Most of this season, the Kings have not been able to use their home court to find a solution to all that’s ailed them during the season.
Putting together a stretch of good play wasn’t made any easier Friday when the Kings hosted the Charlotte Hornets at Sleep Train Arena.
The Kings were without DeMarcus Cousins for a second consecutive game because of a strained right calf, not the kind of news a team struggling to win needed.
But behind a strong game from Rudy Gay and a solid contribution from the second unit, the Kings ended their four-game slide with a 101-91 win.
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The Kings’ last win was at Charlotte on March 11.
The Kings dropped the first two games of their five-game homestand to Atlanta and the Los Angeles Clippers. Those are two teams that believe they have a chance to win an NBA championship.
The Hornets are still in contention for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, but have lost their last three and five of six.
It was the kind of game the Kings need to be able to win at home and they did, despite 21 turnovers.
“Both Atlanta and the Clippers, they’re acceptable losses but losing at home is never acceptable,” Kings coach George Karl said. “I want this to be a simple pride game. This team is still playing for the playoffs, they’re going to play probably with a sense of urgency, maybe attitude because we beat them about (a week) ago. We can’t let that have a part of them having success against us.”
Karl’s hope returning from Sacramento’s eight-game trip was some of the good he saw on the road would translate into wins at home.
For all the talk of progress being made, it was hard to believe in it when losses continue to pile up.
On Friday night, the Kings had that good feeling back.
“Wins always work,” Gay said. “In basketball that’s the cure to everything. A win is good but when we win and execute the way we did, the way coach wants us to, it makes it better.”
The Kings improved to 14-21 at home with the win. The Hornets, who struggle to score most nights, had their problems against the Kings, shooting just 39.6 percent. It was also the first time in the last 10 games the Kings held an opponent under 100 points.
But even before the win, Karl said the Kings were doing many of the right things.
“I don’t want to sound overly positive because losing is losing,” Karl said. “There’s a growth process that comes that you must learn from losing. But there’s plenty of positives out there, and I think most basketball fans see it, that we can build on and continue to grow with.”
Gay, in his second game back from a patellar tendon strain in his left knee, had a game-high 33 points, his seventh consecutive game scoring more than 20 and fourth time with at least 30 points this season.
The 21 turnovers weren’t a bright spot, but the Kings weren’t going to harp on that too much after getting a win.
“This is a game that we needed,” Karl said “... I think the guys responded in a positive way without Cuz. We just want to win as many home games as we can and get the fans behind us and have a positive outlook for next year.”
Karl said keeping the Kings motivated for the rest of the season requires a “daily energy.”
It’s not easy to have that energy when the playoffs have not been a destination for the Kings for some time, but Karl continues to preach that these games will be the foundation for next season.
And the coach remains upbeat.
“When you lose and you’re struggling and it’s a three- or four-game losing streak it lingers with you,” Karl said. “Somehow, someway, I always wake up pretty fired up.”