The Kings will carry home memories from their trip to China, but in two preseason games against the Brooklyn Nets they couldn’t bring home a win.
After a late-game comeback sent the game into overtime, the Kings lost to the Nets again today, this time 129-117 before a capacity crowd at the 18,000-seat Wukesong MasterCard Center in Beijing.
The Kings’ defense was lethargic, even with a young team on the court, allowing six Nets to score in double figures.
“I was disappointed in our defense,” said Kings coach Michael Malone, who added that the team will need to do better to compete in the NBA’s competitive Western Conference.
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While the Kings couldn’t hold off the Nets in either of their two preseason games here, they scored points with Chinese fans.
The games in Shanghai and Beijing sold out quickly, and in Beijing fans could be heard shouting the names of their favorite players.
“Rudyy Gay!,” yelled one full-throated fan every time the Kings forward touched the ball.
Kings players and coach said they enjoyed the spirit of the fans – and the chance to get to know each other better.
“Even though we lost both games, the positive for me is we have been able to spend quite a lot of time together, to try and bond and create chemistry and trust,” Malone said.
Today’s game was the 18th the NBA has played in China as part of the league’s Global Games. The first was in 2004 when the Houston Rockets, with Chinese star Yao Ming, beat the Kings 88-86.
Yao Ming sat courtside today, wearing a black suit that looked a bit small for his 7-foot-5 frame. Other former NBA stars, including Shaquille O’Neal and former Kings Vlade Divac, Peja Stojaković and Mitch Richmond, filled the seats on the north side of the court.
While the NBA has touted the Global Games as part of a push to expand its brand in China, the two biggest stars of the Nets and the Kings – Kevin Garnett and DeMarcus Cousins – spent the entire game on the bench.
Nets Coach Lionel Hollins said he wanted a chance to look at younger players. Malone said Cousins had played a lot this summer with the U.S. men’s national team at the FIBA World Cup in Spain and has some issues with an achilles tendon.
“We thought it was in his best interest to sit out tonight,” Malone said. “He was banged up.”
Beijing’s MasterCard Center also didn’t seem to be wearing its game face. Venders were unprepared to feed the masses, prompting one seemingly well-fed U.S. Kings fan – wearing the team’s purple jersey – to wander around the concourse, yelling, “There’s no food in this house!”
Still, there was plenty of spectacle. Kings forward Derrick Williams drew thunderous applause with an alley-oop dunk in the third quarter. The crowd also seemed charmed by the Nets’ entertainment act – several guys doing acrobatics with Pogo sticks.
The Kings started slow before taking the lead late in the second half, with key baskets by Gay and guard Ben McLemore. They led 85-82 going into the fourth quarter, but then unraveled against the Nets, who were led in the surge by Mirza Teletovic, Mason Plumlee and Brook Lopez.
The Nets led 112-109 with 41 seconds left when Kings forward Omri Caspi made a three-pointer. On the next play, Plumlee’s pass to Willie Reed slipped through his hands, sending the game into overtime
But in overtime, the Kings were outscored 17-5.
Teletovic led the Nets with 22 points and Plumlee added 18. McLemore led the Kings with 22 points, followed by Gay with 21. Guard Darren Collison had 18 points and six assists.
The Kings also came close to beating the Nets in their game in Shanghai on Sunday, but Teletovic made a three-pointer with less than a minute remaining to give the Nets a 97-95 win.
Along with coping with jet lag, playing basketball ball and attending NBA events, the players had a few moments to experience a bit of China.
On Tuesday, they visited the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall near Beijing. A team photo gallery shows them riding toboggans down a metal shute from the Great Wall, one of the singular cultural experiences of the Middle Kingdom.
Stuart Leavenworth may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org; or follow him on Twitter @sleavenworth.