Playing down to the level of their competition is an all too familiar line in Sacramento. It’s right there with “learning how to compete” and “learning how to close out teams.”
There is no question that the Kings can beat a good NBA team. They’ve accomplished that feat more than once this season. But it’s also very clear that they can lose to anyone, like they did Monday night in Minnesota against a Timberwolves team that is at the bottom of the NBA standings.
“It’s finding that consistency and how we play and not playing to our opponent,” Harrison Barnes said following the team's 116-106 loss in Minny. “I think every single night, we match whoever is on the floor.”
This is an issue and Barnes knows it. It’s frustrating to see the Kings lose to a really good team like the Milwaukee Bucks by a single point on Saturday and then fall by 10 points to a 13-win squad like the T-Wolves two days later.
How can the Kings win five straight and then lose the next four? Or seven out of eight and then drop nine straight?
“It boils down to maturity,” Barnes said. “It doesn’t matter what another team’s record is, at the end of the day, every team has NBA players, every team has All-Stars. Every team has coaches that have been on playoff benches that have made deep runs. On any given night, any team can beat anybody.”
The Kings have beaten the Suns, Lakers, Clippers and they swept the Nuggets 3-0. But they’ve had plenty of games against teams missing star-level players, which seems to make the Kings play even worse.
“We’re in there with a playoff team and coming down to the last moment or last few possessions,” De’Aaron Fox said. “And then against teams that are not as high up in the standings, we’ve played worse in those games sometimes.”
“For us, we’ve got to find a better level of consistency,” Fox added.
No one is happy about the current four-game losing streak. If asked, most of the team would likely say that they thought they have moved past times like this after a roller coaster ride of a first half to the season.
But here the team is again, seven games under the .500 mark and looking up from the bottom of a hole that they have dug for themselves.
“Unfortunately, we’re going through a tough time again,” Luke Walton said. “We’ve been here before and we’ll fight our way out of it again.”
It’s possible that the Kings will find a way to snap out of their funk and at least make things interesting down the stretch with the team just a game and a half out of the play-in game. But their current lack of focus in games has at least one player pretty frustrated.
“If we don’t come out with a sense of urgency, then it doesn’t mean that much to us,” Barnes said.
The Kings are running out of mistake games. They are also running out of excuses. With the clock ticking on their season, it’s time to put up or shut up.
They’ll get another shot to get back in the win column on Thursday when they face another cellar dweller in the Detroit Pistons. But at this point, the opponent doesn’t matter. Either the good Kings team will show up or the bad Kings team will. A few more losses and that distinction will vanish.