SACRAMENTO -- Two teams playing on a second night of a back-to-back walked into Golden 1 Center Wednesday night. One team was playing to strengthen their playoff position after a huge win the night before. The other team was an undermanned 10-win team struggling to field an 8-man rotation.
“A team that’s so decimated by injuries, I think we underestimated them,” veteran Garrett Temple said. “They got a lot of easy early on - a lot of easy 3’s. And when you give give a team hope, they are NBA players and they can play the game.”
The Sacramento Kings are running out of excuses for why they play down to their competition. The stunning 107-102 loss to the Miami Heat Wednesday was just another in a long list of winnable games this season that Sacramento let slip through its fingers.
What’s worse is that the Kings made a tremendous run, like they usually do. This time it was solely on the back of their second unit, who used a 19-0 run to erase a 19-point third quarter deficit. They even took a lead in the fourth quarter and then Dave Joerger turned back to a group of starters that had struggled mightily all night long.
With 8:23 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Kings leading 91-89, Joerger inserted DeMarcus Cousins and Matt Barnes into the game for Kosta Koufos and Anthony Tolliver. Four minutes later, Sacramento’s momentum was gone and they trailed 98-93.
Coach Dave Joerger gave his take during the post game interview.
“Fatigue, guys were out of gas - second night of a back-to-back,” Joerger said as to why he made the switch.
Whatever magic the Kings had captured quickly dissipated. It’s not an indictment on Cousins or Barnes, more on the flow of the game. Something was working and then it was gone.
Cousins was in no mood to talk to the media following the loss and neither were most of his teammates.
“No excuses,” Cousins said when asked whether fatigue played a role in the loss.
Temple took it a step further, completely destroying the notion that fatigue played a role.
“That’s B.S., if there was no camera, I’d use the whole word,” Temple said when asked about Joerger’s fatigue comment. “They were off a back-to-back as well. There was nothing about fatigue. Nobody plays 38 minutes a game on this team.”
“I don’t think we respected them early on and let them get hot and then it became a game,” Temple added.
A straight shooter, Temple played a huge role in the comeback. He finished the night with 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting and grabbed three steals in 31 minutes off the bench. He was part of a group that energized the team both in the first half and second half after sluggish starts by the first team.
“I’m very disappointed, the most disappointed I’ve been this season,” Temple said. “This is a game we have to win. After a big game in Denver to get that eight seed and then come in here against a decimated Miami Heat team that’s coming on a back-to-back as well - so that’s no excuse. This is a game we have to get. We’ve just got to get it. We can’t lose games like this. I just hope it doesn’t come back to bite us.”
Ty Lawson was a spark plug off the bench as well, scoring 15 points and handing out six assists in 29 minutes. Arron Afflalo had another solid game with the second group, scoring 15 points on 3-of-3 shooting from downtown. Tolliver chipped in 14 on 5-for-6 shooting.
The second unit scored a season-high 61 points and it could have been more.
With the loss, Sacramento fell to 15-20 on the season and wasted a valuable opportunity to go up two games on the Portland Trail Blazers, who lost to the Golden State Warriors.
The Kings return to the court Friday evening to face another injury depleted team in the Los Angeles Clippers before the schedule gets dramatically more difficult.