice if we could finish them off last playoffs, but they are finishing themselves off this year.

Klam
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Nostradumbass 18
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December 14, 2023 9:39 am
Reply to  TerzoM

I will say that I am thoroughly enjoying watching the demise of the Warriors.

Hobby916
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December 14, 2023 10:13 am
Reply to  Klam

It’s real, and it’s spectacular.

Jman1949
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December 13, 2023 6:55 pm
Reply to  Klam

But this time he really didn’t mean it!

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Last edited 7 months ago by Jman1949
krswin
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December 14, 2023 10:18 am
Reply to  Klam

What garbage excuse is Kerr going to use this time? 😂 😂 😂
That team needs to go away.

TheGrantNapear
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December 14, 2023 11:47 am
Reply to  krswin

I lost all respect for Kerr. He’s defended Green’s antics from day one without fail. He’s the HC, by defending it, he’s sanctioning it. Kerr needs to get off his high horse and show some contrition.

Dorde34
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December 14, 2023 8:42 am

In my opinion, this is a Monte McNair problem. Running it back with Barnes and even to some extent, Huerter, was going to be difficult. Barnes fizzled out in the playoffs from games 5-7. Huerter is extremely underperformed this year and plays 0 defense. Sasha competes harder on defense and it shows so much watching the games. Back to the McNair problem..the Kings have to upgrade at the 4 or 3 position to have any chance at a deep playoff run. It’s apparent that the Kings can not beat several teams in the Western Conference in a best of 7 currently. Siakim, OG, Kuzma, Jerami Grant..any of them would be a great addition. I’m willing to part ways with Barnes, Huerter, Mitchell, and draft picks to acquire any of those players. Teams like the Clippers and Pelicans will continue to bully the Kings until more versatility on the wings is acquired.

TheBaker
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December 14, 2023 8:59 am
Reply to  Dorde34

Agree with the overall point that the team should be continually improved. I disagree that Huerter play 0 defense. I’m quite down on Huerter, but I think he does give effort and has some decent defensive games – although he does get burned at times. If I had one of the trade targets you listed, I would not be interested in any of the players mentioned in return: I would need some younger assets.

Dorde34
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December 17, 2023 4:00 am
Reply to  TheBaker

You can’t get much younger than OG and Kuzma. They both fit the timeline of Fox and Sabonis

Hobby916
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December 14, 2023 9:22 am
Reply to  Dorde34

I was on the trade machine earlier for shits and giggles. 3 team trade Kings/Hawks/Raptors. Kings end up with Pascal and Bey, and they send out Huerter/Barnes/Davion and some picks. Pie in the sky, don’t think it would actually work, lol.

Huerter has his best DBPM at -0.2. He has 1 more rebound per game this season compared to last. He is okay. Not great, but okay.

Barnes is hit and miss for me. Might be nice to het him a bit more involved offensively. Make him the cutter to the rim since plays aren’t ran for him. It seems like he just hangs out in the corner and waits for a shot attempt and then ho-hum runs to play defense. It has to be somewhat discouraging knowing that he is an after thought offensively.

Jack
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December 14, 2023 12:07 pm
Reply to  Hobby916

OK Here I go again. Trade Huerter for Lugentz Dort. He scores about the same but is one of the best defenders in the league. Trade Mitchell and 2 seconds for Tari Eason. Rockets need a point guard and we need a stretch 4 along side Sabonis who can rebound play defense run the floor and shoot the 3. Also can protect the weakside rim. Still has more potential. With Barnes we might be able to trade him to the Lakers for Rui Hachimura. Younger version of Banes 3 or 4 year ago.

Jack
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December 14, 2023 1:56 pm
Reply to  Jack

PS I might add Edwards along with the Mitchell trade.

Dorde34
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December 17, 2023 4:03 am
Reply to  Hobby916

I wish that would work. Seems we won’t get either OG or Pascal until Raptors move their asking price down. Not worth giving Murray for half year rental with no guarantee of a re sign. Plus Murray developing into a star anyway. He should be untouchable

TheGrantNapear
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December 14, 2023 11:49 am
Reply to  Dorde34

MM f’d up big time by resigning HB. Most of us on this board knew it at the time whilst some tried to justify the contract numbers by comparing them to other players that were getting overpaid.
The signing was bad and the contract was bad

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