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SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings are off to a brutal start to the 2015-16 season. After dropping their fourth straight on Friday night and falling to 1-5 on the season, an impending sense of doom will only be magnified Saturday night when the 6-0 World Champion Golden State Warriors walk into Sleep Train Arena.
George Karl continues to mix and match his starting unit hoping to find the right combination. But disguising the absence of All-Star DeMarcus Cousins is becoming more and more difficult for the veteran coach.
The first unit came into the game flat and fell behind by 15 points before Karl could even make a sub.
“No sense of urgency,” Omri Casspi said. “To start the game. To start the second half. It felt like every time we made push and got back into it, they made a tough three or an open three, got a loose ball. We couldn’t get over the hump.”
While Casspi wasn’t pointing fingers, the box score supports his claim 100 percent. The Kings first unit lacked energy and the disparity between their effort and the effort of the bench was startling.
“The bench came in and got juiced and played a high level for an extended period of time,” Karl said.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Kings can't complete comeback vs Rockets]
The bench grouping of Casspi, Darren Collison, Ben McLemore, Seth Curry and Willie Cauley-Stein scored 70 of the team’s 110 points. If that stat doesn’t tell the whole story, the plus/minus numbers do.
Every single starter finished in the negative, ranging from Rajon Rondo’s -17 to Kosta Koufos’ -32. And every player that came off the bench ran a plus.
“Some games it’s going to be like that, some games the first unit is going to do a good job of holding the lead,” Collison said. “We just did what we were supposed to do.”
Casspi and Collison led the charge in the first quarter, cutting the Rockets lead from a high of 15 down to six going into the second quarter.
Houston pushed the lead back to 11 at the half and then blew the Kings’ starters off the court to begin the third. Trailing by 20 at the 5:26 mark of the third quarter, Karl made wholesale changes and once again, his second unit caught fire.
“Sometimes when you’re coming off the bench you can see what’s going on out there, but you just try to play as hard as you can,” Casspi said.
Trailing by just seven going to the fourth, Karl stuck with the group that got him there and they responded by trimming Houston’s lead to just one at the 10:02 mark. The Rockets responded with a 9-0 over the next 1:45 and effectively ended the game as the second unit ran out of gas.
“We’ve got to put it together,” Collison said. “I know it will come. We’re searching right now. This is not a good time right now for us, but it’s part of the season. You’re going to have good times and bad times and right now, we’re searching.”
It’s hard to establish a rotation when have nine new players and your franchise cornerstone is sitting on the sidelines. It’s a tall order for Karl, but he’s been in similar situations in the past. He has no choice but to try new things as his team struggles to get through an extremely difficult portion of their schedule.
Seth Curry has been buried on the Kings bench behind Rondo and Collison. With his shooting guards throwing up blanks, Karl turned to the seldom used shooter and he responded with a three big shots that helped get the Kings to within one in the fourth.
“Once Seth started making 3’s, I finally found a two guard that was going to make one and I just stayed with it,” Karl said.
Curry finished 3-of-4 from the field and 2-for-2 from long range in 15 minutes of action. His eight points and two assists were impressive for a player that saw just 12 minutes of action through the Kings’ first five games.
“I give him a lot of credit, he’s been working on his game since he’s been here,” Collison said. “He’s been waiting for his opportunity and for him to come in a big game like that, hit some big shots, is big-time from him.”
Curry played solid minutes and even made an impact on the defensive end. He may have earned himself another look and that opportunity could come Saturday night against his older brother Stephen Curry, the league’s reigning MVP.
“It’s exciting,” Curry said. “Obviously it’s my brother, it’s his team and that’s a good story and all that. But it’s the best team in the league right now.”
[RELATED: Source: Cousins to miss more games]
James Harden owns the Sacramento Kings. The All-Star guard scored a combined 95 points against Sacramento in the team’s final two meetings last season and Friday night, he torched them again.
“He can shoot the three real well, get to the basket real and get to the line real well,” Casspi said. “He’s not taking a lot of bad shots and he reads the floor real well. He’s a pretty good player.”
Harden finished the night with 43 points on 13-for-23 shooting from the field. He knocked down 4-of-10 from long range and went 13-for-16 from the line. The 26-year-old wing added 13 assists, six rebounds and two steals in 42 minutes of action.