SACRAMENTO -- Chaos is becoming the norm in Sacramento. With protesters barring more than 10,000 fans from entering Golden 1 Center for the second time in a week, the Sacramento Kings put up a lackluster effort and lost to one of the league’s worst teams.
Following the 103-97 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, head coach Dave Joerger expressed his displeasure with his team’s effort, even showing a rare bit of emotion in his answer.
“We were awful,” Joerger said. “We played with no force, no physicality and no toughness whatsoever.”
Joerger was quick to exempt veteran big man Kosta Koufos from his comments. The 10-year vet brought his lunch pail like usual, finishing the night with 15 points and seven rebounds in 14 minutes of action.
The rest of the group, Joerger was less than happy with.
“Training wheels come off next season,” Joerger said. “We can talk about this after the season, but those guys have to feel it and they’re going to have to step up against teams like this or other teams.”
Joerger went young the entire second half, relying on De’Aaron Fox, Frank Mason III, Buddy Hield, Justin Jackson, Skal Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein to fight through the struggles. He sprinkled in minutes for JaKarr Sampson and Bruno Caboclo as well, but his young core was on full display and they fell flat.
“There is going to be some bumps and we are going to take steps forward and we’re going to take steps backward, but you’ve got to be ready to go and you’ve got to play with a certain amount of force and physicality,” Joerger added.
Some of the players cleared out early, others stood in to try and explain how the Kings dropped their 51st game of the season, this time to a team that came into the night with just 22 wins.
“It’s different, but we just have to play the game like professionals,” Hield said following the loss. “You can’t worry about what’s going on outside and whatever the noise is going on. We’ve just got to come out and handle our business and tonight, we didn’t handle it well. There’s no excuse to it. We’re professional. We have to go out there and do our job.”
Tuesday evening’s game was particularly frustrated for the team after they put in solid work at practice on Monday. For some reason, the energy didn’t carry over to the game the next night.
“I have no idea, that’s how it goes sometimes,” Cauley-Stein said of why practice didn’t carry over to the game. “We’re young. That’s it. Say that. We’re young.”
That excuse only works so long. 73 games into an NBA season, most of these players have seen enough court time to know what to expect on a game night. Of all the young players on the Kings’ roster, Cauley-Stein is the most experienced, playing 207 total games over his three seasons in the league.
The Kings will have to regroup and show that they are ready to finish the last second game strong. They’ll face their former teammate, Darren Collison, and the Indiana Pacers on Thursday evening. Indiana is currently tied for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff chase and they come into Golden 1 Center riding a three game win streak.