DeMarcus Cousins watched from the sidelines with a strained right Achilles’, powerless to stop Memphis power forward Zach Randolph from bullying his way to the rim.
And the Kings on the floor didn’t have much success stopping him either, as Randolph muscled his way to 20 points and 11 rebounds as the Kings lost 103-89 to the Grizzlies Tuesday night at Sleep Train Arena.
The Kings’ defense offered little resistance most of the night as the Grizzlies piled up 50 points in the paint.
The Kings (1-3) attempted to play small against the bigger Grizzlies, but Memphis still dictated the tempo and exploited matchups such as small forward Rudy Gay trying to stop Randolph without the help of a double team. It also didn’t help that Kosta Koufos, starting for Cousins, was limited to 26 minutes because of foul trouble.
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The Kings led 29-25 after the first quarter before the Grizzlies asserted their will. Sacramento shot 2 of 15 in the second quarter and was outscored 25-11.
“They just got into their bag – they’re an inside-out team,” Gay said. “We played small, and for the most part, I think that their primary (option) we stopped, but we didn’t finish out those plays.”
In all three losses this season, power forwards have punished the Kings. Blake Griffin had his way against the Kings twice in wins last week for the Los Angeles Clippers, with 33- and 37-point peformances.
The Grizzlies shot 48.2 percent, but did most of their work in the paint, shooting 25 of 35 (71.4 percent) in the lane. Memphis only made 15 shots out of the paint.
Memphis (3-2) dominated down low despite All-Star center Marc Gasol leaving the game at halftime with neck spasms.
“Obviously (Randolph) bullied us a few times and he got a lot of easy baskets because of that,” said Kings coach George Karl. “And our response was probably the biggest disappointment. I didn’t think we responded with the attitude or energy.”
Gay said the Kings came out sluggish and were lulled into Memphis’ pace. Sacramento shot 39.2 percent from the field and 60 percent from the free-throw line.
“It was a situation where they played their game and we didn’t play our game,” said Kings guard Darren Collison. “We were supposed to play fast and they ended up slowing the game down and getting the ball to their guys in the post.”
Without Cousins, they failed to score 100 points for the first time this season.
“I think with Cuz out we have to get some offense from our defense, and we didn’t do that very often tonight,” Karl said.
Gay led the Kings with 19 points. Collison had 18 off the bench.
The Kings must shore up their defense if they want to avoid a major slide with games coming up at Phoenix (Wednesday) before hosting Houston, Golden State and San Antonio.
Cousins is out for the game at Phoenix.
“We’ve got to act like a team on defense,” Collison said. “We’re not getting to the spots that we need to for each other and helping each other out.”
And for a team that has playoff aspirations, there isn’t much room for error in the Western Conference.
“It can’t happen over time; we’ve got to do it now and get after it now,” Collison said. “We can’t afford to lose games in the West and say it’s going to happen over time.”