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A quick glance of Sunday's box score reveals the Kings' advantage over the Grizzlies in multiple categories:
• Points in the paint: 58-50
• Second-chance points: 16-7
• Fast-break points: 16-7
• Rebounds: 42-35
However, Sacramento fell short -- losing 97-85 to Memphis in the first game of a five-game homestand.
How did Sacramento (9-8) fail to get the job done against the Grizzlies (15-2) -- owners of the best record in the NBA -- while limiting Memphis to a paltry 39 points in the second half?
“I told our guys, in nine wins we averaged 14 turnovers for 13 points, and in our eight losses we averaged over 18 turnovers for 23 points,” Kings coach Michael Malone said.
“At some point we have to find a way to stop beating ourselves. I give Memphis credit because they’re a very good defensive team. ... Tony Allen and Mike Conley just took us out of the offense and caused turnovers, which was unfortunate.”
The Kings committed 23 turnovers that translated into 23 points for the Grizzlies.
The first half saw Sacramento commit 13 of the blunders as Memphis amassed a lead of 21 points. While the Kings battled back, cutting the deficit to three points twice in the fourth quarter, they just couldn’t recover.
“We got down by as many as 21 points, but we didn’t roll over,” Malone commented. “We got back in the game, but I hate the fact that we get in those kind of holes where we have to constantly fight ourselves out of it."
“It’s very frustrating being that I thought we could’ve won this game,” said Rudy Gay, who led the Kings with 20 points. “We never had our heads down, we never thought that we were out of the game, we came back, made a run at it. But that was one of those things that came back to haunt us.”
The Kings, who were without DeMarcus Cousins for the second consecutive game due to a virus, received a front court lift -- but not from Ryan Hollins, who started in Cousins' place.
Hollins was ejected after receiving his second technical foul after playing just 17 minutes.
“I give a lot of credit to Reggie Evans, for him to come out and get 20 (rebounds) and 17 (points) — it was a great night for him,” Malone commented. “He had that energy and that toughness that we needed out there.”
Malone had not played Evans in the seven games before Memphis on Sunday but the former Iowa Hawkeye produced.
“It felt good," Evans said. "I was shocked that my name was called. But you’ve got to be ready to go at any time and that’s just the main key.
“You just never know when your name will be called so whenever it’s called just always make sure you’re ready.”
While there is no shame in losing to Memphis, it was another Kings loss that was to a large degree self-inflicted.
“We have to find a way to value the ball at a much higher level and to just be a more consistent team,” Malone said. “Right now, I never know what team is going to show up. When we defend and value the ball, we prove we can beat anybody. Then on the opposite end, when we don’t defend or value the ball, we can lose to anybody.
“We’re just looking for consistency right now. ... If you want to be a good team in the NBA, you have to be a consistent team and play the right way every night."
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THE GOOD: Reggie Evans personified the Kings' resilience, contributing a double-double with 17 points and 20 rebounds. The 6-foot-8 power forward is averaging 4.3 points and 16.4 minutes over 10 games this year, but was effective over nearly 35 minutes on Sunday.
THE BAD: The Kings' 23 turnovers -- leading to 23 points for Memphis -- were an absolute killer.
THE TAKE: Notwithstanding the loss, the Kings still are overachieving and have 11 more home games in December.
“I just told them, walk out of here understanding that we have a lot of work to do, but being 9-8 and having played the toughest schedule and the most road games in the NBA -- we have a lot of things to feel good about,” Malone said.
“I’m concerned with where our defense is right now, but we have a tremendous opportunity in December with a lot of home games where we can try to put something special together.”