Kings Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Sacramento Kings and the NBA.

December 30, 2011
Transition defense a 'handicap' early

Coach Paul Westphal talks about transition defense.

With a little more than four minutes remaining in the third quarter of Thursday night's game against the Chicago Bulls, the Kings had pulled to within one point of the Bulls at 74-73 and had the ball with a chance to take the lead.

Marcus Thornton pulled up for a three-pointer and missed. Bulls backup guard C.J. Watson grabbed the rebound and brought it quickly up the court, pausing behind the three-point line to survey his options. No Kings defenders picked him up, so Watson shot an open 25-footer that wound up sparking an 11-2 Bulls run to end the quarter.

It was one example of poor transition defense that hurt the Kings in their 108-98 loss to the Bulls. Chicago scored 33 points on fast-breaks, on 15-of-16 shooting, two days after the Portland Trail Blazers also found some easy baskets in transition while scoring 17 fast-break points in their 101-79 win over the Kings.

Those struggles were a point of focus in the film room and at practice today, coach Paul Westphal said.

"You have to have players rotate back," Westphal said. "We've had a few instances where players -- a big guy can get caught up at the top of the key sometimes in the offense. If he does, he has to get back. A lot of big guys think they're offensive rebounders and they have to go to the boards no matter what. You can't do that in our offense.

"You have to rotate back if you're the player that's up there. And sometimes your players in the corner have to rotate back as soon as the shot goes up. You can't walk in and go after the boards. Sometimes we take false steps. They get a rebound and we hang around in the backcourt too long while they take off running."

Forward-center Chuck Hayes said Thursday night that the Kings' transition defense is "our biggest handicap right now" through two losses. It hurt them especially against a team that could run with speedy point guard Derrick Rose. The Kings face another team Saturday that likes to push the tempo in Mike D'Antoni's New York Knicks, though the Knicks' offense has been sluggish in their past two games.

"You take our half-court defense, we're pretty good," Hayes said. "We're rotating, taking charges in our half-court defense. It's just the transition part that's been killing us the last two games."

Thornton said that getting back on the defensive end is largely about effort.

"You want to do it, or you don't want to do it," Thornton said. "That's it. The way they scored the ball in transition, it's unacceptable. It can't happen for us to win games."

-- Matt Kawahara

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