SACRAMENTO -- Dominated. Blown out. Embarrassed.
We could sit here and write descriptors all night long to paint a picture of what happened to the Sacramento Kings on their home court Friday.
Through two quarters, the Kings were in the ball game against a very good Los Angeles Clippers team and then the wheels completely fell off. They were outmuscled, out hustled and outworked and the result was a 138-100 drubbing at the hands of the Clippers.
Following the game, the conversations with coach Luke Walton and the players that jumped on Zoom interviews centered around words like disrespecting the game, taking more pride and being held accountable.
“It’s a privilege to be part of this league and if you don’t give the proper respect and effort to the game, then you should take a licking like that,” coach Luke Walton said.
Walton, a former NBA player himself, said the discussion following the loss to the Clippers was focused on the effort of the team and he was clearly at a loss with what he saw on the court.
Hopefully the players in the locker room are as angry and embarrassed by the performance as their head coach is. At some point, that has to translate to the play on the court.
“You lose by 38 points, there better be some frustration in the locker room,” Richaun Holmes said. “It’s well placed. We know we didn’t give our best effort tonight.”
The Kings were outscored 37-16 in the third quarter and 69-39 in the second half. They allowed the Clippers to dominate the play and push them all over the court.
How does a team compete for 24 minutes and then look like a completely different squad in the third quarter? It’s an issue that has plagued this team for a while, but the players aren’t pointing to the coaching staff and Walton said there isn’t some magical speech at halftime that can make everything better.
These are professional basketball players and with that comes a certain amount of responsibility.
"If you're depending on Luke to get you hyped, if you're depending on Rico Hines to come in and yell at you and get you ready for the game and hyped, you shouldn't be here. You shouldn't be a professional basketball player," Robinson III said.
Those are strong words from Robinson, but in his brief time with the Kings, he’s become one of the veteran voices with the club. While he played just 21 minutes off the bench and wasn’t on the court when the game completely fell apart for Sacramento, he’s a player that is willing to step up to the mic and take ownership of the current state of the Kings.
“No matter if you get one minute or 15 minutes, take some pride,” Robinson III said. “Take some pride for Sacramento, the City, even though we don’t have fans. Take pride in your home court. Take pride of what’s on your jersey, your last name, whatever it that you’ve got to put in your mindset.”
There might come a time when finger pointing and the blame game starts, but so far, it’s more about looking in the mirror and taking accountability. There isn’t a trade on the horizon or a game changing player that’s about to return from injury.
“Nobody is going to come save us,” Marvin Bagley said. “Nobody’s going to come out here and do it for us. We’ve got to figure it out and just lock up. I think it’s as simple as that.”
The Kings have a roster filled with talented players, many of which have played together for more than one season. They’ve had moments of brilliance, especially on the offensive end, but they have yet to put in the necessary effort on the defensive end to consistently come away with wins.
Walton and his staff have inserted new offensive and defensive schemes this season. Clearly the offense is ahead of the defense at this point, but the Kings can’t just try to get in a shootout every game.
They currently rank last in the NBA in points allowed per game and defensive rating. They have allowed 122 points or more in seven straight games and they are yielding 131.7 points per game over that stretch.
The schedule isn’t going to take a pause so the team can figure things out. The team will practice on Saturday and try to work through some of the kinks, but they need a rotation of nine players to take ownership of the effort and energy on the court and they need to start making a honest commitment on the defensive end or this is going to be a long 72 game season.