It’s expected the Kings would be a different team with Rudy Gay out of the starting lineup with a sprained left knee.
Gay’s absence doesn’t excuse the lack of energy and urgency in a 95-83 loss to the Miami Heat on Friday night at Sleep Train Arena.
The Kings didn’t have Gay or Carl Landry (sprained right wrist) but also didn’t have the fight needed to slow down the Heat, even though early on it appeared as if Miami was in for a long night.
The Heat, however, still managed to hold a 26-22 lead after the first quarter even though it missed 13 of its 21 shots. The Kings’ inability to capitalize on Miami’s poor first-quarter shooting was a sign of things to come.
If anything, the Kings are supposed to be able to score in the push-the-pace mindset, but they scored their fewest points under Tyrone Corbin, who is 5-10 since taking over for Michael Malone on Dec. 14.
“I don’t think the whole game we wanted to create pace and we didn’t come out creating that pace,” Corbin said. “... We just kind of fell into a trap of playing a slowdown game and it caught up with us in that second half.”
The Heat, playing without Dwyane Wade (strained left hamstring), was the team that was energetic. The Kings looked like the team that was trying to slow the game, not deliberately, but with their lack of energy.
The Heat outdid the Kings in all the areas that point to hustle. Miami had nine steals, six more than the Kings. The Heat, the worst rebounding team in the league, won the battle on the boards 38-35.
Miami (18-22) won the battle for second-chance points, 12-8, and outscored the Kings in fast-break points, 17-7.
The Kings fell behind by as many as 20 points as Chris Bosh (30 points) and Luol Deng (25 points) had their way.
The Kings shot 42.7 percent for the game. The Heat shot 50.9 percent after the first quarter.
“Craziest thing about it is we know what the problem is,” said center DeMarcus Cousins. “We know we’ve got to be a consistent defensive team and just don’t do it. So that’s something guys on the floor have to figure out.”
It’s not the first time this has been said in some form after a loss.
The Kings’ lack of focus, especially on defense, continues to be one of the biggest problems for Sacramento (16-23).
Then there are the turnovers.
Sacramento had 15, which is slightly below its average (15.6) entering the game. But the Heat, which struggles to score many nights, turned those mistakes into 17 points.
Most of the turnovers (eight) were by Cousins. In his last two games, Cousins has 17 turnovers.
If the Kings are going to play poor defense for long stretches, they can’t afford to give up more points off mistakes, especially when they’re not generating points in transition and shooting poorly.
And if Cousins is going to have the ball a lot while Gay recovers, he has to take better care of it.
Cousins had 17 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, but the turnovers hurt. Too often, Cousins and the Kings got in trouble trying to make the spectacular play, which helped the Heat.
“Team-wise, probably (could) do a better job of spacing, cutting, moving without the ball,” Cousins said. “Myself, just making bad decisions with the ball – right intentions but just bad decisions.”
Cousins said fixing the Kings is on the players – another familiar refrain.
But is anyone listening? Are the Kings going to put together more than one or two good efforts in a row anytime soon?
Or will nights like Friday be the norm, where the Kings are turnover-prone and indifferent on defense.
“We can come together and figure it out if we want to get it right, or we’re going to continue to have nights like this,” Cousins said.
And there have been many nights like this.