Kings coach George Karl wanted to experiment with lineups, but this wasn’t what he had in mind.
The Kings planned to play Monday without their leading scorer, but they ended the night without their top two scorers in a 97-83 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum.
DeMarcus Cousins was given the night off to rest. Rudy Gay left with 2:23 remaining in the third quarter because of a concussion after Memphis center Marc Gasol inadvertently hit him with an elbow.
Gay will not play Wednesday at Houston and must pass the NBA concussion protocol before returning, a process that could take a week to 10 days.
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“I just blacked out a little bit,” Gay said. “That’s why they didn’t let me come back into the game.”
The Kings fell to 3-14 without Cousins in the lineup. Not surprisingly, they struggled on offense without their All-Star center, shooting only 40.7 percent.
Karl liked his team’s defense in the second half, when the Grizzlies scored 41 points and shot 42.9 percent. But the Kings ran into familiar problems on offense. They took tough shots and had only 16 assists. Only Gay (24 points) looked comfortable on offense.
“I think we could have trusted each other a little bit more,” Karl said. “When you’re short-handed without your most skilled, talented players, you’ve got to play better as a team ... . Our offense had too many mistakes, too many bad decisions. Once Rudy went out, we didn’t have a hot hand. We were searching for one, but no one really showed up.”
Karl traced the decision to rest Cousins to March 18, when the center rattled off a list of sore body parts after a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
“I think we talked when he commented after one game that his body was beat up,” Karl said. “Instead of thinking about shutting him down, think about finding some days that you can get your body rested. We have (nine) games left, and there might be another scheduling piece to our games where we do it again.”
In his last game, Cousins had 39 points and 20 rebounds in a loss at New Orleans on Friday. He had been listed on the injury report with a strained right calf and a sore right foot until Sunday, when he was not listed with any injuries.
“I think DeMarcus likes to play,” Karl said, adding he expects the center to play Wednesday. “I think he’s doing it because he wants to play at a higher efficiency rate, and it gives me an opportunity to experiment a little bit. I think at home I like to go after every game, but on the road, I’m going to experiment a little bit more.”
Without Cousins, Karl wanted to try different player rotations. He started Ray McCallum, Ben McLemore, Jason Thompson, Reggie Evans and Gay, the Kings’ 18th different starting lineup this season.
Karl said he also aimed to maximize McLemore’s scoring chances by playing him alongside Andre Miller, the team’s best passer.
“Ben’s one of our better runners, and I’d like to get him with Andre a little bit more,” Karl said. “I haven’t done that very well in the (first) 20 games that I’ve been here. Just looking at the combinations, it’s something I probably should try a bit more to do.”
Karl wanted to see how some of his players responded without Cousins on the floor.
“Just trying to find combinations and opportunities for young players to get in the game and have the responsibility to try to win a game,” Karl said.