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Kings can’t overcome absence of DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay in loss to Jazz

The Kings’ Sim Bhullar works against the Jazz’s Jack Cooley during the fourth quarter. Bhullar played the final 1:22 and scored his first NBA points on a hook shot with 17.9 seconds remaining.
The Kings’ Sim Bhullar works against the Jazz’s Jack Cooley during the fourth quarter. Bhullar played the final 1:22 and scored his first NBA points on a hook shot with 17.9 seconds remaining. The Associated Press

George Karl found the optimistic view of not having his top two scorers.

“Every NBA team has a lot of talent on it,” the Kings’ coach said. “And sometimes the talent that doesn’t play just needs the opportunity to play.”

The Kings had plenty of opportunity Wednesday night, and the result was their sixth loss in seven games, 103-91 to the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena.

Leading scorers DeMarcus Cousins (sore right foot) and Rudy Gay (concussion) sat out, as did Nik Stauskas (mid-back sprain). The Kings had 10 healthy players.

“I always compare it to my CBA days,” Karl said. “You lose a guy to Europe, then another guy gets hurt, then another guy gets called up to the NBA. The whole personality of your team changes. Our job is to try to figure out and piece the puzzle together.”

With plenty of minutes and shots available in a hostile road environment, Karl wanted to see who could assume a larger role, especially as a leader.

“I really don’t care about minutes,” Karl said. “I care about responsibility and efficiency and leadership of what has to be done to be successful.

“I know at the end of the game we all look at the stat sheet. But the truth of the matter is, the stat sheet lies more often than it tells the truth, and anybody can find stats that say I did a bad job coaching or a player did a better job than I thought.”

Karl admitted afterward that much of what he was doing was a guessing game.

“The personality that you’re trying to define in the game is ... you don’t know what it is,” he said. “You’re trying to post up Carl Landry; you’re trying to get him to be an offensively responsible player. Most of the time, he doesn’t even play consistent minutes. You’re trying to get some guys some shots that normally don’t get many shots.”

Five Kings scored in double figures, led by Landry, Ben McLemore and Omri Casspi with 16 points each.

“We want to compete, especially without DeMarcus and Rudy,” Derrick Williams said. “Our other two horses we need on the court, but we have enough firepower on this team to win a game.”

But it wasn’t easy making that work. And the stat sheet, as Karl might say, lied.

The Kings, who entered the game averaging 16.5 turnovers, committed only 10. But seven of those turnovers came in the second half, when they were outscored 60-42.

“When the wall caved in on us, it caved in too heavy,” Karl said. “They made a couple threes, we fouled a three, and our offense just fell apart with our turnovers. In the situations we’re in, we don’t have a long, thick line to make mistakes.”

Even with their best players available, the Kings have collapsed. Without them, Sacramento couldn’t stop a 15-0 run that turned a 78-78 game with 9:55 to play into a blowout.

“In this league, you can’t win when you have lapses like that,” Williams said.

Another problem this season has been big games by opposing perimeter players. On Sunday, Utah rookie Rodney Hood scored a season-high 25 points to help the Jazz beat the Kings. For an encore Wednesday, he had 20 points and a season-best eight rebounds.

“Hood, in the two games we’ve played him the last week, he’s killed us,” Williams said.

Karl was optimistic Gay would progress through the league concussion protocol and play Friday at Oklahoma City. Gay played in Tuesday’s victory over Minnesota but suffered a headache afterward. He sustained the concussion March 30 at Memphis.

Follow The Bee’s Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.

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