The Kings’ defensive identity is missing. It can probably be found somewhere in New Orleans.
Because since that win last Tuesday against the Pelicans, the Kings have been anything but the defensive team they proclaim to be.
The inconsistent defense was on display again in a 117-109 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night at Sleep Train Arena.
The Kings allowed a season high in points for the second time in three games and have dropped their last four games, the last three coming without DeMarcus Cousins who has been ill since last Friday.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“We’re 9-9,” said Kings coach Michael Malone. “In your wins, you defend; in your losses, you don’t defend anybody.”
The Raptors jumped out to a 21-6 lead and the Kings couldn’t overtake Toronto despite an inspired effort from the bench to keep them in the game.
The Kings had a season-high 58 points from the bench, but that wasn’t enough to overcome 50 percent shooting from the Raptors.
“If you do not defend in the NBA, you get your butts whipped, and that’s what they did,” Malone said. “They took turns tonight. First it was Terrence Ross, then it was James Johnson, then it was Kyle Lowry.”
Ross scored 15 of his 20 points in the first quarter. Johnson, who spent the 2012-13 season with the Kings, scored 10 of his season-high 19 points in the second quarter.
Jonas Valanciunas scored 10 of his 15 points in the third. Lowry owned the fourth with 10 of his game-high 27 points coming in the final period. Lowry also had a game-high 13 assists.
The starters set the wrong tone in the first and came out flat in the third when the Raptors scored 35 points. That forced Malone to turn to the bench because of the “unacceptable” effort.
Derrick Williams didn’t play until late in the third quarter, but still managed to score 18 points.
Ramon Sessions had 15 points, six rebounds and four assists as he closed the game instead of Darren Collison, who missed all five of his shots in 19 minutes and had four assists.
Reggie Evans had 10 points and seven rebounds off the bench and Omri Casspi added nine points, four rebounds and five assists.
Ben McLemore led the Kings with 21 points. Rudy Gay added 20 points and a career-high 10 assists.
The Kings could have used Cousins’ late when the Raptors (14-4) managed to grab six offensive rebounds and come away with 11 second-chance points as the Kings tried to close the deficit.
The Kings were down 111-107 with 1:19 to play after a layup from Sessions. But they failed to grab the rebound off a Lowry miss. Lowry then came back with a 20-foot jumper with 57.1 seconds to play.
Cousins worked out before the game but was ruled out before tipoff.
“He has a fever, his head aches, all of that,” Malone said. “We want him to be back, but his health and well-being is more important than playing in a game right now in the big picture.”
But Malone said the Kings cannot wait for Cousins to “save the day.” The coach said the Kings have the talent in the locker room to win games but, there is no denying they miss their anchor on offense and defense.
Without Cousins, the Kings were left looking at missed opportunities again.
“We had chances,” Sessions said. “A couple rebounds here and there on the offensive end for them, a couple of loose balls. We gave ourselves a chance but we definitely can’t dig ourselves holes like that.”