The Kings are in danger of having a season of regrets.
They have lost four consecutive games but are still flirting with the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference.
But the Kings are piling up memorable losses rather than signature wins.
A victory at Toronto doesn’t stand out quite like the following: blown double-digit leads in two losses to Charlotte; a home loss to Philadelphia; two losses to Minnesota;, two losses to short-handed New Orleans; and a home loss to Portland, which was missing its best player, Damian Lillard.
Even a performance that gratified the Kings, a double-overtime loss at Dallas, probably should be remembered not for how they fought back but how they blew a seven-point lead in the final 1:20.
The Kings remain in the playoff picture because the other contenders are dealing with youth or injuries. But if the Kings do not capitalize, they’ll be left to wonder what could have been.
The players want to avoid that scenario. But just when it looks as if they get it, they give up 37 points in the first quarter at New Orleans, which was playing without three starters. The Kings became the first team the Pelicans have beaten without All-Star Anthony Davis this season.
“I think about (the games the Kings should have won) all the time, but we just can’t keep thinking about it and talking about it,” center DeMarcus Cousins said. “We’ve got to go out there and actually show some action. Until we buckle down and play the right way, we might as well kiss this season goodbye.”
The Kings’ goal this season always has been the playoffs, and they might not even need a winning record to advance. Sacramento would have to go 22-13 in its last 35 games to finish above .500. But at 20-27, the Kings were just 1 1/2 games out of the final playoff spot entering Sunday.
Their competition for the No. 8 seed also has fallen on hard times. Utah has been riddled with injuries all season. Portland has faltered for extended stretches but has defeated the Kings twice. New Orleans also has had a slew of injuries but is 0-2 against Sacramento this season.
The Kings are fortunate they can make those bad games a footnote if they finish the season strong.
“I’m just happy to be where we’re at,” coach George Karl said. “Yes, there’s a handful of games, maybe six or seven games that we’re disappointed in. But every season you usually give away four or five and hopefully you steal four or five. We might be on the down side of that. We might have given away four or five but stolen just one or two. But I think we can make that up.”
To offset those glaring defeats, the Kings must stop routinely surrendering season and career highs and play at least average defense. They also must end their habit of playing poorly when their opponent is at less than full strength.
On Thursday, the Kings knew the Pelicans were undermanned. But Ryan Anderson, the reconfigured lineup’s primary scoring threat, often was left open and tied his career high with 36 points.
“This is a time when guys get hurt, the All-Star break comes up and pretty much everybody is banged up,” forward Rudy Gay said. “This is a time of year where you’ve really got to be solid. People are banged up and it gives room to other people, and you can’t take anybody lightly.”
Kings’ next game
- When: Monday, 7 p.m.
- Opponent: vs. Milwaukee
- TV/radio: CSNCA, 1140