The Sacramento Kings have made strides defensively from last season, but the winless team needs to be much better offensively as well.
The Kings look to avoid their first 0-4 start in four seasons in Monday night's home opener against the Golden State Warriors, who are seeking their first 3-0 road start in 18 years.
With the Kings ranking last in the NBA last season in scoring defense (104.4 points per game) and field-goal percentage defense (47.6), coach Keith Smart put an emphasis on improving those numbers coming into 2012-13. The result has been Sacramento giving up 97.0 ppg and 39.2 percent shooting, while Kings opponents have gone 8 for 48 (16.7 percent) from 3-point range.
Sacramento's second-half defense has been even more impressive, as the club is allowing an average of 42.0 points and 34.8 percent shooting.
The Kings limited Indiana to 35 total points in the third and fourth quarters Saturday, but couldn't overcome giving up 38 in the second quarter of a 106-98 double-overtime loss.
"We gotta figure out a way to keep that (second-half) defense for 48 minutes," guard Tyreke Evans said. "We get down and then we try to pick it back up. We can't do that. We've got to start from the beginning. I think that's how we're going to get our first win."
Improved shooting might also help that happen. The Kings, who opened 0-4 in 2008-09, are scoring 88.3 points per game and hitting 37.5 percent from the field.
"The thing is, we were so focused on being a defensive team. We kinda want to worry about the offense now," said big man DeMarcus Cousins, who's shooting 38.9 percent - well below his career mark of 43.8.
The Warriors (2-1) have not won their first three road games since 1994-95. In their last trip to Sacramento on March 13, Golden State won a season-best third consecutive road contest 115-89.
"We don't quit,'' coach Mark Jackson said. "We had every reason to quit, but we gutted it out and we defended."
That defense and the team's rebounding could improve with center Andrew Bogut expected to return after missing one game, with rookie Festus Ezeli recording eight points and five rebounds in his place Saturday. For the time being, the Warriors do not plan on playing Bogut on back-to-back nights due to the fractured left ankle he suffered last season Milwaukee.
The Kings, who have been outrebounded by an average of 12.0, had a 199-158 advantage on the glass against Golden State last season but dropped three of four.