The Kings are in a battle with themselves to change their fortunes.
From their perspective, they have to figure out out how to get a little grittier and dig a little deeper to start winning games late, because moral victories get you nowhere in the NBA.
The Kings fought back from 21 down only to lose to the New York Knicks 106-98 Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. The Kings have lost three in a row and are 1-3 on their trip that ends Wednesday in Dallas.
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In each loss the Kings have found themselves having to rally to make a game close late, only to falter in the waning minutes.
The Kings trailed 96-94 with 4:50 to play, then could not generate enough offense to finish the game with a victory. Kings coach Dave Joerger noted, “it takes a lot of energy” to come back from a big deficit, as the Kings did with a 21-2 run in the third quarter to pull within 72-71.
Darren Collison said fatigue was not an explanation for another loss.
“No excuses,” Collison said “We’ve got to figure out a way to win games. Everybody deals with the same situation. We could have won that game. I don’t think nobody’s legs were tired. We played hard, but we’ve still got to try to win that game.”
DeMarcus Cousins played the entire second half and finished with 36 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three blocks. But as with most of the team, his shot wasn’t falling consistently, as he was 9 of 30 from the field.
The Kings shot a season-low 32.3 percent (31 of 96) Sunday. The previous low was 38.2 percent on Nov. 1 in Miami.
And many of the shots the Kings missed were around the basket. They shot 19 of 50 in the paint.
“We got 50 shots in the paint, but we’re not finishing, we’re not making layups,” Joerger said. “But guys competed; they held each other up and kept battling. We just ran out of legs at the end. We just missed a lot of shots ... all in all, I’m proud of our team and how we competed.”
Collison said at this point for the Kings (7-13), the adjustments that need to be made aren’t a matter of effort.
“I think we’ll be fine,” Collison said. “We’ve just got to figure out how to compete at a higher level. Not from a physical side, but a mental side, and try to limit our mistakes mentally.”
Cousins said it’s only a “matter of time” before the Kings put together a string of solid games and start winning. He said the team remains positive.
But even Cousins doesn’t have an answer as to how the Kings can shake off their inability to close out games lately.
“It’s tough,” Cousins said. “I don’t really think it’s a correct answer for that. Most guys, adrenaline gets going in those last couple of minutes. You’re going to find out who has the most heart in those last situations, and (Sunday) it was them. I don’t think there’s any one thing you can do or talk it over. It’s who wants it the most in those last couple minutes.”
Rudy Gay had 22 points and nine rebounds for the Kings. Collison added 13 points and six assists.
The bench, which has been a plus recently, struggled while the Knicks (11-9) got 19 points off the bench from Brandon Jennings. Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony each had 20 points. Kristaps Porzingis had 15 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks.