Losing helps the Kings’ chances in next month’s NBA draft lottery, but losing doesn’t feel so good in the postgame locker room.
And the Kings have never stopped being coached to win, which they did again to the chagrin of the crowd in favor of tanking games with a 98-87 win over the Dallas Mavericks Tuesday night at Golden 1 Center.
The Kings did their part to make it tough to win, resting three veterans who were healthy (Darren Collison, Ty Lawson, Kosta Koufos) while also missing regulars Anthony Tolliver (right hip strain) and Arron Afflalo (lower back strain).
Still, the Kings managed to win against the Mavericks, who sat Dirk Nowitzki (Achilles), Seth Curry (shoulder) and Wesley Matthews (rest).
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Sitting healthy players who can help the team win goes against the nature of players, even if they understand the front office has a different agenda at this point in the season.
But there was a sense of pride from older players and the coaching staff in how the Kings came out and competed for their second straight win.
“That’s just confirmation of what I knew all along,” said Kings guard Garrett Temple. “The mindset these young guys have, especially. No matter what, nobody wants to lose. We’re not built like that, that’s just the way it is.”
The Kings won with a strong fourth quarter after a first half that was forgettable for both teams. Sacramento outscored Dallas 30-18 in the fourth quarter.
Ben McLemore came off the bench to score a game-high 22 points. Buddy Hield had 16 points and Langston Galloway had 15 points and seven rebounds. Willie Cauley-Stein had 12 points and a career-high 16 rebounds. Skal Labissiere 11 points and Georgios Papagiannis had 13 points off the bench.
For coach Dave Joerger, Tuesday served two purposes. His young players saw a lot of time on the floor and the team won, something that has to happen more to build the winning culture that’s been absent from the Kings as they conclude their 11th consecutive losing season.
“They played hard and made plays,” Joerger said. “And I think at the same time, some of these young guys getting 33-34 minutes. Willie, Skal, we’re playing really young guys. It’s a great experience for them and to also play to win, compete, that’s what it’s about.”
Winning, however, does complicate the offseason plans of the front office. One reason the Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans was to have two first-round picks in a draft most scouts see as deep.
The Kings currently have the seventh-worst record in the NBA at 31-47. Should they end up outside of the top 10 following the lottery, they’ll lose that pick to Chicago (via Cleveland) from the 2011 trade that brought J.J. Hickson to Sacramento.
The Kings will have New Orleans’ pick as long as it’s not in the top three.
But that’s not something players worry about. A higher pick only means bringing in someone more likely groomed to replace them.
That’s what makes sitting out even tougher on veterans. Still they do it without much public complaining knowing it’s what management wants.
“I commend the guys who sat out tonight – especially veteran guys – they don’t like that,” Joerger said. “They sat there and supported those guys same as they did at practice and (are) helping the younger guys get better. I’m very pleased with our effort.”
Labissiere said it’s a good feeling to win late in the season.
“It’s all about learning how to win,” Labissiere said. “Especially for us, the young crew. So it feels good to go out there and get some wins. We’re learning how to close out games.”
Nicolas Brussino led Dallas (32-45) with 13 points.