The Kings don’t have much margin for error these days. No lead is big enough, especially against playoff teams with star power.
For the second straight game, the Kings couldn’t hold on to a big lead, wasting a 15-point advantage and falling to the Washington Wizards 130-122 in overtime Friday night at Golden 1 Center.
This version of the Kings, the one without DeMarcus Cousins, has lost seven consecutive games and is 1-7 since the trade that shifted the team’s gaze to next season.
Still, there are games to be played before the front office can use the draft to inject more youth into the roster and spur the culture change. But these Kings are having to build that character in a trial by fire.
Veteran teams have had their way with them in the last two comebacks. San Antonio on Wednesday overcame a 28-point deficit. On Friday night, Bradley Beal and John Wall led the comeback after the Wizards grew tired of Sacramento running by them and started to play more physically.
The Kings were proud of their effort, but would like to be rewarded with a win, especially for the confidence of the younger players.
“That’s the only thing we’ve got to do,” said guard Darren Collison. “We’ve got to turn this thing around and get some wins so these young guys can see what it takes to win a game. you don’t want to keep losing. It becomes a thing that becomes a snowball effect in their career. You want to continue to show them how to play hard, show them how to win games down the stretch so they can take that with them.”
The Kings showcased their future Friday, starting rookie guard Buddy Hield for the first time since he was acquired in the Cousins trade. He had 18 points, but did not score after halftime, missing all six of his field goals.
Second-year big man Willie Cauley-Stein had team highs of 20 points and 13 rebounds.
But the backcourt of Wall (25 points, 12 assists) and Beal (38 points, 10 rebounds) proved too much as Washington (40-24) outscored the Kings 34-19 in the fourth quarter to force overtime and pull away in extra time.
Kings coach Dave Joerger said he’s not discouraged.
“You just play,” Joerger said. “Guys are trying as hard as they can and giving guys a lot of minutes. Generally it’s a good experience for some of the younger guys to be part of down-the-stretch minutes and it’s just not happening.”
Prior to the trade, the Kings (25-40) discovered a way to win close games.
Now, they’re trying to figure out how to play through their struggles and end their longest losing streak of the season.
“It doesn’t feel good when you’re up 25 or 15 or whatever (and lose) but we’re maturing,” said guard Arron Afflalo. “We’ve got a lot of young guys and we’re still trying to learn how to win.”
Hield said Friday was a learning experience.
“It’s really tough,” Hield said. “You’ve got to keep working, learn how to win. As long as we keep learning how to win and keep fighting, we’ll come around.”