The gap between the best team in the NBA and one of the worst went beyond the scoreboard.
It showed in the final two minutes, when the San Antonio Spurs came up with three crucial offensive rebounds and held off the Kings 108-102 Tuesday night at Sleep Train Arena.
The Kings trailed 103-98 with 1:55 to play. But they didn't score again until only 55.9 seconds remained because the Spurs grabbed two offensive rebounds.
Trailing 103-100 after Jimmer Fredette's steal and pass to Marcus Thornton for a layup, the Kings couldn't grab a defensive rebound with 32.9 seconds to play.
The Spurs took advantage when Tony Parker (30 points, 11 assists) blew by DeMarcus Cousins on a botched defensive switch to give the Spurs a 105-100 lead with 19.7 seconds to go.
The Kings (19-36), who lost their third in a row, shot poorly and were fortunate to be in the game. But the Spurs (43-12) did the little things like hustling for the "50/50" balls to pull out the win.
"They got to the ball faster than we did," Thornton said. "I guess they wanted it badder than us. We've got to come up with those rebounds, and we can't gamble in those situations . They went in and got the rebounds, and that's how they won the game."
The Kings trailed the entire game, making only four of their first 22 shots, and were behind 103-92 with 2:44 to play before going an 8-0 run.
But the rebounding problem that has hindered the Kings most of the season proved to be their demise at the finish. The Kings, who were outrebounded 46-42, have been outrebounded 36 times this season and are 7-29 in those games.
"I've yet to see you make a rebounder," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "Rebounders go get the rebounds; 50/50 players go get the 50/50 balls."
Kings guard Isaiah Thomas said it's the details of the games that make teams like the Spurs title contenders.
"That's what championship teams do," Thomas said. "Make all the little plays, and we've got to learn from them, learn from this game, because we could have won this game."
The Kings shot 37.8 percent, and Thomas (6 for 10) was their only player to make at least half of his shots. He had a team-high 22 points.
Thomas also extended his streak of converted free throws to 43. The team record is held by Mike Bibby, who made 51 in a row during the 2002-03 season.
Even with the poor shooting, Thomas said it's what the Kings lack internally that could have made up the difference.
"Have heart, have fight," Thomas said. "We don't have no fight. Sometimes we play with no heart. That's all 50/50 balls are, determination. It's all mental. Either you go get it or you're not."
Cousins said there aren't any drills in practice to improve the Kings' rebounding. He is among the league's better rebounders (10 per game), but that's not enough to make up for the Kings' overall rebounding woes and problems with desire to come up with loose balls.
"It's not really how much you can work on to get loose balls," Cousins said. "It's either you want to get it or you don't. You're giving the effort to get it or you're not. Those 50/50 balls all come down to effort."