The Kings played an even game through two quarters. But the problems that have plagued them all season eventually surfaced in what became another loss.
The Denver Nuggets exploited defensive mistakes and turnovers by the Kings, who lost for the eighth game in the last 10 games, 120-113, Tuesday night at Sleep Train Arena.
In the second half, the Nuggets displayed the kind of efficiency the Kings lack most nights offensively. Denver shot 64.3 percent in the half with only five turnovers and 19 assists. Conversely, the Kings shot 44.7 percent with nine assists and eight turnovers that led to 12 points for Denver.
With the score 50-50 at halftime, the Nuggets scored the first seven points of the third quarter as part of a 20-7 run.
"They did what they do they get out and run, transition, make buckets," the Kings' Marcus Thornton said. "They got a nice little jump in the third quarter and a team like that, we can't play catch-up."
With their two leading scorers having off-nights, the Kings couldn't keep up.
DeMarcus Cousins had his worst shooting performance of the season (1 for 12) and finished with eight points, 13 rebounds and a career-high five blocked shots. Tyreke Evans attempted only five shots and had seven points.
"When those two guys don't have average games, we're going to struggle," coach Keith Smart said.
Evans said he was slowed by a sore left knee after bumping knees with Denver's Kosta Koufos early in the game.
"I was kind of favoring it after that, but I still tried to play through it," Evans said. "Still tried to find guys, get assists and things like that."
Evans has missed 16 games this season because of a bruised and sore left knee. He said his knee was a bit swollen after the game, but he hoped to play tonight at Golden State.
Cousins sat out the final 10:15, and his exit wasn't the usual jog to the bench. He engaged in a shouting match with fans seated on the baseline near the Kings' bench.
"He said some disrespectful things, and I had some things to say back," Cousins said. "That was it."
Cousins said he believes it was a Kings fan, "which makes it even worse."
Smart said sitting Cousins had nothing to do with that verbal exchange and instead was about finding the best matchup to slow down the Nuggets (40-22).
"The focus is on the game. The focus is on what we're trying to do on the floor," Smart said. "And whatever happens with someone on our team in the stands, whatever needs to be dealt with, is dealt with.
"These are our fans and they come out here to support us, and we've got to make sure we do the right things at all times"
Asked about fan support, Smart made it clear the team's focus needs to be on the court.
"That's why it's very important that we focus on playing good basketball instead of being focused on the fans," Smart said. "They pay good, hard-earned money to come to a game to do or say whatever they might want to say. But overall the fans in Sacramento have been great to our basketball team."
Thornton (32 points), Isaiah Thomas (23 points, eight assists) and Jason Thompson (18 points) picked up some of the slack for the Kings (21-41). But it wasn't nearly enough to counter the balanced Nuggets, led by Ty Lawson's 24 points and seven assists.
Follow The Bee's Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.