The lack of panic was noticeable in the visiting locker room at Moda Center on Tuesday night.
The Kings had lost their second consecutive game, something that would have triggered angst and visible frustration in November.
Though they were unhappy with the outcome, the team has developed more perspective and confidence over the past month or so.
Despite the losses, the Kings are 8-5 in January. And even though the loss to Portland dropped the Kings to ninth in the Western Conference, they are buying into what point guard Rajon Rondo often says about how to handle an NBA season: “Never too high, never too low.”
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Though it won’t take away the sting of blowing a 17-point lead against Charlotte on Monday or losing to the Trail Blazers, a victory Thursday against the Pelicans in New Orleans can get the Kings headed back in the right direction.
“I like that, in general, our mental makeup has been pretty strong,” Kings coach George Karl said. “It’s definitely better than it was last year, and I think some of our leadership in the locker room has been very first class.”
I like that, in general, our mental makeup has been pretty strong. It’s definitely better than it was last year, and I think some of our leadership in the locker room has been very first class.
George Karl, Kings coach
The Kings still can win 10 games in January with victories Thursday and Saturday at Memphis. Karl believes for a team to have a successful season, it has to win 10 games in some months.
In Monday’s 129-128 double-overtime loss to Charlotte, the Kings turned the ball over too much and poorly defended the three-point line. The following night in Portland, the Kings looked drained, especially as the game wore on.
Center DeMarcus Cousins made just 4 of 21 shots and scored 17 points against Portland after scoring a career-high 56 points against Charlotte. Cousins is averaging 33.1 points and 12.9 rebounds in January.
“I don’t think anybody’s down. I don’t think anybody’s taking it too hard,” Cousins said. “We know what we’ve got to do next game. And I think you’ll see a different team Thursday.”
Cousins was asked if the Kings’ recent season-high, five-game winning streak gives the team more confidence.
You have bad games. You can’t have perfect games every night. We’ll be fine.
DeMarcus Cousins, Kings center
“You have bad games,” Cousins said. “You can’t have perfect games every night. We’ll be fine.”
Rather than travel to New Orleans right after Tuesday’s game, the Kings decided to fly Wednesday afternoon.
“(Wednesday) will be a good day off,” Karl said. “It’ll be time to re-energize and regroup and take advantage of going after a team that didn’t embarrass us but beat us on our home court.”
New Orleans beat the Kings, who were playing on three days’ rest, 109-97 on Jan. 13 by exploiting Sacramento’s three-point defense. The Kings won their next five games.
If another winning streak starts in New Orleans, it will be without Rudy Gay, who will miss his second game because of a corneal abrasion to his left eye.
“It’s been an up-and-down season, but we’ve responded pretty well,” Rondo said. “(Tuesday) we just came up short and (Monday) night’s loss carried over. Nevertheless, we’re going to continue to come back, go back to the drawing board and figure out how to get a win on Thursday.”