SACRAMENTO -- By the time the media arrived in the Sacramento Kings’ locker room Friday evening at Golden 1 Center, half of the locker room was already gone.
A few players stayed by to answer for the team’s disappointing 103-101 loss to the New York Knicks, but not nearly enough.
In classic Kings fashion, they went up big on a less than stellar opponent and then let off the gas. The victory by New York was just their sixth of the season against 20 losses.
“We took our foot off the pedal and let them come back and stick around the game when we had them kind of buried,” veteran Cory Joseph said.
In front of a sold-out crowd on their home floor, the Kings took a 16-point lead with 4:45 remaining in the third quarter. After a series of substitutions, Sacramento stopped moving the ball and settled for perimeter shots.
New York hit the Kings with an 11-3 run to finish the third to pull within eight points going to the fourth.
“We got up big and we just stopped doing the things that got us there,” Joseph said. “We stopped playing with that aggression and they out physicaled us down in the paint.”
The Knicks destroyed the Kings down low, outscoring them 56-32 in points in the paint, including an 18-10 advantage in the third as they tightened the game up.
“I’ve got to watch the film,” Marvin Bagley said. “They started getting easy buckets. I’ve got to go see what went wrong, but I really don’t know.”
The final 12 minutes was more of the same, except New York started to hit an occasional perimeter shot to help open the lane even more. The Knicks knocked down 4-of-8 from the perimeter in the fourth. Sacramento matched the number of makes with four, but they took 15 3-pointers in order to do it.
“We didn’t play enough of the 48 minutes to secure a win tonight,” coach Luke Walton said. “Give the Knicks credit. They knocked down shots. They made plays as that game went on.”
This isn’t the first time this season that the Kings have struggled against a beatable opponent on their home floor. They fell apart early in the season against the Hornets and then lost a game to the Chicago Bulls to open then December schedule. For a team with playoff aspirations, these are must-win games.
“Our guys were ready to play, we came out and were the aggressors, we built up a double-digit lead and then we didn’t do a good enough job of maintaining that type of play,” Walton said.
It’s back to the drawing board for the Kings. They’ll face another struggling opponent on Sunday when they travel to San Francisco to face the Golden State Warriors.
After playing in five straight NBA Finals, the Warriors are just 5-22 to start the season and they’ve lost three straight. Instead of playing to get back to .500, the Kings are 11-14 and back on the outside looking in of the Western Conference playoff standings.