SACRAMENTO -- Is there such a thing as a moral victory in the NBA? George Karl says yes. Omri Casspi says no and Rudy Gay is somewhere in between.
Playing without their star center and their number one option off the bench, the Sacramento Kings lost their fifth consecutive game Saturday night at Sleep Train Arena.
Losing 103-94 doesn’t sound like a particularly close game, but an inexperienced team challenged the best team in basketball all the way down the wire and defied the odds makers.
“I thought it was a pretty impressive game by my guys,” Karl said. “They fought through four games in five nights, obviously there was some fatigue out there.”
Casspi agreed that the effort was better.
“We did a better job today of getting stops against a good offensive team,” Casspi said.
But the reality of the situation is still staring this team in the face.
“We’re still going back home with an 'L'," Casspi added. "We didn't win."
Karl turned to his veterans for big minutes, despite the impacted schedule. Rajon Rondo played a season-high 44 minutes in the loss. Marco Belinelli logged 35 minutes and Rudy Gay played a little over 34.
The Kings were without two of their top three scorers and they still gave the Warriors fits.
“There’s a lot of good we can take out of it as a team,” Gay said. “But I think we’re overdue for a win – we need one bad. It’s another game I thought we could’ve had.”
Neither Gay, nor Karl is settling for “good losses,” but this team is off to a 1-6 start. Going toe-to-toe with the best and falling down the stretch eased some of the mounting pressure in the building.
“I don’t think anyone is happy where we are, but we also know that the last two games we’ve moved in a good direction,” Karl said. “It’s time to stay positive. It’s time to grow and come together.”
Karl likes where his group is heading, despite the losing. He knows his team is days away from getting Cousins back in the fold. The All-Star center was averaging 22.0 points and 11 rebounds through three games and he is sorely missed in the lineup.
Patience will be the buzzword of the month. A newly assembled roster needs time to mature and the loss of Cousins is a double-edged sword. The Kings clearly lost some winnable games without their leader, but his departure from the lineup may have helped some of these new additions to the roster find a rhythm.
The Kings will get back at it on Monday against the Spurs. Whether Cousins plays or not, the schedule waits for no man. It’s another day to either succeed or fail.
“That’s the thing about the NBA – we get a day off and then we’ve got to go back at it, get a chance to beat another good team,” Gay said. “I think we have the capabilities of being a really good team, we just have to go out and practice and become it.”
Rondo turned heads with his strong play Saturday night. The 29-year-old point guard has been written off by plenty, but against the NBA’s best team, he logged an outstanding 14-point, 15-assist, 12-rebound triple-double.
“Rondo was just incredibly into the game,” Karl said. “Incredibly intense. His defense on Curry was first class. I just wish we had a little more gas in the tank to finish off the game.”
Stephen Curry, the league’s reigning MVP, finished with 24 points on the night, but he shot an uncharacteristic 8-of-18 from the floor and 2-for-10 from behind the arc in 39 minutes. Curry also turned the ball over a game-high six times and appeared frustrated for much of the night.
Rondo hasn’t been as consistent as the Kings would like through his first seven games with the team, but there are nights that he has been spectacular.
“He’s had a history of leading teams and tonight he was pretty special,” Karls said.
The Golden State Warriors came into Saturday night’s game leading the NBA in both 3-point makes per game (12.2) and 3-point percentage (42 percent). Those numbers took a huge hit against the Kings.
The Warriors shot just 3-of-22 from behind the arc in the first half and 8-for-39 overall. Curry’s eight misses stand out, but Harrison Barnes failed to find the net on seven attempts. Leandro Barbosa shot 0-for-4 and Draymond Green bricked all three of his attempts as well.
Did the Kings find the secret ingredient to taking down the Warriors or did Golden State just have an off night?
“It was a little bit of both,” Casspi said. “We followed the game plan. We contested most shots. Some of the shots they made we could live with, but they have a good shooting team.”
Either way, the Kings showed improvement in a specific area that has plagued them over the last few seasons. The fact that it came at the hands of the NBA’s best is an added bonus.