LOS ANGELES -- DeMarcus Cousins had several reasons to be tired as he addressed the media on Saturday.
He’s carried the Kings with 23 points, 19 rebounds and seven assists against the Los Angeles Clippers. He’d taken a pounding under the basket, again.
But the most frustrating part was watching another rally fall short as the Kings lost to the Clippers, 103-102, Saturday at Staples Center. In nine of the Kings’ 12 games, they’ve trailed by at least 14 points and fell behind by 20 early against the Clippers.
The Kings fought back, taking a 94-89 lead with 3:19 to play. The Clippers, however, would answer and win when Chris Paul made one of two free throws with 2.5 seconds to play.
Cousins was unable to make a contested 16-foot jumper over DeAndre Jordan with one second left that would have given the Kings the win.
It was another game in which the Kings ran out of time on a comeback. Only once when the Kings have fallen behind by double digits have they come all the way back to win a game.
“I don’t know what it is, but I’m tired of being a part of getting down twenty then trying to come back later in the game,” Cousins said. “The way we played at the end, down the stretch of that game, we’ve got to start games off the same way, so we won’t be in those situations and we’ll have a better chance.”
Having to play from so far behind made for a tight game that could go either way based on whistles. The biggest call might have come with 1:04 to play when Luc Mbah a Moute fouled out on a made layup by Paul.
It left the Kings without one of the keys to the comeback from 20 down in the third quarter.
“I’ll be careful what I say about that call,” Malone said. “I thought it was a big call, a minute to go in the game, and I thought Luc had done a great job guarding Chris Paul in the second half.”
The Kings hung around largely due to Cousins, who served as scorer, rebounder and facilitator.
Thomas (22 points, five assists) and Patrick Patterson (21 points, seven rebounds) were key off the bench in the comeback, too.
“DeMarcus is battling,” Malone said. “He’s taking all their hits and banging and he only got to the foul line six times but he kept on competing, making plays and battling on the defensive end.”
Cousins made 10 of 22 from the field and three of his six free throws. He missed two with the game tied at 98 with 1:15 to play, but the Kings managed to tie the game at 100 on two free throws from Isaiah Thomas with 53.8 seconds left.
But the Kings (4-8) didn’t shoot well enough overall (42 percent) to go along with a gap in free throws attempted in favor of the Clippers (45-30), which proved enough for Los Angeles (9-5) to hold off the Kings.
Mastering not falling behind big is the next step for the Kings to begin winning more games.
Sustaining the energy to come back in the fourth quarter has proven tough.
“Some games are going to be like that,” Thomas said. “We started off, we were down 20, 40-20, and sometimes it goes the other way and (the lead) goes from 20 to 30, but we settled down, got the score down a little bit and we just fought. The rest of the game we just fought, but didn‘t overcome (the deficit).”
And unlike previous games in which the Kings fell behind big, Malone had no problem with the effort he saw from the Kings overall. He hopes the Kings can find that kind of effort tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers.
“If we play with that kind of energy and effort and we can maintain that kind of mindset, we’re going to be an OK team,” Malone said.
The alternative, the Kings have learned, is getting tired.