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  • Chris Young / The Associated Press

    Sacramento Kings head coach Michael Malone reacts during his team's 87-99 loss to Toronto Raptors in NBA basketball action in Toronto on Friday March 7, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)

  • Chris Young / The Canadian Press

    On his first return to Toronto after being traded to the Kings in December, Rudy Gay, right, drives to the basket against former King John Salmons on Friday.

Little team unity as Kings fall to Raptors

Published: Friday, Mar. 7, 2014 - 10:57 pm
Last Modified: Saturday, Mar. 8, 2014 - 8:31 am

For years, the Kings have been able to blame their problems on being a young team.

But another thing that is still an issue is that the Kings are a selfish team, too.

That trait was on display plenty during Friday’s 99-87 loss to the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre.

In their last game, the Kings’ top three players set a tone for sharing the ball as they romped over the hapless Milwaukee Bucks. DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay and Isaiah Thomas combined for 17 assists against Milwaukee, which has the worst record in the NBA.

But against the Raptors, who lead the Atlantic Division, the trio managed nine assists and the Kings had only 14 as a team.

“We’re inconsistent, and that’s what inconsistent teams do,” said Thomas, who had a team-high five assists. “We play good one game and we play the right way, and the next game we play the complete opposite. These last 20 games, we’ve just got to play the same way each and every day.”

The tone for the night was set by the Kings’ starters, who were largely responsible for the 58 combined points the Raptors scored in the first and third quarters.

“I don’t think we played together, and that really hurt us,” Cousins said. “I think it showed on offense and defensively. That helped Toronto get a win (Friday).”

When the Kings play like that, they usually have a lot of turnovers and struggle to make shots. They shot just 41.7 percent and had 17 turnovers, 13 by the starters.

“We weren’t making plays for each other and it showed on the stat sheet,” Gay said. “Proof is in the pudding.”

How the Kings can go from playing team ball to playing for individual glory from game to game is puzzling to players and the coaching staff.

Kings coach Michael Malone said youth is part of the inconsistency.

“It’s a very young team that hasn’t won,” Malone said. “That’s the reality of it. We don’t have guys who have won on this team. We have guys who have been on losing teams and haven’t been to the playoffs and experienced a winning culture. And we realized when we took this thing over, it was going to be a process; it wasn’t going to happen overnight.”

Thomas said he’s noticed one constant about games like Friday’s. Once the Kings experience a little team success, players crave their individual glory.

“It’s always after a good game,” Thomas said. “I don’t know, I guess guys try to do it on their own.We’ve got to fix it because we know when we play selfish and we don’t play together, it’s hard to win games and we play games like we did tonight. When we play together and play for each other, we play games like we did in Milwaukee.”

Malone decried the lack of energy from his starters and called the overall effort “awful.”

“Against Milwaukee, we shared it, we made plays for each other,” Malone said. “(Friday) we weren’t willing to do that. Everyone wanted to make the play.”

Malone did have praise for the bench, keeping the score respectable by making runs in the second and fourth quarters, but the Kings trailed by as many as 23 points in the second half.

“We’re nowhere near good enough to come into a playoff team’s house and think we can go through the motions and turn it on when we want to,” Malone said. “We’re not that good of a team.”

It was Gay’s first game in Toronto since being traded to the Kings in December. He had 15 points and was booed most of the game.

Gay only played 51 games over two seasons with the Raptors. Toronto (34-26) is 27-14 since the trade was made official and many fans believe dealing Gay was the key to success.

“Honestly I didn’t pay attention to it,” Gay said. “Boo or cheer, either way I have to go out and do my job.”

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

Read more articles by Jason Jones



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