SACRAMENTO -- How to lose a game in seven minutes or less. Step 1: Miss shots. Step 2: Argue with officials. Step 3: Allow your opponent to score easy buckets in transition while you are still arguing about your missed shot.
The Sacramento Kings played a really solid first half Sunday night against the Golden State Warriors, leading by as many as 16 points.
And then they fell apart in the first seven minutes coming out of the break. They never recovered from their third quarter woes and fell to the best team in the Western Conference by a final of 117-106.
“They’re not difficult to guard in transition if you communicate and you’re focused and you’re not arguing at the referees after turnovers and missed shots,” Garrett Temple told media members following the Kings’ third straight loss.
Golden State trailed by seven at the half, but just after the midway point of the third, they had already wiped out the Kings lead and held a 10-point advantage.
“We’re losing them ourselves,” veteran point guard Ty Lawson said. “Just from little things like arguing with the refs and stuff like that. And they’re running out and getting dunks and layups.”
This is a recipe for disaster that the Kings have become experts at creating. They play well for stretches and then have momentary lapses that lead to massive deficits. Against a team like the Warriors, there is no margin for error, let alone room for a 39-13 run between the late second quarter and the mid-third quarter.
“We talk about it all the time,” Temple added. “The officials seemingly aren’t on anyone’s side at the end of the day. Both teams always argue with the officials, but, especially in that third quarter, we seemed to let it get to us even more than usual. They’re a different team on the break. They have three dead-eye shooters and a power forward that can pick people apart.”
The Warriors finished the night with a 28-3 advantage on the break. Once they turned the game into a track meet, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant started knocking down 3-balls and the game got out of hand.
“I think we did everything right in the beginning,” DeMarcus Cousins said of Sacramento’s fast start. “As usual, we always have that one quarter or that one little stretch where we have bad basketball. It kind of comes back to bite us in the end.”
Cousins struggled to find his game, finishing with 17 points on 4-of-11 shooting. He turned the ball over seven times, including three fumbles in the third as the game spun out of control. Cousins has played big minutes all season long and carrying more weight than most.
“He’s exhausted,” head coach Dave Joerger said following the game. “He’s been carrying the torch for a long time. It seems perhaps maybe longer than just this year. Is there a night off coming or something? He had a tough night. At the same time, I don’t think Golden State gets enough credit for their defense.”
Sacramento has now lost three straight and four of the last five. With the Detroit Pistons coming through town on Tuesday night, sitting the team's best player seems like a stretch.
The Kings needs a win to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race. They also need a victory to avoid a complete meltdown, which has happened more than once for this team over the last few seasons.
Rudy Gay had another solid performance since returning from injury. The 30-year-old forward scored 15 of his 23 points in the first quarter as the Kings built their early lead.
Joerger went with a new starting group, giving Garrett Temple and Anthony Tolliver a look alongside Cousins, Gay and Darren Collison. Both had solid performances.
Tolliver dropped in 16 points on 3-of-4 shooting from long range and Temple finished with 14 points in 42 minutes of action while limiting Klay Thompson to 8-of-19 shooting.
The Kings have dropped the first three games of their season-long seven game homestand. They draw the Pistons on Tuesday, before facing the NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.