This game wasn’t lost because of schemes. It was lost on desire, effort, and hardwork, which the Kings noticeably lacked in losing 110-105 to the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night at Sleep Train Arena.
For the 76ers, it was just their third win against 31 losses, but it was the Kings who looked like the team in the midst of an ongoing rebuilding project, not a team that claims it can make the playoffs.
The loss, Sacramento’s third in a row, left players lamenting their lack of hustle, but no solution as to why that continues to be a problem.
“I told the team inconsistent intensity, inconsistent focus, inconsistent toughness and mental discipline,” Kings coach George Karl said. “Too many times we’ve come out on this court and been the quiet team, or the soft team or the cool team and not the man team.”
The effort left fans booing the Kings (12-20) more than once, including at the final buzzer.
“I was disappointed the fans booed,” Karl said. “But my gut says when you get outworked on your home court, you have a right to be booed.”
The Kings did plenty of things to be booed for, namely giving up 28 points off 22 turnovers, missing 16 free throws and giving up 16 offensive rebounds to the 76ers.
“I feel we dropped the ball tonight,” Kings center DeMarcus Cousins said. “... That’s a young, hungry team and they outplayed us, straight up.”
The Kings had their biggest lead of nine in the second quarter, but the 76ers scrapped their way back with a swarming defense against Cousins and playing with an energy level that was higher than Sacramento’s most of the night.
“When you just get out-hustled and a team puts forth more effort on the court than you, it’s a terrible way to lose,” Cousins said.
The loss left Karl wondering if he had the players with the grit to play tough when it matters and consistently or does he have too many players who care only about offense.
“My feeling is we have too many offensive players and not enough defensive players,” Karl said. “We don’t have enough guts to make stops.”
Omri Casspi said the Kings needed to have a good practice to start changing things.
And by good, Casspi means a rough session.
“Nasty, ugly practice,” Casspi said. “Elbowing one another, coming Friday to practice doing the same thing ... Right now we’re just too cool with everything.”
Seven 76ers scored in double figures, led by Nerlens Noel with 20 points. Ish Smith had 18 points and nine assists. Jerami Grant finished with 16 points and a career-high 11 rebounds.
Marco Belinelli led the Kigns with a season-high 28 points off the bench. Cousins had 21 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out. Rajon Rondo had 14 assists, but also had a game-high seven turnovers.
“It’s on us,” Cousins said. “We’re the guys out there putting out the effort so it’s on us. It’s on us to out-hustle the next team. It’s on us to get the 50/50 balls.”
The question is can the Kings find it within themselves to put forth the hustle needed every night.