Harrison Barnes

Kings' defensive resurgence teaching team ‘different ways' to win

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As the saying goes, defense wins championships.

And although Mike Brown and Co. still are a long way away from hoisting a trophy, the Kings’ defense was pivotal in their 123-89 win against an injury-riddled Toronto Raptors team on Wednesday at Scotiabank Arena.

For a third time in Sacramento’s last five games, the Kings held their opponent to less than 100 points, bridging a gap in their play and, in return, adding a valuable tool to their arsenal.

“For us, I think it's just learning to win in different ways,” Barnes told reporters. “I think some of these games have been a little bit slower.

“[They] haven't necessarily been the pace that we like to play, but we understand that come playoff time, it's gonna be more physical. We need to be valuing the possession at a higher level of attention, and that's what it's going to come down to.”

With Domantas Sabonis, who recorded his 24th triple-double of the season against the Raptors, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk firing on all cylinders, offensive firepower appears to be the least of the Kings’ worries.

But the same couldn’t be said of Sacramento’s play on the opposite end of the floor – until recently.

Behind inspired defensive play from Keon Ellis, who remains in a starting role as Kevin Huerter deals with a shoulder injury, and a communicative unit on the floor, the Kings are continuously polishing a wrinkle of their game that has cost them numerous wins, while permitting Sacramento’s stars to feel a sense of support.

“I think more communication,” Ellis told reporters. “Guys being in their spots. With us knowing that us playing better defense leads to easier points, I think we’ve locked in more on the defensive end.

“That way you get a stop, you create a turnover. Now, it’s, like I said earlier, [to] create easier points for the team, that way we are not always in the half court and trying to create and putting a lot of pressure on [De’Aaron Fox] and [Domantas Sabonis] to create for us.

“I definitely think [it’s] us talking and helping each other …”

Sacramento managed to limit Toronto, which entered Wednesday's contest averaging 113.7 points per game this season, to a season-low 89 points on 41.3-percent shooting from the field.

As the Kings' play appears to find more balance, Sacramento guard Chris Duarte recognizes the team is in a transition.

“[We’re] just getting better,” Duarte told NBC Sports California's Morgan Ragan and Chelsea Gray on "Kings Postgame Live." “We just keep getting better. We just keep playing our game.

“We keep playing fast. And we just keep playing hard. That’s it.”

Now, with the Kings sitting at No. 6 in the Western Conference standings with 14 games left in regular-season play, the question now becomes whether ot not Sacramento’s defense can find regularity, similar to this season’s consistent output from Sabonis and Monk.

If it can, perhaps the Kings' defense can continue tallying wins for a team with strong playoff hopes.

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