There are a few ways to look at how the Kings ended November.
There’s the obvious. They lost their third consecutive game, 97-85 to the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday at Sleep Train Arena, to fall to 9-8.
Considering the skid came against three of the best teams in the league (Memphis, Houston and San Antonio) and the Kings weren’t at full strength for any of the games, there isn’t a sense of gloom around the team.
DeMarcus Cousins (virus) missed his second consecutive game Sunday, and the Kings have played one of the toughest schedules to date with a league-high 10 road games.
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But that doesn’t mean the Kings should be content. Their penchant for turnovers cost them again Sunday, when they matched their season high with 23. The Grizzlies turned them into 23 points.
The turnovers frustrated Kings coach Michael Malone, but he found some perspective in defeat.
“I just told them, ‘Walk out of here understanding that we have a lot of work to do,’” Malone said. “But being 9-8 and having played the toughest schedule and the most road games in the NBA, we have a lot of things to feel good about.”
Malone is hopeful Cousins will play Tuesday against Toronto. Last season, the Kings were 0-11 without Cousins, so it’s no surprise the team would struggle without him.
But after falling behind by 21 points, the Kings trailed only 79-76 with 6:27 to play. Memphis responded with a 14-3 run to put the game out of reach.
“We dug ourselves a deep hole early in the game, and it was one of those things we couldn’t get out of,” Kings forward Rudy Gay said. “We tried to make a good run at it, but it was just one of those things.”
The Kings hung around behind Gay (20 points), Ben McLemore (18 points), Darren Collison (16 points, seven rebounds, seven assists) and a surprise boost from Reggie Evans.
Evans had fallen out the rotation and hadn’t played in the past seven games. The veteran played a season-high 35 minutes and had season bests of 17 points and a game-high 20 rebounds.
“I was shocked that my name was called,” Evans said. “But you’ve got to be ready to go at anytime, and that’s just the main key.”
The Kings needed Evans after Ryan Hollins, who started for Cousins, was ejected in the third quarter for picking up his second technical foul. Hollins was called for a common foul on Marc Gasol with 10:51 to play in the third and was assessed a technical for playing after the whistle.
“I asked (official) Derek Richardson about it,” Malone said. “The first foul is called, and Marc Gasol is continuing on to go to the basket, so Ryan tries to make a play on it, and they deemed it a little bit excessive.”
The Grizzlies, an NBA-best 15-2, were led by Zach Randolph’s 22 points and 12 rebounds. Gasol had 18 points as all five Memphis starters scored in double figures.
Malone is worried about how the Kings have slacked on defense lately and doesn’t want to give the team a “false sense of security or accomplishment.”
Malone hopes to build “a little bit of a cushion” in December when the Kings play 11 of 15 games at home.
“These guys should feel good about the job they’ve done and some of the wins that we’ve had,” Malone said. “But at the same time, we fully realize that we have a lot of work to do. If you want to be a good team in the NBA, you have to be a consistent team and play the right way every night.”