Trailing after the first quarter shouldn’t mean a loss is imminent in the NBA. But more times than not, a slow start from the Kings ends in defeat.
Sacramento buried itself early with turnovers and poor shooting, and the Cleveland Cavaliers are simply too good to give too many chances to, as the Kings learned in a 120-108 loss Friday night at Golden 1 Center.
Cleveland had lost its previous two games.
The Kings shot 6 of 23, committed nine turnovers and fell behind by 19 points in a dismal first quarter that saw the Cavs take a 32-15 lead after the first 12 minutes.
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The Kings pulled within six during the fourth quarter, but with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love all clicking, along with big contributions from Iman Shumpert and Kyle Korver, the deficit, which was as large as 24 points, was too much to overcome.
The Kings have trailed after the first quarter 23 times this season and won just seven times. For some reason, the Kings can’t figure out how to find the energy and focus to start games better, even against the best team in the Eastern Conference.
“I think we came out kind of lackadaisical tonight,” said Kings center DeMarcus Cousins. “We’re playing one of if not, (shoot), the best team in the league, the reigning champs. We can’t come out and perform this way against them, this caliber of a team.”
Guard Garrett Temple said the Kings are “usually not amped up enough” so he didn’t blame the early mistakes on the Kings being to excited to take on the Cavs.
He’s more puzzled by the Kings inability to collectively focus to start games.
“It’s a concern that we get a lack of focus in any game,” Temple said. “Not just because we’re playing the (defending) champs. Whether we’re playing the Philadelphia 76ers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Cleveland or Golden State – we’ve got to come out and know what the game plan is and execute no matter who we’re playing.”
The Kings have changed starting lineups to figure out their slow starts. They’ve started big and lately gone to a smaller lineup. But there still hasn’t been the kind of urgency the Kings consistently need to get off to better starts.
“At the end of the day it’s going to fall on me,” Cousins said. “So I’ve just got to do a better job of getting guys ready, hyped up, whatever the case may be. We’ve got to take some caffeine shots, whatever the case may be, but we’ve got to find a way to start these games a lot better than we have.”
Cousins had 26 points, a season-high 11 assists and eight rebounds, but also had a game-high six turnovers. Rudy Gay had 23 points and 10 rebounds. Ty Lawson came off the bench again to help the Kings close the gap with 17 points, four rebounds and four assists.
The Kings (16-23) committed 21 turnovers Friday, 14 in the first half.
“Turnovers killed us,” Cousins said. “When you play a team of this caliber, you just can’t spot them points the way we did tonight. We’ve got to be as disciplined and as fundamental as we can be.”
Irving led the Cavs (29-10) with 26 points. Love had 15 points and a season-high 18 rebounds. James added 16 points and 15 assists. Shumpert had 16 points.
Korver, who was recently acquired in a trade with Atlanta, had his best game with Cleveland, scoring 18 off the bench.
The Kings left Friday feeling if they could have put together a better start, the game might have been different. It’s something they’ve had to say too many times this season.
“I just felt like we gave away the game the first half,” Lawson said. “I feel like if we played a little bit better in the first half, it would have been a closer game. We had a chance to win or a least give them a tougher show there down at the end.”