Kings find home court has not been an edge lately

Published: Wednesday, Apr. 10, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Wednesday, Apr. 10, 2013 - 5:45 pm

If the Kings were in playoff contention, this final stretch of games would have been a gift from the schedule makers.

A five-game homestand and six of the final nine games at home is how most teams would dream of finishing the regular season before entering the playoffs.

But the Kings have long been out of postseason contention. And the homestand has produced four consecutive losses thus far. The Kings also have lost their last five home games, their longest skid at Sleep Train Arena this season.

They have one more chance to end the slump tonight against the visiting New Orleans Hornets, the Kings' last opponent that is not in the playoff picture.

Much like the start of the season that featured many home games, the Kings have been unable to defend their own court down the stretch. After tonight, they play three road games before returning home for the season finale against the Los Angeles Clippers on April 17.

The Kings, who are 19-20 at Sleep Train, still could finish with a winning record at home, something they haven't done since the 2007-08 season (26-15).

"We've got to go out and compete and make sure we continue the competitive nature that we've had," coach Keith Smart said. "In all the games here that we've had a chance to close a gap, a mistake here, some mistakes on offense here, turn the ball over there, a finished play there and you close out and win a couple of those games."

In the last four home games, the Kings started strong against the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas but were unable to maintain momentum, and leads against Houston and Memphis slipped away late.

And even though the whistles weren't always blown in the Kings' favor and center DeMarcus Cousins was benched for a game, the Kings left the home floor the last four games believing they should have won.

"I thought we probably had one game that we played where we had no rhythm (Houston), yet we still had a chance to be competitive and win that game," Smart said.

Tonight's game could be the Kings' last good chance for a victory considering their 8-30 road record, even though they have won their last two road games.

The Hornets, however, will be no pushover. They defeated the Kings twice in New Orleans this season. And with road games against San Antonio, Houston and Oklahoma City looming, the Kings cannot afford to look past the Hornets.

"We're going to try and win," guard Tyreke Evans said. "They beat us twice in New Orleans, so we're definitely going to go out there looking for a win."

Evans said any positive momentum before the trip would be a confidence boost.

"It would mean a lot because the teams we're playing against are playoff teams (on the trip)," Evans said. "Definitely got to go out on the road focused because those teams are trying to play for a (playoff) spot and things like that. So we've got to go out there and play our best basketball."

Smart believes these games can impact the Kings positively entering next season. It's not a position he likes being in, but he said it's a part of the growing process the team must work through to improve.

"Believe me, I'm the first one that kicks myself every morning about the fact that we're in this position," Smart said. "But under the circumstances … what do we do about it? We keep working; we keep getting better. We keep getting better and we keep adding pieces, and eventually, our time is going to come."

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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