Sacramento Kings’ improved defense fails on national TV

Sacramento Kings v New York Knicks
Sacramento Kings v New York Knicks / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

If you want any chance of beating the New York Knicks, you have to bring the right amount of physicality and force the ball out of Jalen Brunson’s hands. The Kings learned that the hard way, getting bullied the first time they met the Knicks.

This time around, the game started off well. Sacramento seemed locked in on both ends of the floor. Especially the guards De’Aaron Fox, Keon Ellis, and Davion Mitchell, were great in the first half. 

In true 2023-24 Sacramento Kings fashion, the team could not hold on to the lead, however. The offense slowed down, but the defense was also a big part of it. Since March, the Kings’ defense has looked much better overall. Last night, it failed the Kings, however. 

The Kings could not slow down the Knicks in the second half

Giving up 35 points to Jalen Brunson is nothing to be ashamed of anymore, especially if one of your primary defenders on him is just playing his first full NBA season. At the same time, however, the Kings did not execute well against Brunson. 

They tried blitzing him to get the ball out of his hands, which is a good idea in theory. It only works if you execute it well, though. The Kings did not do that consistently. Too often, players did not fully commit to the blitz, allowing Brunson to make a good pass or break the double. It killed the Kings, and they failed to make the right adjustments.

Overall, Mike Brown’s squad allowed New York to dominate the fast break and the paint by a large margin. The Knicks scored 19 fastbreak points compared to 9 from the Kings and won the battle in the paint 60-40. Allowing 60 points in the paint is never a sign of good defense, especially when it’s not even the centers doing the damage. 

Josh Hart got to do whatever he wanted in the paint, meeting almost no resistance. If you give up a season-high 31 points on only two-point field goal attempts to a role player—Hart is a very good player but still not a star like Brunson—it doesn’t speak for your defense.

The Kings really need to step up their game

This is already the second time the Kings got pushed around by the Knicks on national TV, and the game against Boston might not look much different. Every game matters right now, so the Kings cannot just accept a loss to the Celtics or any other team. 

The Lakers are creeping up on them in the standings, and dropping to ninth in the Play-In Tournament would be bad. Harrison Barnes and Domantas Sabonis need to do more, and everyone has to be locked in defensively. 

Otherwise, this season might very well end on an ugly note.