Something has happened to the Sacramento Kings on this road trip.
Yes, losing has been the norm all season, and the Kings have lost in every way imaginable. But not too many have been like this — the lack of energy, the confusion on both ends, the failure to compete.
It started during the fourth quarter in Boston, continued in Washington and there it was again Tuesday in Cleveland. Plagued by terrible execution on offense and defense, the Kings never challenged the Cavaliers, who cruised to a 109-99 victory.
We have seen ugly stretches before and this three-game eyesore could be attributed to a number of reasons. An illness has spread through the roster, and players may not be 100 percent health-wise. The young team may simply be hitting a wall, 50-plus games into a grueling season. Whatever it is, it’s a bad look.
The problems started on defense where the Kings just looked a step slow. Guys were frequently beat off the dribble or caught lazily watching the ball while their man crept to an open spot on the floor. By no means is Cleveland an offensive juggernaut, but they’ve got players — Kyrie Irving, Luol Deng, and on Tuesday, Dion Waiters — who will kill you if given too much space. On top of that, rookie Anthony Bennett, who has struggled mightily for much of his first season, picked Tuesday to have a career night.
On offense, the Kings were slow to recognize the mismatch they had with DeMarcus Cousins going against Tyler Zeller. Cousins rarely received the ball with his back to the basket. Instead, a collection of Kings tried their hands at one-on-one ball. Rudy Gay still wasn’t himself, struggling with some real easy shots. Marcus Thornton was too inconsistent to be counted on, and nobody else stepped up to fill the void.
Cleveland shot out to an early lead, and the Kings never really challenged. The Cavs maintained a comfortable margin for much of the game, with Sacramento cutting it to single digits in the fourth quarter before again faltering.
The Kings wrap up the first half of the season Wednesday in New York. A strong showing would be great for the team heading into the All-Star Break.
But for the Kings on the road, you just never know what team will show up.