There’s no fancy way to dress up the latest Kings loss at Golden 1 Center, considering there was little that went right and it has happened so many times this season.
Kings coach Dave Joerger managed to sum up his team’s New Year’s Eve 114-96 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, which wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate.
“This is not a good performance,” Joerger said. “Lack of focus, lack of force. They looked at us and shot over us, they looked at us and drove around us, and each guy has got to own his own stuff. It’s not a finger-pointing deal, it’s how can we get better?”
The Kings started slow, which has become a habit for the team, and trailed by as many as 33 points in the second half to a team that played a night earlier at Golden State.
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The Kings (12-24) have lost four of their last five. In one of those games, (against San Antonio) the Kings were simply schooled by a better team. The other three losses (Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix and Memphis) came against teams with losing records who outworked the Kings.
More than once, Joerger has said after a loss the Kings did not play with enough force on defense. As the Kings approach the midway point of the season, it has become clear the roster is made up of the kind of players who lack that force consistently.
That’s a bad combination, given the Kings entered Sunday last in the NBA at 97 points per game.
So the Kings remain a team in search of consistent energy.
The Kings used their 15th starting lineup of the season, (George Hill, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Garrett Temple, Zach Randolph and Kosta Koufos) but Joerger said a lineup filled with experienced players starting slow did not surprise him.
As he noted, he has used multiple lineups and the problem has persisted and he’s searching for some “pop” from the Kings, regardless of experience.
“That’s the biggest thing, just the life and the energy and some pop,” Joerger said. “We need some of that.”
Barring a trade, these are the Kings for the rest of the season. And if the team goes into a mode of resting veterans after the All-Star break to give younger players more opportunities, the odds are there will be more games like Sunday’s, where the Kings are overmatched from start to finish.
Joerger also said he is not going to expect more from the veterans in terms of setting more of an example for young players in terms of focus.
They can’t prepare for a game and also prepare their teammates, too.
“They’ve got their own things to worry about roster-wise, matchup-wise, and who’ve they’ve got to play and certain areas,” Joerger said..
Joerger said in the last two losses, he hasn’t noticed any bad habits forming that have him overly concerned. When the franchise’s vision is to be competitive in two or three years, it’s not helpful to overreact to bad losses this season.
Instead, he sees what the team needs to work on for the future.
“More team needs, what our team needs to do, what our roster needs, those kinds of things. That’s what you go through the process for,” Joerger said. “Guys can get experience and learn some more, but also we’re trying to see what we have and as an organization, which guys are fitting in with us long-term.”
Former King Tyreke Evans had his way with 26 points, seven rebounds and five assists in Sunday evening’s game, a 4 p.m. start. As Joerger noted, all the Grizzlies had their way with the Kings. There was no resistance as the Grizzlies (12-25) shot 53.9 percent from the field, a season-high.
“Yeah, we got our butt kicked,” Hill said. “It’s not fun losing. We’ve got to figure it out. It’s not a good way to end (2017) with that sour taste in your mouth.”
It’s a familiar taste for these Kings.