Kings fall flat in first quarter

In some ways the first-quarter showing should have been expected, considering the up-and-down ways of the Kings this season.

The Kings held the NBA’s highest scoring team, the Houston Rockets, 16 points below its scoring average in a win Sunday.

So of course Sacramento would be able to hold down a team that had the second-worst scoring offense in the NBA at 90.4 points per game, right?

By the time the Kings figured out how to do that Tuesday night, they had already given up 35 points in the first quarter and fallen behind by 18 points in the second quarter in what became a 95-87 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats at Time Warner Cable Arena.

“We can’t come off a game where we hold one of the best offensive teams in the league below their scoring average and play one of the worst scoring teams and they come out and have an incredible first quarter,” said center DeMarcus Cousins. “You’ve got to be consistent with your game. If we continue at this pace it’s going to be a long season.”

The Bobcats came out ready to play early. The Kings looked lethargic, and they paid for it with a loss.

“We got back in the game, we got close,” said Kings coach Michael Malone. “But you can’t play three quarters in the NBA on the road and expect to win.”

Malone was asked if the Kings’ slow start surprised him.

“Nothing surprises me,” the coach said.

Cousins, on why the Kings started so badly: “I wish I knew the answer to that.”

The Kings cut the deficit to 80-78 with 8:53 to play, but could not overtake Charlotte, a task complicated by Rudy Gay sitting out the entire fourth quarter with right knee stiffness.

“I wanted to stay out there with the fellas, and I hate to watch the game,” Gay said. “But I realize with the schedule coming up and it was bothering me so (Malone said) to pull myself out.”

Gay said he would receive treatment on his knee and try to play tonight in Atlanta.

“He was complaining at halftime about his knee,” Malone said. “He went out, wanted to give it a shot in the third quarter, gave us some minutes but he wasn’t moving real well out there so we decided to shut him down. I don’t think it’s real serious, but I don’t want to speculate until I speak” with director of sports medicine Pete Youngman.

The Kings’ inconsistency has dogged them all season and been a major factor in their 7-16 record.

Isaiah Thomas said the Bobcats “were scoring and getting whatever they wanted” in the first quarter.

“We have to have that identity where, no matter what, we’re going to bring it,” Thomas said. “The effort and the energy have to be there. We may not make the shots or take care of the ball, but we have to play as hard as possible, and (not doing that) got us the loss” Tuesday. The Kings weren’t making shots, shooting 37.5 percent, their second-worst shooting performance of the season.

The Kings’ slow start allowed the Bobcats’ Gerald Henderson to get going (20 points). By the end of the game Kemba Walker had a team-high 24 points, and Ramon Sessions had 16 points and six assists off the bench.

“We have to start paying attention to detail,” Thomas said. “We play good one game and then play very bad the next. We didn’t play very bad (Tuesday), but it was just tough to win with letting them score 35 in the first quarter.”

Cousins had 30 points, 17 rebounds and six assists. The only other King to score in double figures was Thomas, with 21 points, as Sacramento became the 21st opponent that the Bobcats (11-14) have held under 100 points, the most in the NBA.