RANDALL BENTON / rbenton@sacbee.com

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant pulls down a rebound against the Kings' Tyreke Evans on Saturday.

Kings still plagued by bad habits

Published: Monday, Apr. 1, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Monday, Sep. 23, 2013 - 8:09 am

Old habits are hard to break.

The Kings led the Los Angeles Lakers 72-65 with 5:49 left in the third quarter of Saturday's 103-98 loss. But Sacramento committed five turnovers to end the quarter and help the Lakers go on a 17-3 run. The Kings had seven turnovers in the quarter; the Lakers had seven all game.

Sacramento fell back into trying to dribble its way into its offense and found trouble more often than not.

"We got to where the ball was sticking in our hands," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "Everyone wanted to pound it. We didn't get into one play – nobody called anything. You start looking around, and everyone is trying to create something that (isn't) there."

The Kings still had a chance to win the game late, but that stretch cost Sacramento a lead it didn't regain.

"It was tough, but even with their run, I believe we still were able to keep the game close," Kings center DeMarcus Cousins said. "We had a lot of opportunities down the stretch, and we did make some mistakes, but I'm proud of my team. Our effort was incredible, and we competed our (butts) off."

The Lakers have struggled defensively most of the season, but after the Kings scored 37 points in the first quarter, they were held mostly in check the final three quarters.

Smart would have liked to see the Kings force Lakers center Dwight Howard to work harder defensively with better ball movement during that decisive stretch.

"You've got a big shot blocker, a defensive guy that's sitting in the paint," Smart said. "You need to get him on the move somewhere, and we got away from that."

The loss marked the first time the Kings failed to score at least 100 points in their past 12 home games.

Sacramento had 19 assists against the Lakers. It was just the third time the Kings have had fewer than 20 assists since the All-Star break and the second fewest over that span. The Kings had only 17 assists in their 42-point win over Chicago last month.

The Kings have had fewer assists than their opponent in nine consecutive games. Kobe Bryant (14) and Pau Gasol (10) had most of the Lakers' 28 assists on Saturday night.

With Lakers point guard Steve Nash leaving the game for good less than two minutes into the first quarter because of a right hamstring strain, Gasol became a facilitator at power forward.

"We put (Gasol) at the elbow for five straight minutes, and he just tore them up," Bryant said.

Enough talk – Bryant was asked how he felt about the game possibly being his last in Sacramento.

After speculation about the Kings relocating to Anaheim or Virginia Beach and now a pending sale to a Seattle-based ownership group, Bryant still expects to play at Sleep Train Arena next season.

"No it's not," Bryant said of his latest "last" game in Sacramento. "You guys been saying that (stuff) for three years. I'm tired of hearing that (stuff). You guys ain't going nowhere. Cowbells are still in the building."

Rest, then the Rockets – The Kings were off for Easter before preparing for Wednesday's game against the Houston Rockets.

It's the first meeting between the teams since their six-player trade Feb. 20. The Kings are 8-11 since the deal; the Rockets are 10-7.

Follow The Bee's Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.

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