Hector Amezcua / hamezcua@sacbee.com

Kings guard Isaiah Thomas looks on as his team careens toward its fifth consecutive loss. Thomas came off the bench to score 12 points.

Coach Malone vows lineup changes after fifth loss in a row

Published: Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 - 6:05 pm

Michael Malone has seen enough. And after a fifth consecutive loss, the Kings coach said he knows what he has to do to change that.

"Change the lineup," Malone said.

The Kings were beaten by the Portland Trail Blazers 96-85 at Sleep Train Arena.

The pattern Saturday night was familiar. The Kings were outworked, fell behind big and then rallied late, only to lose again.

"That's the one thing I don't get with our team," Malone said. "Every night besides the Golden State game (in which the Kings trailed by 27 points), we play 2 1/2 quarters. We get behind, we make a great comeback, but it's way too late, and that's just losing basketball; that's a losing mentality."

And that's not the only thing that's part of the losing.

The Kings have long been labeled a selfish team, and that hasn't changed from what Malone has seen.

"We have a lot of guys that just care about themselves on this team," Malone said. "And if their game is not going, they quit playing. And changes will be made before we play Wednesday."

Malone began those changes during Saturday's game, giving extended minutes to Jimmer Fredette and Luc Mbah a Moute for the first time this season.

That was after watching the Blazers dominate the Kings 52-33, with DeMarcus Cousins (12 rebounds) the only King with more than three rebounds.

Malone was asked if he hoped how he shook up the lineup late Saturday would send a message.

"I'm not hoping anything with this team," Malone said. "I'm not Jesse Jackson, I'm not keeping hope alive. We've got to work. I'm embarrassed; every night it's the same thing."

The Kings trailed by 22 on Saturday, and Malone decided to finish the game with Cousins, Mbah a Moute, Fredette, Ben McLemore and Greivis Vasquez.

Vasquez said he's angry with himself and the Kings' record, asking, "Who wants to be 1-5? "I'm (mad)," Vasquez said. "I hate losing."

Malone just doesn't know if he has enough players who truly feel that way.

"The question for our guys is, 'Do you like to win or do you hate to lose?' " Malone said. "Right now, I'm not so sure we have guys that hate to lose on our team."

One place there won't be a change is center, where Cousins scored 33 points, his third game with at least 30 points this season.

From there, it's anyone's guess. Malone said he has some changes in mind before the Kings host the Brooklyn Nets.

McLemore figures to stay in the rotation. Fredette, who wasn't in the rotation, could also play more with Mbah a Moute.

"I'm always going to be ready to play," Fredette said. "You've just got to wait your turn, and if you get out there and get an opportunity, you have to try and play the best you can."

Mbah a Moute was acquired in a trade from Milwaukee to add toughness and a physical presence, two things the Kings have lacked during the losing streak.

He fell out of the rotation while resting a sore knee during the preseason but said he's healthy and ready to contribute.

Mbah a Moute said he didn't know he'd be playing at all Saturday.

"This is a new situation for me," Mbah a Moute said. "I've always been a guy that's been in the rotation. It's just a matter of being patient and waiting for my time, but I feel fine."

Malone is done being patient . He's seen enough.

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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