If the Kings looked a little too cool to start Wednesday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs, you’re right.
And that lackadaisical approach began hours earlier, during the morning shootaround.
The problem is the Spurs rarely come out with a lack of focus. So they made the Kings pay for it with a 110-105 victory at Golden 1 Center that was only that close because the Kings’ regulars were still in the game against players at the end of San Antonio’s bench.
The Kings have lost three in a row, including their last two at home in an uninspiring manner. On Thursday the Kings blew a 19-point lead to the Los Angeles Lakers and lost by 10.
On Wednesday the Kings were handled from the start, never showing the “force” coach Dave Joerger wants.
“They ran what they wanted to do,” Joerger said. “They got the shots where they wanted to get them, they cut where they wanted to cut, they drove where they wanted to drive. (We) made the game very, very easy for the Spurs.”
Joerger took the blame, saying he was easy on the team in the morning since they hadn’t played since Friday and were probably tired of hearing his voice.
“And it’s on me because I allowed a very loose shootaround (Wednesday),” Joerger said. “... Four days between games and sometimes that happens when your rhythm’s not right, but that should never affect your defensive mindset. So I will take this one tonight.”
Joerger is the coach so blame ultimately falls on him, but he is leading a veteran team that 12 games into the season has shown a lack of focus and execution. So there’s plenty of responsibility to share for Sacramento’s 4-8 start.
“I’ll take the blame for that as the leader of this team, I’ve got to do better,” center DeMarcus Cousins said. “I’ve got to get my guys together, got to have more focused shootarounds and that falls back on me.”
That also falls back on preparation.
“I think shootarounds, we don’t take it serious,” guard Ty Lawson said. “We do the same thing, 5-on-0 and our pace is the same way in the game. If we want to change it, we’ve got to change it ourselves. ... We’ve got to take it seriously.”
The assumption is a team of veterans playing the Spurs (9-3), a team that has been among the league’s elite for nearly 20 years, wouldn’t need to be reminded to be ready to play.
“It’s very frustrating,” Lawson said. “Most guys here have been (in the NBA), six, seven years and for us to come out that lackadaisical ... it’s kind of disappointing.”
Cousins said the Kings make it tougher on themselves with their lack of preparation.
“When we’re not in our sets, we’re not focused, that falls back to shootarounds and practices,” Cousins. “We B.S. through the 5-on-0 and we come out and do the same thing. We’ve had after-timeout plays and we come out and don’t run it the right way. It’s on us.”
Cousins had 26 points, 17 rebounds and six assists, but that wasn’t nearly enough to counter the Spurs. Pau Gasol had 24 points and nine rebounds, LaMarcus Aldridge had 21 points and Kawhi Leonard scored 20.
The Kings have another top team in the NBA in town Friday, the Los Angeles Clippers. And if they’re not prepared, they can expect what the Spurs did to them to happen again.
“We know what we have to do on the nightly,” Cousins said. “We know how we have to approach these games and we’re still coming out like we’re one of the top teams in the West. We have to play with a sense of urgency on the nightly.”