Friday’s result continued a troubling trend for the Kings.
After playing with fire and tenacity in a win over the reigning Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers, the Kings couldn’t muster the same intensity against an opponent similar to themselves.
Sacramento lost 110-101 at Golden 1 Center to the Phoenix Suns, who, like the Kings, are a young team with a losing record.
“It’s tough,” said Kings guard Bogdan Bogdanovic. “I can see we were emotional (Wednesday against the Cavs) and we lost a lot of energy, but you’ve got find a way to be ready in two games against different teams.”
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The Kings’ inconsistent energy and focus has been illustrated by an up-and-down week. Their upset of Cleveland came in response to a 27-point loss at the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday. Against a Suns team that has young talent and a budding star in Devin Booker, but lacks superstars, the Kings couldn’t find the same gusto.
The tone was set in the first quarter when the Kings gave up 35 points, which included 13 second-chance points for the Suns, and were outrebounded 16-8. Tyson Chandler, Phoenix’s 35-year-old center, had six of Phoenix’s 16 rebounds in the first quarter; the Kings only had eight.
“We didn’t have any energy at all in the first quarter,” said Kings guard Garrett Temple. “We didn’t guard without fouling and they were getting all the rebounds.”
It put the Kings (12-23) back in the familiar position of playing catchup most of the night. Sacramento rallied, taking the lead in the fourth, but the Suns (14-23), rode the efforts of Booker (26 points) and TJ Warren (26 points, 10 rebounds) to the win, their fifth in the last seven games.
“The game plan was to be aggressive,” said Kings coach Dave Joerger. “To be physical, to get back in transition, to keep them off the glass as much as possible. ... In the first half, they had three offensive rebounds just on free-throw misses alone – that’s just kind of the story of our night.”
The Suns finished with an 19-11 advantage in second-chance points.
The Kings do not play a team that currently has a winning record until Jan. 6 against Denver.
Bogdanovic said there isn’t a feeling before games that the Kings will play a step slow to start, but it happens too often.
“You can see that, it’s obvious,” Bogdanovic said. “I do the same thing, the same routine before the Cleveland game, before Phoenix, before the Clippers but somehow as a team we don’t look right. We look without energy but that’s the stuff that we need to work on, keep getting better.”
Zach Randolph led Sacramento with 14 points. Bogdanovic had 13 points.