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A tough week for the Kings was amplified by a 108-107 loss to the Bucks on Thursday.
DeMarcus Cousins, who returned to the lineup after a 10-game hiatus due to viral meningitis, missed a 15-foot shot at the buzzer and Sacramento's losing streak reached five games.
Having Cousins back in uniform was a boon, though, as the 6-foot-11 center scored 27 points and secured 11 rebounds -- both game high totals.
[RECAP: Kings fall to Bucks, 108-107]
“Well, he looked good,” said interim coach Tyrone Corbin, who no one will accuse of hyperbole -- extreme exaggeration used for effect.
“He actually wanted to play more, but I had to take him out a couple times early to try and get him some wind, and I wanted to take him out in the fourth cause we had to finish with him.
“He weathered the storm, and he’s a competitor, and he did a great job of trying to will us to a win.”
Cousins, for his part, wasn’t satisfied.
“I felt a little winded in the beginning, got my second wind (and) everything else was fine,” said Cousin. “I’m still not at the level I was before but I was able to play through.”
The 3-point line was an unexpected critical factor at Sleep Train Arena.
Heading into the game, Sacramento ranked fifth in 3-point field goal percentage defense, while the Bucks came to Sacramento ranking a very average 16th in the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage.
However, Milwaukee sizzled with Brandon Knight and O.J. Mayo shooting a combined 11-for-20 from downtown in the first half. Overall, the Bucks shot 57 percent from 3-point range on the night.
“They made a lot of tough shots -- we ran them off the line, they made the right play,” Rudy Gay said. “You have to give them a lot of praise. They played well. They were hot.”
“O.J. (Mayo) started off making a lot of shots and Brandon Knight, he basically finished it. They moved the ball around, everybody hit shots and it’s just tough to play a team like that.”
While defending 3-point shooting was a new Kings conundrum, another familiar yet unwelcome visitor crashed the party -- 21 Kings turnovers led to 17 points for Milwaukee.
“Again, we turned the ball over 21 times,” Corbin said. “So even with scoring 107 points we can’t afford to give up 50 percent shooting, and they shot 56 percent from the 3- point line. That’s too many.”
Undoubtedly, it’s been an emotional time for the Kings with the uncertainty around Cousins’ health and the firing of popular second-year coach Michael Malone on Sunday.
“Tough loss, I mean tough loss,” Corbin added. “These guys are disappointed. They’re working their butt off. They’ve been through a lot this last week.
“The only way we’re going to get through it is to continue to work and stay together. I don’t think they’ll feel sorry for themselves, they’ll come back and be ready to work again.”
Ultimately, the only thing that can lift Sacramento’s morale is a win.
“We’re just striving for a win -- however it comes, whatever we’ve got to do, we’ve got to do it,” Gay said. “I don’t think we’re too far down, it’s a long season. Just as well as we lose five straight, we can win six straight.
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“I think being that we did that so early, people are looking for that again. But it’s not going to come easy, we’ve got to work for it.”
THE GOOD: Notwithstanding missing a potentially game-winning shot at the buzzer, Cousins was strong, totaling 27 points and 11 rebounds in 33 minutes after missing 10 games due to viral meningitis.
THE BAD: Turnovers. Entering the fourth quarter tied, the Kings committed five turnovers, which enabled the Bucks to take a 10-point lead.
Even though Sacramento battled back and took the lead before eventually losing, the turnovers are killing the Kings.
THE TAKE: A locker room is a precarious place. Can the Kings persevere through the storm of a surprise coaching change and an even more precarious interim coaching situation?
Thankfully, Cousins is back.