The Kings said little after this loss.
Then again, what they could have said would have sounded all too familiar.
They need to play better defense. They need to take care of the ball. They need to execute crisply on offense.
Again failing to turn words into action, the Kings blew a 17-point second-half lead and lost 115-112 to the injury-depleted New Orleans Pelicans on Monday night at Smoothie King Center.
While good teams step up their game in February, the Kings have declined in the last month. They finished this trip 1-3.
“I don’t know, I don’t know,” forward Rudy Gay said. “It could be a lot of different things, but obviously we didn’t figure it out. We haven’t figured out how to play winning basketball, I guess.”
For weeks, the Kings have pledged to play with urgency. Lately, however, that promise often has gone unfulfilled.
The Kings were outscored 65-49 in the second half, and they essentially gave away the game by committing seven turnovers in the fourth quarter.
Coach George Karl was encouraged by his team’s effort early in the game.
“I thought we had the zip,” he said. “We had the enthusiasm. We were playing fast.”
But as the game progressed, Karl felt his team played too slowly while the Pelicans picked up the pace with help from the Kings’ perpetually struggling defense.
“We didn’t have a lot of continuity defensively,” Karl said. “We gave up too many layups.”
Karl said the Kings’ slower pace might have been an attempt to eat up the clock and escape with a win as the Pelicans kept chipping away at the lead.
“Sometimes we try to milk it too much,” Karl said. “That wasn’t my desire. My desire was to play fast.”
New Orleans All-Star big man Anthony Davis had 31 points, including 23 in the second half, and 10 rebounds. . And opposing guards again thrived against the Kings. Jrue Holiday (20 points and 10 assists) and Norris Cole (23 points, seven rebounds and six assists) made the Kings pay for sloppy play.
“Lack of focus, lack of energy down the stretch,” guard Darren Collison said. “We took it for granted and didn’t play especially well the whole game, and it came back to haunt us.”
DeMarcus Cousins had 40 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and four steals for the Kings. Rajon Rondo added 18 points and 10 assists, and Gay had 18 points and 10 rebounds.
With production like that from their top three players, the Kings believe they would win on most nights. But Cousins said “careless shots” came back to “bite” the Kings.
Sacramento also committed 24 turnovers that led to 22 points for New Orleans.
“It’s been killing us all year,” Cousins said of the turnovers. “And it’s going to continue to be a problem until we fix it.”
The Kings appeared astonished by their play in the second quarter, when they outscored New Orleans 32-17 before reverting to their recent form.
“Playing defense, taking smart shots, good shots. sharing the ball,” Cousins said. “Once we got out to the lead, I felt we went away from it.”
The Pelicans capitalized to defeat the Kings for the third time this season.
“We definitely beat ourselves with that one,” Collison said. “No excuses. There’s no one to blame but us. It definitely hurts.”