An NBA season is 82 games long. There’s bound to be ups and downs along the schedule.
It’s safe to say Thursday was a down for the Kings.
A rough second quarter proved too much to recover from in a 114-95 loss to the Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Center to start a season-long six-game trip.
Despite the Kings leading by 13 before halftime, the hosts were able to avenge a 104-97 loss five days prior in Sacramento.
“I think we got lulled to sleep a little bit by making some shots early and the rest of the game they just lined it up and went straight at us,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “Hats off to them. They were not going to be denied the second time playing each other in a short amount of time.”
The Hornets took charge before the break. The Kings took their largest lead at 37-24 in the second period, but then the hosts locked in. Nine players scored as Charlotte put up a 43-point quarter and held on from there.
“To score 43 points, it speaks to our defense there,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “That’s really how we were scoring. We were getting stops and steals. ... That set the tone for the rest of the game.”
Kemba Walker led seven Hornets in double digits with 23 points.
Neither team shot great, as the Hornets’ 44.8 percent was slightly better than the Kings’ 44.3. But not everyone for Sacramento struggled.
Buddy Hield played a game-high 32 minutes and scored 24 points to lead all scorers. In shooting 50 percent overall, he also continued his solid 3-point shooting, hitting 6 of 11 from the arc.
Joerger was in no mood to discuss it.
“We just got smoked,” Joerger said. “I do not want to talk about individual shooting.”
Hield is on pace to set a franchise record in 3s, but the third-year guard has another focus: his team’s success.
It’s not the first time he declined to discuss his numbers. That’s not much of a surprise. The team has been referred to as the “Scores,” a name created by veteran forward Iman Shumpert because anyone on the roster can lead the offense on any given night.
“It means nothing,” Hield said of his stats. “We still lost. Winning basketball games is more important. We have to get the next one.”
The loss snapped a three-game winning streak. The Kings play Saturday in Detroit.
The teams met in Sacramento on Jan. 10 and the Kings went wire to wire in beating the Pistons. Detroit played without leading scorer Blake Griffin, who was rested after playing in Los Angeles against the Lakers the night before. The Kings will look to avenge last season’s sweep with one of their own.
Kings rookie forward Marvin Bagley III is already looking forward to playing again.
“We let it slip today,” said Bagley, who was back in North Carolina after spending a season at Duke. He had 15 points and eight rebounds.
“We’ve got to have a short memory and move on. We’ve got another one in a couple days and we’ve just got to bounce back.”