A week ago, Kings coach Dave Joerger was concerned about the spirit of his team.
The Kings were mired in a losing streak, their gusto crushed by mistakes and giving up scoring runs. But after losing their second straight game, 122-120 in overtime to the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center, Joerger couldn’t complain about their resilience.
They rallied late to force overtime and were a Rudy Gay turnaround, fade away jumper from a second overtime. Joerger saw his message beginning to take hold, an encouraging sign after the Kings blew a 19-point lead Thursday in a 101-91 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers at Golden 1 Center.
Gay (29 points, 14 rebounds) and DeMarcus Cousins (33 points, nine rebounds) couldn’t overcome Damian Lillard (36 points, seven assists) and C.J. McCollum (31 points, five assists, five steals).
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“Their two guards are fantastic and other guys play off them,” Joerger said. “I thought Rudy and DeMarcus were equally as fantastic (Friday). The spirit that we played with and how hard we played was just absolutely fantastic.”
The Kings were also done in by their turnovers, 15 that led to 25 points for Portland.
“Our turnovers were very catastrophic,” Joerger said.
Still, the Kings were relatively upbeat. It might have gone differently if Portland center Meyers Leonard had been called for an offensive foul for clearing out Gay with 32.1 seconds to play in overtime. Instead a foul was called on Gay and Leonard’s free throws gave Portland a 121-120 lead.
The Kings trailed by 12 early in the game and by five late in the fourth before Cousins tied it with five consecutive points to end regulation.
“We kept fighting,” Gay said. “Maybe we ran out of juice at the end, maybe not. But we kept fighting, no matter how the calls went or if they made shots, we still fought through it.”
The Kings (4-7) must figure out how to maintain the effort they showed against the Blazers (6-4).
“Throughout this whole season we’ve shown flashes of who we can be,” Cousins said. “We’ve got to get past this stage of showing flashes and we’ve got to be the team we want to be. We’ve shown we can do it, but we’ve got to do it on a consistent basis. Tough loss but I’m not mad about it. We fought hard; we fought till the end. On to the next one.”
The Kings next play Wednesday, providing some needed practice time after an off-day Saturday.
Joerger is still sorting out his rotation around Cousins and Gay. Darren Collison, in his third game of the season, played 38 minutes, scoring 20 points, while starter Ty Lawson played 15 minutes.
Garrett Temple entered late in the third quarter and stayed in through overtime.
“It can be difficult on guys but you just have to be ready to play. I think I’ve proven that I’ll put you in any game and different groups of guys, different games, different situations,” Joerger said. “And whoever is doing well around Rudy and DeMarcus try to do a good job of playing one or the other on the court all the time, so we have some scoring.”