This is always a delicate time in the NBA.
The All-Star break is next week, and mentally and physically fatigued players are eager to begin their eight-day vacation. Attention begins to wander from the hardwood toward sunny locales and family time.
So with the Kings beginning a four-game trip Friday night at Brooklyn that will take them into the break, it would behoove Sacramento not to get caught up in vacation plans yet.
The Kings can’t afford to slip up and lose many more games. Sacramento has lost five of its past six games following last month’s five-game winning streak. Once tied with Portland for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, the Kings (21-28) are 10th and looking up at the Trail Blazers and Utah.
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10th Kings’ position in the Western Conference
“It’s been discussed already,” said Kings coach George Karl. “You’ll see some surprise wins and some surprise outcomes at this time of the year. We’re at a stage right now where we’ve just got to worry about Brooklyn and not worry about anything except that.”
The trip also includes games against two likely playoff teams: Cleveland, the No. 1 team in the East, and No. 4 Boston, which beat the Kings earlier this season in Sacramento. The Celtics are led by former King and first-time All-Star Isaiah Thomas.
Brooklyn, second to last in the Eastern Conference at 12-38 , recently fired its coach and reassigned its general manager. The Kings conclude their trip Wednesday at Philadelphia, which has the worst record in the NBA at 7-42.
But the Kings can’t let down against Brooklyn and Philadelphia. One of 76ers’ wins this season came at Sacramento.
Kings All-Star DeMarcus Cousins set a goal for the trip.
“Got to get three (wins),” Cousins said. “Have to.”
Got to get three (wins). Have to.
the Kings’ four-game trip
Sacramento might need to win three games on the trip to stay close to Portland and Utah.
The Kings, who are 13-13 at Sleep Train Arena this season, are the only team in the top 10 in the West without a winning record at home. They are 8-15 on the road.
“We’re a roller coaster on the road,” said guard Rajon Rondo. “(Last month), we went on the road and won three (straight). The next trip, we lost three (straight).
“So we’ve got to come with great focus, and on the road we can’t get off to a slow start. A lot of that starts with me, picking up the ball and taking care of the ball as well. We have to find a way, but time will tell.”
In its past five games, Sacramento has allowed more than 30 points in the first quarter. Why the Kings continue to come out slow at a point of the season when they should have heightened urgency remains a mystery to the team.
“I don’t know – it could be a lot of different things,” said forward Rudy Gay. “That’s something we have to go to the drawing board and find out, watch some tape, come in and do that. We’ve got a long flight; we’ve got a lot of time to watch tape.”
Sent to Reno – The Kings assigned rookie forward Duje Dukan to their NBA Development League affiliate, the Reno Bighorns, on Thursday. He has been sidelined by a right leg contusion.