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Late-game lessons to be learned for young Kings in loss to the Lakers

Confidence rises for Kings' Cauley-Stein as he looks ahead to future playoff run

Sacramento Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein says he sees improvement in his team and feels his confidence growing that he and other young players are learning and getting the experience that could lead to them becoming a playoff team next season.
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Sacramento Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein says he sees improvement in his team and feels his confidence growing that he and other young players are learning and getting the experience that could lead to them becoming a playoff team next season.

Five seconds left and the Kings trailed by two.

It was time for some of the Kings’ young players to show they could handle that situation.

Buddy Hield said his execution wasn’t good enough. He threw the inbound pass to Los Angeles Lakers forward Corey Brewer to seal a 98-94 loss to the Lakers on Friday night at Staples Center. The Lakers have won three in a row while the loss ended a two-game winning streak for Sacramento.

At this stage of the season who wins and loses does not matter as much as what is learned by players like Hield in clutch situations. The Lakers and Kings would only improve their chances in the NBA draft lottery next month with a loss.

The Lakers went back to four starters in the fourth quarter while the Kings rode the final 12 minutes out playing two starters, rookies Hield and Skal Labissiere.

“It’s a good environment to play in,” Hield said. “Us young guys in there together, we hung in there, we fought. When they made their run, we responded back. It shows how much potential we have.”

That didn’t completely erase the sting of the late turnover.

“It kind of sucks and kind of hurts not executing on that play,” Hield said. “I have to do a better job inbounding the ball. I have to use my deception better.”

Kings coach Dave Joerger liked that the team put itself in position to win late, but said the Kings were “ticked about losing.” Nor did he like the 23 turnovers committed by the Kings or that the Lakers “threw around” the Kings to grab 16 offensive rebounds.

“Is it good for us to learn some that stuff?” Joerger said. “Yes, because hopefully down the line that play that we have to draw up at the end is for us to get into the playoffs or the difference between getting the fifth seed and the seventh seed.”

The Kings didn’t play Darren Collison, who was effective in his 28 minutes with 15 points and 10 assists, in the fourth. Willie Cauley-Stein (14 points, seven rebounds, three blocks) also sat out the fourth along with starter Arron Afflalo.

Cauley-Stein might have extended his streak of games with double-digit rebounds to four if he played the fourth quarter, but he said the time for younger players is important.

“That’s all this time is right now is gaining experience,” Cauley-Stein said. “Trying to compete through things like that. That’s big for our young guys and us making a step forward to making the playoffs for next year. You have to be able to execute those plays down the stretch. That’s part of learning.”

And there’s also the big picture with late-season games between teams with losing records and draft picks connected to draft position from past trades.

The Lakers have the third-worst record in the NBA (24-55) and could have dropped within a half game of Phoenix for second-worst in the league with a loss. The Lakers lose their pick if it’s outside of the top three.

Sacramento (31-48) is tied with Minnesota for the eighth-worst record in the league.

Julius Randle led the Lakers with 25 points. Labissiere led the Kings with 19 points.

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

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