SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings know how to dig a hole. Through the first five games of their season-long seven-game homestand, they have trailed by at least 14 in each contest. They rally late to make it close, but they have fallen short in all but one game.
Friday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers was no exception. The Kings fumbled the ball away nine times in the first quarter, while shooting just 26 percent from the field. It’s hard to compete when you trail by 17 after the first 12 minutes of plays.
“I thought we got wide open shots,” coach Dave Joerger said following the 120-108 loss. “I thought we shot too quickly and then with the turnovers that were maybe a little antsy or what - but we fumbled it all over the place.”
Sacramento began to find their shooting stroke in the second quarter, but they continued to struggle with turnovers. They handed the ball over 14 total times in the first half and trailed by as many as 24 before the break.
“It was tough,” Ty Lawson said. “We were forcing the ball and making turnovers that we normally don’t make. They were coming at us knocking down threes. It’s kind of hard to beat them when they’re playing a game like that.”
There’s no rhyme or reason for the Kings’ struggles. The Cavs are a good defensive team, but plenty of the team’s 21 total turnovers were unforced mistakes. Demarcus Cousins led the way with six miscues, but all nine Kings that played rotational minutes handed the ball over at least once.
“Turnovers killed us,” Cousins said. “When you play a team of this caliber, you just can’t spot them points like we did tonight. We have to be as disciplined and fundamental as we can be when you play a team this good.”
The Kings rallied coming out of halftime. For much of the third and fourth quarters they looked like a different team. Gay shook off a slow start to pour in 18 of his 23 points after the intermission. Lawson added 15 after the break as the Kings shot 66.7 percent as a team in the final 24 minutes of the game.
Sacramento cut Cleveland’s lead all the way down to six points with 9:36 remaining in the fourth. But massive comebacks take their toll on the team and like so many other nights this season, the Kings ran out of gas.
“It’s a concern that we get a lack of focus in any game, not just because we’re playing the champs,” Garrett Temple said. “Whether we’re playing the Philadelphia 76ers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Cleveland or Golden State - we’ve got to come out and know what the gameplan is and execute no matter who we’re playing.”
To the Cavaliers' credit, they turned the ball over just 12 times and shot an impressive 50.6 percent from the field. LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love each made huge contributions and both Kyle Korver and Iman Shumpert opened up the spacing by hitting their perimeter shots.
The Kings wasted an opportunity to pick up a game on the Portland Trail Blazers, who lost to the Orlando Magic Friday evening. Sacramento continues to sit just a half game out of the eight seed in the Western Conference playoff chase, but the Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Pelicans are right on their heels.
Sacramento will get another shot to get a win on their home floor Sunday when the Oklahoma City Thunder roll through town. They’ll finish off their homestand on Wednesday against the Indiana Pacers before venturing out on a brutal eight-game road trip that includes three sets of back-to-back games.