The Kings' sluggish second half proved pivotal in their 106-100 loss to the Pelicans at Sleep Train Arena on Tuesday.
Life was good for Sacramento in the first half as they secured a nine-point lead. But things changed in a hurry.
[RECAP: Kings stumble in third, fall 106-100]
”We came out lackadaisical in the second half," point guard Darren Collison said. "We got too comfortable in the first half. Everything was going well and then in the second half we just kind of took our foot off the pedal."
Sacramento was outscored 31-15 in the third stanza and the Kings found themselves staring at a seven-point deficit.
“We just completely broke down," said DeMarcus Cousins, who put up 24 points and 17 rebounds in defeat. "We gave this team life tonight. We had them down early and we had them where they were out of it, then we just gave them life."
Former King Tyreke Evans scored all of his 18 points after intermission and local product Ryan Anderson scored 15 of his 22 points in the second half, becoming New Orleans’ all-time leading bench scorer.
“We blame this on ourselves," Collison said. "This was a game that we should have won. This was nothing but an effort game and I thought we didn’t show that."
Sacramento also struggled offensively in the second half.
The Kings showed offensive poise in Saturday’s win over the Spurs, allowing a season-low nine turnovers, tallying 16 fast-break points and outscoring San Antonio 58-34 in the paint. That efficiency was absent in the second half Tuesday.
“In the first half, we had 16 assists and only seven turnovers," Kings coach Michael Malone said. "The ball moved, we executed, and we looked for each other.
“Then in that third quarter, I had no idea what we ran. It was random 1-on-1, pound-the-ball basketball that led to a bunch of turnovers. We had eight turnovers in the second half which turned into 16 points."
At the end of the day, it was another defensive demise dooming the Kings. Allowing big numbers has not been an aberration:
• Allowed 34 points in the fourth quarter in Oklahoma City
• Allowed 36 in the first quarter in Phoenix
• Allowed 92 over the last three quarters in Dallas
• Allowed 95 over the last three quarters in Memphis
“In the third quarter we didn’t defend at all," concluded Malone. "We couldn’t guard their guards 1-on-1. We did a very poor job tonight."
THE GOOD: The Kings built a nine-point first half lead at 54-45 with efficient offense and defense:
• 16 assists on 21 field goals while committing seven turnovers
• Held the Pelicans to 45 points and 43 percent from the floor, including 25 percent from 3-point range
THE BAD: The Kings' second half blues, allowing 61 points.
THE TAKE: Despite the unexpected 6-5 start and the Kings being one of the surprise early stories in the NBA, defense is cause for concern.
The Kings have not progressed defensively -- 21st in the NBA allowing 102 points per night this season after allowing 103.4 per game last year.
If not corrected, the early-season hype in Sacramento could fade in a hurry.
“If we want to fool ourselves into thinking that we can pick our spots when we want to defend, there will be a lot more losses like this,” Malone said.