Sacramento’s three game winning streak came to an end in Houston on Wednesday night, and to a large degree, the Kings have themselves to blame.
Sacramento turned the ball over 21 times, which led to 32 Houston points in the 102-89 loss.
“You can’t beat good teams and yourself in the same game,” Kings coach Michael Malone told the media in Houston. “And we did that tonight which is too bad.”
Houston came into the game ranked second in the NBA in points allowed and in field goal percentage defense, with a reputation for their physicality.
“We knew they were going to be a little aggressive,” Ben McLemore told reporters. “But, we shouldn’t let that stop us from getting inside to our offensive sets.”
In sharp contrast to the 12-2 run that Sacramento employed in Tuesday’s win in New Orleans, the Kings trailed by 18 points at the end of the first quarter and by as many as 22 points in the first half.
“We dug ourselves into a hole,” DeMarcus Cousins admitted. “We spent most our energy trying to get back out of the hole.”
The Kings trailed by four entering the final quarter after previously cutting the Rockets lead to one on a McLemore 3-pointer at the 9:25 mark of the third quarter.
However, Sacramento was unable to rally past the Rockets.
“The last coupe of minutes, I felt like our guys were just gassed,” Cousins said, who led the Kings with 29 points, 17 rebounds and six assists.
“I’m not taking credit away from them, but that’s why they were able to pull away.”
“We fought,” said McLemore. “We came out as a collective group and told ourselves to keep fighting . . . Tonight it was our turnovers.
“The fourth quarter, we have to find a way to lock in and execute down the stretch.”
Missing starting point guard Darren Collison and Rudy Gay hurt Sacramento the most during crunch time.
Both squads were missing key players due to injury as Collison and Gay missed their second consecutive games while Dwight Howard, Patrick Beverly and Terrence Jones were out for the Rockets.
James Harden led Houston with 26 points while Isaiah Canaan and Donatas Motiejunas provided career highs of 24 and 21 points, respectively.
“When you see a guy hit two or three shots, you better guard him a little differently,” Malone commented. “We didn’t really adjust for whatever reason and give him (Canaan) credit.
“When nobody was able to make a shot, he carried them. So, a great job by him and a poor job by us defending against him and Motiejunas tonight.”
THE GOOD: Cousins continues to put up All-Star numbers, recording his eighth straight and 12th overall double-double of the season.
THE BAD: The Kings turned the ball over nine times in the first quarter, allowed 37 points and dug an 18-point deficit.
THE TAKE: After rallying and winning with a compromised roster in New Orleans on Tuesday, turnovers, the absence of Gay and Collison and the reality of the NBA schedule caught up with the Kings in Houston.
“Especially on a back to back, it’s tough,” said former Rocket Omri Casspi, who started in place of Gay. “You take a toll on your body on back to backs and you have to lock in a little more.”