Perhaps Kings coach George Karl will review what happened late in Thursday night’s game and not feel so down.
The Kings won, but they made it much tougher than it needed to be in their 99-97 victory over the New York Knicks at Sleep Train Arena.
The Kings committed eight fourth-quarter turnovers, including one by Darren Collison when he lost the ball off an inbound pass with 5.9 seconds to play – giving the Knicks one more chance to tie or win the game.
But Carmelo Anthony missed a three-pointer just before the final buzzer, marking the Kings’ second consecutive win after a three-game losing streak.
Still, it was too close for a game the Kings led by 19 points.
“As much as I was excited about the Utah win (Tuesday), I’m probably right now feeling a little disappointed how we successfully negotiated a win,” Karl said.
Center DeMarcus Cousins led the Kings (9-15) with 27 points and 11 rebounds. Point guard Rajon Rondo had 16 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds. Anthony led the Knicks (10-14) with 23 points and 14 rebounds.
Karl normally emphasizes positives, but the Kings’ finish irked him.
Their ballhandling that had been superb – four turnovers through three quarters – became careless. Their overall defensive effort had been solid, but they lapsed for moments and played passively.
“I didn’t like how we handled the lead in the third quarter,” Karl said. “And then down the stretch, I don’t think we were lucky, I think we just sometimes don’t understand what the value of solid basketball and smart basketball is versus just trying to make athletic, fast plays.”
The Kings had their share of athletic plays, including a dunk by Rondo that surprised even his teammates and got the crowd riled up in the fourth quarter.
That wasn’t Rondo’s intent, he said.
“I just tried to finish the play,” said Rondo, who hadn’t dunked as a King but said he might have had a dunk last season with Dallas.
That dunk gave the Kings a 93-88 lead with 2:57 to play, but the Knicks hung around with help from Sacramento’s mistakes.
“We got relaxed,” said Cousins. “We got way too relaxed. We were making these amazing plays and just got way too relaxed.”
The Kings flirted with disaster when Collison lost the ball and Arron Afflalo recovered it for the Knicks, giving them one last opportunity.
“It just slipped out of my hands,” Collison said. “We didn’t worry about it. We just worried about the next possession.”
The Knicks called timeout and got the ball to Anthony, who appeared disappointed a foul wasn’t called on his final shot.
“That was the shot that was there,” Anthony said. “Still a clean look, clean look at the rim. I got the ball up there. Anything other than that, I’d rather not speak on.”
The Kings will try to learn from their mistakes.
“We can take care of the ball and we’ll be better,” Rondo said. “Get some more stops in transition, matchup. Everyone finds a man and contests every shot.”
Said Karl: “I don’t think we value leads. Leads are there to play smart and solid. Teams run by us a little bit.
“But it’s a win. It’s a good win. All wins are good in the NBA. I’ll probably get over this and be OK tomorrow. But as I said, I wish we would be more solid. My words at the end are simple, solid and smart.”