By the end of the night, the three players who make the Kings go were down to one.
DeMarcus Cousins never made it to the arena, thanks to a suspension by the NBA for what the league called a forearm to the head of Atlanta’s Al Horford during Wednesday’s loss to the Hawks.
Rudy Gay left the court, holding his strained left shoulder, in the third quarter on Thursday against Miami and did not return. That left Rajon Rondo, who matched the Sacramento-era record with 18 assists, but it wasn’t enough as the Kings lost to the Miami Heat 116-109 at AmericanAirlines Arena. Sacramento has lost two straight.
The Kings were hampered by their usual suspects: turnovers and lapses on defense.
The biggest absence was that of Cousins, who was on the NBA’s bad side after avoiding discipline last season.
Cousins became tangled up with Horford during the first quarter in Atlanta and in effort to get Horford off him, Cousins swung his right arm in the direction of Horford’s head.
“It was basically a reaction,” Cousins said Wednesday night. “I was trying to get him off me because when I shot the shot, I caught (an elbow) in this area (pointing to his neck and collarbone).”
The league saw it differently. It was Cousins’ fifth suspension from the NBA (he also was suspended by the Kings once and sent home by former coach Paul Westphal another time).
Kings coach George Karl said he didn’t see the play that led to the discipline until Thursday morning but already had been informed by general manager Vlade Divac that the NBA might discipline Cousins.
The Kings fell to 0-5 without Cousins this season as Miami scored a season high.
“We miss Cuz because he’s a hell of a player, but we missed his defense as much as we missed anything,” Karl said.
If playing without Cousins wasn’t enough, the Kings lost Gay, who had 13 points and a season-high 12 rebounds. He will be evaluated Friday.
Rondo was left to direct the Kings. He responded with 14 points and nine rebounds in addition to his 18 assists.
Reggie Theus had that many three times for the Kings, and Jason Williams also had 18 in a game.
“Everybody gets paid,” Rondo said. “We’re all professionals – there’s only about 420 of us. Our two main guys, our superstars, were out, but guys stepped up when needed. We were able to make a run at it, but we weren’t able to get enough stops at the end.”
With one more rebound, Rondo would have tied Chris Webber for most triple doubles in a season in Sacramento history with five.
But Rondo isn’t reveling in his recent stretch of good play.
“Wins are what it’s about,” said Rondo, who has averaged 14.0 points, 14.2 assists and 9.8 rebounds in his last five outings. “You get paid on wins, and in my opinion, we haven’t gotten enough wins.”
The Kings cut an 11-point deficit to 109-104 with 1:20 to play, but Dwyane Wade (24 points, six assists) and Chris Bosh (23 points, 11 rebounds) had put the Heat on the right path, and Tyler Johnson came off the bench to score 19 points for Miami (7-4). It also didn’t help that the Kings (4-9) committed 18 turnovers that led to 26 Miami points.
Marco Belinelli led the Kings with a season-high 23 points.