SACRAMENTO -- Nothing has changed. The Kings are the same team that started the season 3-1, dropped to 5-10, rallied to 12-12 and then lost nine straight.
Between now and May 16th, Sacramento might find a way to get back to .500 on the season, but it will be in the most excruciatingly difficult way possible. That is who they are and who they will be until they prove otherwise.
After winning seven-of-eight games, the Kings felt like they were finally building positive momentum, but a pair of stinkers, including a 115-94 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night has the team teetering on the brink once again.
“It was definitely a missed opportunity, but going into a game that we had to win, we just, we didn’t show up,” De’Aaron Fox said.
That’s a kind way to put it. Faced with a tough spot in the schedule, the Kings landed a break when both LeBron James and Anthony Davis were ruled out with injuries. The Lakers still are a talented veteran team, but beatable.
From the opening tip, the Kings’ starting lineup looked lethargic and out of sync. They missed shots, made lazy passes and were severely dominated on the glass. They were still in the game going to the intermission, but that almost was entirely on the play of Harrison Barnes.
When Los Angeles took Barnes away as an option in the third quarter, it was lights out for Sacramento.
The Kings have been here before. They won seven out of eight early in the season, but then followed that up with a nine game losing streak. They have to put a stop to the run as soon as possible, but that gets even more difficult on Saturday when two-time reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo rolls into Sacramento with his 31-17 Milwaukee Bucks team.
“You can’t let one turn into two and two turn into three and three turn into four and let it keep rollin’,” rookie Tyrese Haliburton said. “Nobody’s coming here to save us. We’ve got to take this issue head on and be better.”
With the loss, the Kings still are just a game behind the Golden State Warriors for tenth place in the Western Conference standings.
“At the end of the day, obviously everything matters, but we’re not out of the picture by any means,” Tyrese Haliburton “We’ve got a lot of season left, so we’ve just got to learn from this and keep it going.”
With 23 games remaining on the schedule, they have reached the moment where they have to find a new gear. They don’t have time to take a one step forward, one step back approach.
Milwaukee poses an extremely difficult task for the Kings, but just ahead in the schedule are games against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Detroit Pistons. Sacramento isn’t in a position to take any team lightly, but what they can’t do is fall back into a downward spiral and allow winnable games to slip through their fingers.
This is another test for the Kings. How they respond in the next couple of games could dictate the final outcome of their season. They need to find their footing and dispense with the excuses or the franchise's playoff drought will hit 15 seasons.