SACRAMENTO -- The roller coaster ride continued in Sacramento on Monday night as the Kings dropped another game on their home floor. This time is was the Oklahoma City Thunder who came in and dropped a 131-116 beating on the Kings, dropping them to 24-34 on the season and just 14-16 on their home floor.
“It’s the NBA, it’s part of it, everyone has tough schedules,” point guard Rajon Rondo said following the game. “There’s going to be ups and downs throughout the season, you just try to find consistency and try and continue to win.”
After winning three straight last week, Sacramento has once again let the pendulum swing the other way. The schedule has been brutal, but it's not clear if the Kings could beat even the weakest of opponent right now.
Sacramento has let frustration creep in and they continue to give away points. Against the Thunder, they picked up two technical fouls, four delay of game penalties and added a clear path foul in the fourth quarter.
It’s hard to win when you hand an elite opponent seven free points from the stripe.
“That’s lovely,” former MVP Kevin Durant said following the game. “That’s like Christmas. You know coming in here this team, they have a little hot head, so you know at some point you’re going to get free points.”
[INSTANT REPLAY: Cousins' big night wasted in Kings' loss to Thunder]
Of all of the ways to give up points, the four delay of game penalties stand out the most. The first came on a phantom call from the officials in the first quarter. But the two that came with 1.2 seconds remaining in the half were completely avoidable and took a six-point Thunder lead going into the break and turned it into an eight-point lead.
Rajon Rondo appeared to refuse the ball from the official when he went to hand it to him. The Kings starting point guard first let the ball hit him and roll away. When the official picked it up and stuck it in Rondo’s belly, the guard once again let it roll away.
Haywoode Workman, who spent spent eight seasons as a player in the league before becoming an NBA official, called a delay of game penalty on Rondo, which resulted in a free throw for Durant. Moments later, Rondo was called for a second delay of game when he refused to acknowledge Workman again. Durant hit a second free throw and the Thunder took a 61-53 lead into the break.
Following an incident between Steven Adams and DeMarcus Cousins, Rondo once again refused to take the ball from an official, resulting in a third free throw for the Thunder. Add in technical calls on both Cousins and Quincy Acy, a questionable clear path call and the Kings spotted OKC seven points.
Rondo refused to comment on the incident in post game, saying “I can’t comment, I might get fined by the NBA.”
Where does this team go from here? It really doesn't matter if they can't figure out how to get out of their own way.
They travel to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies in the first night of a back-to-back. Dallas is waiting the next night and then San Antonio a few night’s later, followed by New Orleans and Cleveland. It’s a brutal stretch and with the way the team is playing, they are going to need a small miracle to snap out of their funk.
“We’re not worthy of it, we’re not worthy of the playoffs right now, I think,” Omri Casspi said.
It’s a sentiment shared by many, but Rondo believes there is time to turn the season around.
“It’s been an ugly situation for the West, we haven’t took care of business like we’re supposed to,” Rondo said. “There’s a lot of questionable games were probably going to look back at and wish we had, but you can’t look back in the past.”
The Kings received another reprieve on Monday when both the Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz stumbled again. Despite losing three straight, the Kings remain just four games out of the eighth spot in the West with 24 games remaining in the season.
The schedule gets lighter down the stretch, but the way the Kings are playing right now, it’s tough to even consider this team righting the ship.
Then again, who knows if Houston or Utah will either. It's a race to see who can back into the playoffs the quickest.