The trip began with a lopsided win, but that proved to be an anomaly on the Kings’ season-long eight-game swing.
The Kings went 2-6 with one thing certain: It will take a lot of time for them to snap out of the funk that started when Michael Malone was fired Dec. 14.
The Kings continue to have inexplicable lapses during games. They blew big second-half leads in three losses (Miami, Philadelphia and Washington), were run off the court by San Antonio and Atlanta, and looked disengaged most of the night against undermanned Orlando.
This is what George Karl signed up for when he took over as coach.
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“I think we play a lot of good basketball and we play too much bad basketball,” Karl said. “It’s kind of a good-bad team where we’ve got to throw away the bad and get more solid.”
The turnover problem has existed over three coaches this season, but the biggest issue on the trip was Sacramento’s defense.
More points allowed comes with the emphasis on playing faster, but opponents had it way too easy.
The Kings hadn’t allowed consecutive opponents to shoot over 50 percent all season. They did so four times in a row on the trip and five overall – all losses.
Sacramento was vulnerable in all areas.
The Kings allowed several season highs on the trip, including the highest field-goal percentage by an opponent twice.
The Hawks had 42 assists and 20 three-pointers, both NBA highs this season.
Opponents scored at the rim and in transition. Washington made 13 three-pointers, its season high.
The Kings continue to show a knack for looking as if they can beat anyone, then doing the opposite of everything that worked and taking another loss. And no one seems to know why.
“I believe if I knew that, we couldn’t continue to do it,” said center DeMarcus Cousins. “No, I can’t answer that. I have no clue why that continues to happen.”
Karl continues to preach patience by fans and says the Kings are making progress. He said the trip was tough with three sets of back-to-back games.
Karl said the Kings looked fatigued over the last two games and noted it’s hard to hold off a team when not at full strength.
Forward Rudy Gay missed the Washington game with a knee strain, and the team has been without starting point guard Darren Collison since last month.
“I think we’re moving in (the right) direction, but we’re inconsistent,” Karl said. “We’re up-and-down – two steps forward, one step back.”
Cousins called for more fortitude from the Kings to withstand runs by opponents. Sacramento looks great when it’s in control, but once the opponent takes the momentum, the Kings tend to wilt, as they did multiple times on the trip.
When the pressure rises, the Kings turn the ball over, take bad shots and don’t get back on defense.
“We’ve got to do a better job of when they do make their run, stopping the bleeding and making a run of our own,” Cousins said.
“Everybody has played basketball on some type of level,” Cousins continued.” Basketball is a game of runs, so once a team makes a run, we have to find a way to stop it and make our own. That’s basketball.”
It sounds simple, but the Kings have had trouble executing it for most of the season.
A five-game homestand, beginning Monday night against Atlanta, features three teams the Kings played on the trip. Among them are the last two to beat them – Washington and Philadelphia.
“We’ll get a chance to go home and try to correct some mistakes,” Cousins said. “We didn’t get a lot of practice time on this road trip but don’t get a whole lot of time when we get home, either. But at least we’ll have the crowd behind us, and I think it’ll be a better showing.”