The Kings left Indianapolis late Saturday night en route to Chicago, where they will wrap up a four-game trip Monday evening.
They might want to stop for gas along the way.
The Kings started fast but sputtered badly against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, suffering a 107-97 loss that brought an end to their three-game winning streak. Both teams were on the second night of back-to-back games and Victor Oladipo was still out with a knee injury, but the Pacers picked up steam while the Kings, who rank second in the NBA in pace, found themselves running on empty.
“I think it had a little bit to do with the back-to-back, but it was mental,” Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein said. “We prepared our bodies for the back-to-back, but I think a lot of it was mental.”
The Kings led 31-24 at the end of the first period. Buddy Hield had the hot hand, scoring 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range over the first eight minutes.
The Kings (13-12) took 24 shots in the first period, shot 45.8 percent, had six assists on 11 baskets and scored 30 or more points for the ninth time in their last 12 quarters. Then, they went cold, allowing Indiana (16-10) to get back into the game and eventually take control.
The Kings scored 21 points in the second quarter and 18 in the third. In the fourth quarter, when Sacramento tried to hit the gas pedal to race past a fatigued opponent, the Pacers pushed harder, outscoring the Kings 19-5 over a span of about 4:30.
“They’ve got experience, they were physical, they got in the lane and I thought they handled the mental part of playing the second night of a back-to-back ... better than we did,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said.
Hield missed nine of his last 12 shots and finished with 20 points. De’Aaron Fox had 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting with six assists. Cauley-Stein had 14 points and nine rebounds.
That wasn’t enough on a night when Bogdan Bogdanovic struggled with his shot, Marvin Bagley III fouled out with four points in nine minutes and the Kings shot 28.1 percent from 3-point range.
“We just sucked,” Hield said. “The second half, we didn’t get back on defense, (and) turnovers killed us; turnovers and not making shots. We’re supposed to make shots.”
The Kings will have a chance to bounce back against the Bulls (6-21) after enjoying a day off Sunday. They played three games in five nights.
“All off days are good,” Hield said. “We just have to take advantage of that and rest up.”
The Bulls have lost eight of nine but now have Lauri Markkanen back in the lineup. Chicago suffered a 56-point loss to the Boston Celtics on Saturday, 24 hours after they beat the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Kings know they’ll have to play better to go home with three wins on this trip. A day off might be just what they need.
“It will just be like a mental day, refresh, re-Zen, get yourself right again,” Cauley-Stein said. “Monday’s game is a must-win for us. I think everybody in this locker room is together, really together, and really wants to win, so this day off is going to be big for us.”