Some losses hurt more than others, and Wednesday marked two painful ones.
Rudy Gay suffered a season-ending injury, and the Kings squandered a 22-point lead to lose to the Indiana Pacers 106-100 at Golden 1 Center – their biggest blown lead of the season providing a sour end to a 1-6 homestand.
The biggest loss came when Gay was carried off the court with 14.3 seconds left in the third quarter after falling on a drive to the basket. He was diagnosed with a torn left Achilles’ tendon that will sideline him for the rest of the season. It delivered a figurative punch to the gut of a struggling team before it begins a season-long eight-game trip.
Trainer Pete Youngman and teammates Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere carried Gay, the Kings’ second-leading scorer at 18.7 points per game, off the court to the locker room.
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The Kings viewed Gay as vital to their playoff hopes, as shown by their decision to not trade him even though he plans to opt out of his contract at the end of the season to become a free agent.
Gay entered the locker room on crutches and with a walking boot on his left foot. He put on his wedding band and received help with his backpack before leaving with his head down.
“That’s hard to watch,” said Kings center DeMarcus Cousins. “That’s a tough thing to watch. It sucks for Rudy. This is a guy with a family, this is a guy with a career he cares deeply about. This was a big year for him obviously and it sucks that this is how it played out.”
Cousins said he spoke briefly to Gay after the game, but admitted he didn’t know what to say besides offering his prayers and support.
“A guy in that situation, what can you say to him?” Cousins said. “What’s the right thing to say? None of us have dealt with that before. None of us know the pain he’s dealing with. What can you say?”
The Kings led 79-69 when Gay went down, and then Indiana continued to dominate, outscoring the Kings 65-40 after halftime.
“They came out and played with a lot more energy in the second half,” said Kings coach Dave Joerger. “And we, for one reason or another, did not come out with as much force as we did to start the game.”
By the end of the night, Paul George (24 points) and Jeff Teague (22 points and 11 assists) were back to playing at their All-Star level and Al Jefferson (20 points) was a force in the post off the bench.
“Terrible second half,” Cousins said. “I was the lead culprit in this disaster tonight. I was (expletive) awful in the second half.”
Cousins recorded the fifth triple-double of his career with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. But he also had nine turnovers, including all three of the Kings’ turnovers in the fourth that led to six points. In the second half, he missed all nine of his shots and had six points, two rebounds and six turnovers.
Seeing Gay carried off the court didn’t help. Along with the emotional toll it took on the Kings, Gay was having a good game with 21 points.
“It had some effect on us but guys have been in situations where we’ve had people get hurt and we had to step up and continue to play the game,” said guard Garrett Temple. “I didn’t know the exact extent of it until the end of the game, but that’s tough. This is a business and you worry about winning and losing, but at this point I’m much more concerned about my teammate.”