These are the games good teams win, but the Kings still commit too many turnovers and have too many defensive breakdowns to be a good team.
The Atlanta Hawks were without two of their usual starters and had lost the night before at Brooklyn. But the Kings, who hadn’t played in two days, couldn’t get out of their own way long enough and lost to the Hawks 103-97 at Philips Arena on Wednesday night to begin a five-game trip.
The loss ended the Kings’ winning streak at three games. Two problem areas from this season were at the core of Sacramento’s defeat.
The Kings committed 21 turnovers (leading to 19 Atlanta points), and though the Hawks shot 42.7 percent, it wasn’t a great defensive showing for the Kings.
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At crucial moments, the Hawks exploited mismatches defensively to get the shots they wanted. That, along with the Kings’ knack for turnovers that killed their momentum, made it tough to overcome Atlanta.
“Every game you have what I call black holes in momentum,” said Kings coach George Karl. “And I think the combination of their activity, turnover activity and also our hanging on to the frustration for an extra possession or two, instead of the black hole being three or four possessions it ends up being five or six possession. We did that two or three times.”
The black holes were evident when the Kings had lapses in their halfcourt defense. At times, players ran back on offense trying to sort out what went wrong.
Defensive switches led to guards defending Atlanta’s big men at inopportune times and bigger players on the perimeter at the mercy of Atlanta’s quick point guard, Dennis Schroder, who started in placed of injured All-Star Jeff Teague.
Karl said the switches were by design.
“We were basically trying to take away their flow game they get from pick-and-rolls,” the coach said.
Schroder carved up the Kings (4-8) for 22 points and six assists. Paul Millsap had 23 points and a game-high 16 rebounds for Atlanta (9-5).
“There’s a lot of stuff we’ve got to get better at,” said Kings forward Rudy Gay. “(Wednesday) it was defensive awareness.”
The defense has been a primary concern since before the start of the season, but the Kings saw strides during their three-game win streak.
The Kings had some good defensive possessions late but also hurt themselves with turnovers. Eight of Sacramento’s turnovers were in the fourth quarter.
“We let them play to their strengths, which is they play well off turnovers and bad shots and we took some bad shots and led to some offense for them,” said Kings center DeMarcus Cousins.
The Kings also need to show more resolve during the black holes Karl described.
“We’re just not collectively together yet,” Karl said. “Connected to the point of (understanding) you can’t play good for 48 minutes. There’s always going to be moments where the game goes the wrong way. We’ve just got to hang in there.”
Cousins led the Kings with 24 points but missed 13 of his 20 shots. Rajon Rondo recorded his fourth triple double of the season with 12 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, but he also had seven turnovers.
Rondo matched Chris Webber (2004-05) for the second-most triple doubles in a season since the franchise began playing in Sacramento.
Webber holds the record with five in 1999-2000.