Somehow, in a game the Kings never trailed, there was reason to be unhappy at the end.
Not that beating the Milwaukee Bucks 124-107 on Sunday at Sleep Train Arena was anything to be upset about. After all, the Kings are 25-45 this season, and any win is positive.
But after the Kings allowed Milwaukee, which fell to an NBA-worst 13-57, to score 37 points in the fourth quarter while shooting 15 of 20, coach Michael Malone wasn’t all smiles.
“I’m very happy that we won, obviously,” Malone said. “But as well as we played in that first half, we were equally as bad in the second. As I told the guys, congratulations on the win. Any win in the NBA is something to be happy about. I just didn’t like how we played (in the second half).”
Even with that disappointment, the Kings were never in danger against the Bucks, who lost their seventh in a row overall and are 5-30 on the road.
The Kings led 70-44 at halftime, their highest-scoring half of the season. The Kings scored 68 in the second half against Portland on Jan. 7.
The Kings pushed the lead to 40 in the third quarter but were outscored 37-20 in the fourth. The Bucks didn’t get closer than 16.
Malone would have liked to rest his top three scorers, but only center DeMarcus Cousins sat the entire fourth period. Forward Rudy Gay played all but 48 seconds of the final period, and guard Isaiah Thomas, figuring his day was done, played seven minutes.
“I was (surprised to go back in), but with coach Malone you can’t expect anything,” Thomas said. “He has a quick trigger sometimes, but he has a right to be upset. We didn’t play the right way in the fourth quarter, and it was embarrassing.”
Malone didn’t want to put Cousins back in but said he “didn’t want to wait for it to be a two-point game” either. Cousins also didn’t like what he saw.
“There was a stretch in that fourth where we did not get a stop,” Cousins said. “Even though we did have a large lead, that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to do the right things and take the right steps in the game to become a better team. And I don’t believe we did that to end that game.”
Malone has talked about how the Kings have improved defensively, and defense helped give the Kings their lead.
But the Bucks shot 64.3 percent in the second half. By Malone’s count, the Kings gave up 16 layups or dunks.
“They made a surge,” Gay said. “I don’t think they were playing for those first three quarters at all their ability. We let the pressure off them a little bit. ... For us to be an improving defensive team, we can’t let that happen.”
Cousins was a big reason the Kings led throughout. The Bucks had no answer for him as he had 32 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in 29 minutes. Thomas had 30 points and eight assists. Gay had 24 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
The Kings are 8-3 when Cousins, Gay and Thomas each score at least 20 points. Sunday, they did that before the end of the third quarter.
The Kings matched their season-high point total and improved to 21-6 when scoring 105 or more points. It was the fourth time this season the Kings led from start to finish.
O.J. Mayo came off the bench to lead the Bucks with 21 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter.