When DeMarcus Cousins got into foul trouble, the Toronto Raptors pounced.
Cousins was called for his fourth foul with 6:55 left in the third quarter and the score 66-66. With Cousins sitting out the rest of the quarter, the Raptors took off on a 27-10 run to pull away for a 119-102 win over the Kings on Wednesday night at Air Canada Centre.
The Kings’ season-worst losing streak grew to seven games.
It’s easy to say the game changed when Cousins went to the bench, but the Kings already were in danger.
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The Kings continue to see how long they can outshoot their opponent, a strategy that usually backfires.
Sacramento shot 53.8 percent in the first half and tailed off to 41.2 percent in the second half. Toronto shot 50 percent in the first half and 52.4 percent in the second half.
“Neither team was playing really good defense,” Cousins said. “It was preached and it was said whichever team decided to be the first one to play defense was going to win the game, and they played it first. That’s the story.”
It’s an ongoing story for the Kings (16-28). They’re 5-15 under coach Tyrone Corbin.
After giving up a season-high 17 three-pointers Friday against Golden State, the Kings allowed 17 against the Raptors, who made 10 in the second half.
“Defensively, we’ve got to make sure we communicate and take away what we’re trying to take away,” Corbin said.
Besides the communication issues, the Kings aren’t showing the fight needed to compete defensively.
The dagger again came in the third quarter. The Warriors’ Klay Thompson torched the Kings for an NBA-record 37 points in the third, and the Raptors scored 39, making eight three-pointers. Doing their Thompson impersonations, Greivis Vasquez made all four of his three-point attempts in the quarter, and Lou Williams made both of his.
The Kings sometimes appear as if they don’t know what they’re doing on defense. After an opponent scores on uncontested drives and shots, they often just look at each other, trying to figure out the problem after the fact.
When the Kings shoot well, they cover up their defensive deficiencies. But more nights than not, they won’t be the team that shoots above 50 percent, so they need to get their defensive house in order.
“We’ve got to execute our defensive schemes better,” Cousins said. “They’re not being drawn up for the hell of it. It’s for a reason – it’s going to help us win the game.”
Corbin thought the Kings did an adequate job to start the game of controlling the tempo and keeping the Raptors (31-15) in check. He said the Kings’ problem is maintaining their play to stay in the game.
“We’ve got to do a better job of making sure we complete the play,” Corbin said. “I thought we were fine the first half, but we’ve got to play 48 minutes.”
But if the Kings have learned anything from the last 20 games, it should be this: They can’t be content with a fast-paced game in which the opponent is keeping up with them offensively. That’s because odds are the Kings won’t slow them down enough to win.
“It’s a mental thing,” Cousins said of playing defense. “That’s the only thing I can say. We have the ability to do it. We’ve done it before. You either want to do it or you don’t. Period.”
Cousins said the accountability falls on the players to have more pride in one-on-one defense.
“It starts on the ball,” he said. “So take pride in one-on-one defense, and that will solve a lot of problems. It won’t put as much pressure on your teammates to be there to help.”
Cousins has called it a broken record, but it’s a song the team clearly needs to hear on repeat, and he said he’s trying to do his part.
“Preach it, try to lead by example,” Cousins said. “Not saying I’m perfect, but I try to lead by example. Like I said, either you want to do it or you don’t.”
And it’s been awhile since the Kings have looked as if they want to.