The gap in the schedule helped Sacramento right the ship.
Two weeks, the Kings were 6-10, a win against the Knicks salvaging what had been a rough stretch of play. Sacramento had the 13th-best offense in the league but the NBA’s worst defense. In fact, their defense was a full four points worse than the 29th-ranked defense; that gap was equal to the difference between the 20th and 29th-ranked defenses.
The Kings were supposed to head out on a six-game road trip immediately after that New York contest, tough sledding for a team that was already reeling. Instead, they got a reprieve. The Grizzlies had been hit by Covid, and the NBA shut them down for 10 days to avoid transmission across the league. Thus, the two games Sacramento had scheduled in Memphis were postponed, giving them four days off, a rarity in this compressed league year.
Since that time, the Kings seem like a new team. And as De’Aaron Fox told Zach Lowe on the “The Lowe Post” podcast, the rest was key to the group’s reversal:
“The turnaround might have been when two of our games got canceled. It would have been a back-to-back in Memphis because they had the Covid stuff and those two games got canceled, so we ended up staying home. We had a few extra days of practice, and since then it’s been on an uphill battle.
“It’s been great, we’ve been playing well. Defensively, we got so much better. Offensively, I mean I think we were fine. We were in a good place offensively, but defense, if you’re giving 120-130 points, you’re not winning games. You’re not gonna win games in this league. After having those two days of extra practice, then we hit the East Coast for a trip. We’ve been well, we’ve been off really well.”
The Kings are 6-2 since that break. Their offense is 8th in the NBA over that stretch; more impressively, their defense is 14th. They’ve allowed 6.5 fewer points per 100 possessions over the past two weeks, and Fox credits much of that change to the practices they had during the postponed games. They needed some time after a shortened training camp and preseason to figure out their rotations and assignments, and that break was the prefect opportunity.
“I feel like guys were just like, man we’re missing something. We know we can score the ball, there’s just something missing that if we can figure this out, we can turn the season around. Like I said, after those two practices, guys have been defending, everybody’s been on one page as far as defense is concerned, and we’ve been able to get those stops when we need it.”
Fox gave this interview after the win over the Clippers, and that trend continued Tuesday, because stops weren’t the problem in Sacramento’s loss to Philadelphia. Still, the effort in defeat suggested that the Kings have turned a corner, one that can be traced back to a fortuitous break in the schedule.