DALLAS -- Something about falling behind by 17 points sparked the Kings. The spark just came too late.
Inconsistency cost the Kings again in a 103-100 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night at American Airlines Center.
The Kings (25-48) came out slow against the Mavericks (44-30), who are chasing one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference. The result was a turnover-filled first half that saw the Kings fall behind 50-33 with 1:43 left in the second quarter.
But the Kings have shown they can play with urgency, and they did in the second half, leading by five in the fourth quarter before the Mavericks regrouped.
The Kings have lost 20 straight games at Dallas, the Mavericks longest home winning streak against an opponent in franchise history. Sacramentos last win at Dallas was on Feb. 27, 2003.
The sluggish start put the Kings in a tough spot.
Weve just got to start games out right, center DeMarcus Cousins said. We start games way too cool, way too laid-back, and thats how we end up with those deficits.
The game was the Kings third in a row against a playoff team or a team trying to make the playoffs. In each case, the Kings fell behind big in the first half.
Sacramento played its third consecutive game without Isaiah Thomas (deep thigh bruise), but the problem of coming out flat in either half has been around all season.
We just have to take advantage of our opportunities from start to finish, forward Rudy Gay said. We have to bring that intensity for 48 minutes, not 24. Weve got to play throughout the whole game. We still havent done that, and I dont get it.
Gay helped lead the charge back, scoring 19 of his game-high 30 points in the second half. He also matched his career high with seven turnovers, all in the first three quarters.
Rookie Ray McCallum, starting for Thomas, scored 12 of his season-high 16 points in the second half. He also had a season-best eight assists.
The Kings had a chance to force overtime after Monta Ellis missed two free throws with 6.8 seconds to play, but Travis Outlaws three-point attempt wasnt close, hitting the backboard just before the buzzer.
Its one of those games where the way we played in the first half came back to bite us, Gay said. We cant continue to pick up our momentum late ... its kind of hard to turn it on like that, and it shows.
The Kings (25-48) allowed 25 points off 20 turnovers, which helped offset their 51.9 percent shooting.
Kings coach Michael Malone can accept the mistakes as long as his players give maximum effort. But turnovers, too many fouls (29) and the slow start were too much to overcome.
To win in the league against a playoff-caliber team on the road, you cant play 24 minutes. You cant play 36. Youve got to play 48, Malone said. And I told them if we can play like we played in that second half we didnt play great, we turned the ball over, we made mistakes but the effort and energy that we gave forth is what is required to win games if we use it for 48 minutes. We gave ourselves a chance tonight, which is great.
Reggie Evans had a season-high 18 rebounds for the Kings, who outrebounded the Mavericks 47-35. Sacramento also outscored Dallas 23-4 in second-chance points and 60-38 in the paint.
Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 19 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Ellis had 17 points and six assists, and former King Samuel Dalembert added 15 points.