The Sacramento Kings are unraveling. With 23 games remaining in the season, their playoff hopes are dwindling by the day. On Wednesday night in Memphis, they fell apart late and dropped their fourth straight, this time by a final of 104-98.
There is no question that the team’s schedule has played a role in the Kings current slide. It’s hard to pass blame on a team for losing to the Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and Grizzlies. They are all veteran teams heading to the playoffs.
“I don’t like to complain about the schedule,” George Karl told reporters following the game. “There are moments in your season that you get a nice schedule and there are moments in the season where you get an awful schedule. Sometimes the combination of injuries, and coming in at the wrong time make the schedule more difficult.”
It’s not getting any easier over the next four games for Sacramento. They are back at it on Thursday night when they face the Mavericks in Dallas. They finish up the week with games in San Antonio and New Orleans before returning home to face the Cavs. An eight-game losing streak isn’t out of the question.
The game in Memphis was a microcosm of the Kings season. A bad start to the second quarter snowballed out of control. After a tightly contested first 12 minutes, the Kings went scoreless for the first 6:17 of the second. The Grizzlies took advantage, building a 16-point lead.
“I think our black holes are always similar,” Karl said if the second quarter. “Turnovers, and we got out-worked on the boards and they got their young athletes that jumped around, bounced around and were very good. We lost the rebounding attitude."
The Kings recovered in the third quarter, outscoring Memphis 35-24, and with a little over eight minutes remaining in the fourth, they took an 87-85 lead.
“We were getting outplayed and just playing soft,” Quincy Acy said. “It kind of lit a fire under us, and we responded well. It let us know what we were capable of, but we can’t be digging holes for ourselves like that.”
But like so many other nights this season, the Kings couldn’t execute down the stretch, missing open jumpers and turning the ball over left and right. Memphis finished the game on 19-11 stretch as the Kings ran out of gas.
The Kings are 27th in the league in turnovers at 16.5 per contest. On Wednesday in Memphis, they bumped that total up to 25. DeMarcus Cousins led the way with a game-high seven mistakes, but he had plenty of company. Rajon Rondo and Darren Collison each ended the night with five turnovers and Omri Casspi gave away the ball three times.
It’s hard to win when you give up 29 points off of turnovers. It’s almost impossible to win when you give up 29 points off of turnovers on the road to a playoff team.
In addition to the mistakes, Cousins had a quiet night for the Kings. The All-Star center finished the game with 18 points and 16 rebounds, but he struggled to stay on the floor against veteran big man Zach Randolph.
“It really was just the foul trouble that threw me off a little bit, but I’ve got to find a way to play through that,” Cousins said. “I think they zoned up the paint a lot and took away a lot of angles, so I had to be a lot more passive than usual, so it was a combination of a lot of things.”
Cousins added six assists, three steals and two blocks and he stood in and took two huge charge calls late in the game. But the Kings needed more from their star.
With the loss, Sacramento fell five games behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the west. With a rough four games ahead of them, the Kings are going to need a miracle if they hope to turn things around.
WELCOME BACK MARCO BELINELLI
With his former head coach Tom Thibodeau hanging around the team for a few days as a consultant, veteran wing Marco Belinelli looked rejuvenated Wednesday night. He finished the game with 16 points on 7-of-15 shooting, which is by far his best game in a while.
The Kings need more games like this if they have any hope of snapping their current tumble.