Friday night was typical for the Kings.
Their defense was shredded by a player (in this case the Miami Heat’s Gerald Green) who is far from an All-Star. In fact, Green was filling in for injured All-Star Dwyane Wade.
The Heat put up sterling offensive numbers early, the kind you might see when a video game is set to the easy mode. Yet they are numbers the Kings have given up routinely.
Then the Kings showed fight, flashing defensive intensity that has shown up far too rarely. They made it a game by rallying to within one point after trailing by 24. But in the end it was another loss, 112-106 to the Heat, at Sleep Train Arena.
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“Yeah it’s tough,” Kings guard Darren Collison said. “We’ve also been dealing with injuries, and we’ve been dealing with other things off the court. I’m just proud of the guys that have continued to stay with it, continued to fight. It’s going to pay off in the near future, believe it or not. That shows character, so I’m happy for the guys that still battle.”
The Kings played without All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins, who served an NBA-mandatory one-game suspension for picking up his 16th technical foul during Wednesday’s win over Washington.
Then there’s that delicate balance for the Kings. They should being playing hard for their home fans, but the reality is that winning puts the Kings at risk of losing their first-round draft pick, which they would happen if it is outside of the top 10.
Obviously, the front office would rather keep its first-round pick.
Yet the players aren’t in the business of giving the team the best chance to possibly select their replacement, and in the second half the Kings played to win.
After falling behind by 24 by letting Miami make 23 of its first 29 shots (79.3 percent), the Kings rallied. Coach George Karl changed up the rotation, putting James Anderson in place of Willie Cauley-Stein to start the second half to give the team an extra perimeter defender.
“Losing never feels good,” Karl said. “But the fight we put up in the second half, the energy we put into the game and the commitment to try to make it a defensive game was pretty impressive. We kind of got some combinations out there that were doing pretty good.”
The Kings were down 105-104 with 1:34 to play, but the Heat scored the next five points to put the game out of reach.
Collison scored 15 of his 26 points in the second half. Seth Curry matched his career high with 21 points. Rudy Gay had 20 points and 13 rebounds. Kosta Koufos had 12 points and nine rebounds off the bench.
It was Curry’s second straight game with 21 points.
“He’s feisty,” Karl said. “He’s has a confidence to him ... Pretty confident kid and he’s doing a nice job. I’m happy for him.”
Green led the Heat with a season-high 30 points. Goran Dragic added 18 points and seven assists. Joe Johnson had 14 points and eight assists and Hassan Whiteside had 13 rebounds and three blocks off the bench.
Karl said he hadn’t thought about what to do without Casspi, but Anderson is likely to play more. He also said Caron Butler and Eric Moreland, who was recalled from the D-League Friday, could see time.
“They all seem to be anxious to play out the season the right way and give the effort and intensity that the fans deserve,” Karl said.