The preseason is the perfect setting for overreaction. But if there’s such a thing as a disheartening loss in an exhibition game, the Kings suffered it Monday night at AT&T Center.
The Kings fell to the San Antonio Spurs 106-99 with the kind of second half they have vowed to avoid. The offense sputtered, producing just 39 points after halftime. The Kings committed 15 turnovers. And their defense broke down, allowing the Spurs to shoot 50 percent.
“Our problem is we’re a team of spurts,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “We can’t sustain. We’re not a consistent team; we don’t play 48 minutes.”
And serving up the lesson on good basketball was a Spurs team many fans wouldn’t recognize. Of San Antonio’s top players, only Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili saw action, and they sat out most of the fourth quarter.
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“We got beat by the second unit and guys trying to make the team,” center DeMarcus Cousins said. “We’ve got to be better.”
Malone said the Kings didn’t handle adversity well, a theme in both regular-season losses to the Spurs last season. The Kings would play well, then late in the game when execution mattered the most, they’d be at their worst.
That’s how the Kings, who led by 16 points Monday, found themselves down by seven in the fourth.
“And the reality is that was against Kyle Anderson, Bryce Cotton, Jeff Ayres, Austin Daye,” Malone said. “It wasn’t the Spurs that won the NBA championship – let’s be honest. And we had a lot of our starters in, so that’s concerning for me.
“We have to be able to play as close to 48 minutes as possible, and when teams make a run, we have to slow down, we have to trust, and we have to stay together. That’s a sign of a good team, and we have a ways to go in that area.”
Even though the competition might not have been the Spurs’ core players, the Kings had plenty of issues. The biggest was turnovers – 24 that led to 21 San Antonio points.
Some came on bad passes. Others occurred when players dribbled too much. Cousins had a game-high 10 turnovers, five on offensive fouls.
“We’ve got to learn to play simple, boring basketball,” Cousins said. “Whatever works, just continue to do it, and I think we’ll be a lot better. Until then, we’ll continue to be in games, play well the first half and break down the next half.”
The Kings have one more exhibition game before opening the regular season Oct. 29 against the Golden State Warriors.
“It’s still preseason, but we can’t continue to make these mistakes,” Cousins said. “We have to grow up. We can’t use the excuse we’re young no more. We’ve got to embrace the culture. We’ve got to accept responsibility. We’ve got to buy into the defense, buy into the system and do what what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to buy into our roles.”
Cousins had a game-high 32 points and 11 rebounds, dominating the Spurs’ front line minus Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter. But what stood out to Cousins was how the Kings misfired.
“Same, same, same mistakes,” Cousins said. “Turnovers, not talking, not communicating, breaking down. Not rotating, not defending multiple times. We defend for a second, and then we stop.”