The Kings definitely showed resolve Wednesday night in their 104-98 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
But it took falling behind by 21 points in the first half to jolt them into action.
The Kings bounced back from a 15-point second quarter to outscore Memphis 35-24 in the third, but the rally fell short late when Sacramento couldn’t hold on after leading 91-88 in the fourth quarter and lost their fourth straight game.
The question is, how can the Kings play with urgency without needing to be down by 20 points?
“Just being aware and being in the game, showing urgency in the beginning and not when somebody has to light a flame under our (butts),” said Kings center DeMarcus Cousins. “Just coming out with that same type of intensity (as in the third quarter).”
Several players have talked about the Kings needing to find that intensity before they are officially eliminated from playoff contention. The postseason was the stated goal before the season, but since ascending to eighth place in the West in January, the Kings are 4-12.
The attention to detail needed at this time of the season is consistently missing and that continues to hurt the Kings.
The Kings were too careless with the ball, committing 25 turnovers that led to 29 points for Memphis. So even though the Grizzlies shot just 44.3 percent, they were able to get some good looks off Sacramento’s mistakes.
“They were mental mistakes and just sloppy plays,” said forward Quincy Acy. “Those lead to easy transition points. And I think we got outhustled a few times on 50-50 balls. We just can’t have that if we’re fighting for a playoff spot.”
Kings coach George Karl said teams do not win at Memphis unless they come in ready to get “a little dirty, a little gritty and a little physical.”
That wasn’t how the Kings started the game and especially not how they played the second quarter when Memphis outscored Sacramento 28-15.
Karl called the second quarter Sacramento’s “black hole.”
“Turnovers and we got outworked on the boards,” Karl said. “And they got their young athletes that jumped around, bounced around and were very good. We lost the rebounding attitude. They were physical and our offense got very ordinary because (of that).”
The Kings need to be especially gritty considering they are without Rudy Gay (strained right shoulder) and Seth Curry (sprained right foot).
Rajon Rondo left the game briefly in the fourth quarter because of an ankle injury. Karl said he is “hoping” to have Rondo on Thursday at Dallas.
“He twisted his ankle pretty good,” Karl said.
Darren Collison would start if Rondo can’t play. He had another solid showing off the bench with 17 points. Cousins led the Kings with 18 points and 16 rebounds. He also had seven turnovers. Marco Belinelli had 16 points and four assists off the bench.