After a beautiful win over the Dallas Mavericks, the Kings met the Pelicans on the second night of a back-to-back. All Kings starters played over 30 minutes the night before, and the team was diminished with injuries to Trey Lyles, Keon Ellis, Alex Len, and Sasha Vezenkov as well as Keegan Murray and Chris Duarte, who both left last night’s game.
For Mike Brown, that was no excuse, however, especially not against a Pelicans squad missing CJ McCollum and Trey Murphy.
“You gotta step up, you gotta perform. I thought in Houston when that happened, we had guys step up and perform, and I’m like ‘Okay, wow, we got some fight.’ I don't think we had any fight tonight from anybody,” he said when asked about the several injuries after the game.
The way Keon Ellis played in the second blowout loss to the Rockets earned him a spot in the rotation. You would think that everyone else stuck at the end of the Kings’ bench watched and learned.
Last night, Davion Mitchell, Kessler Edwards, Colby Jones, and Jalen Slawson all saw at least 12 minutes of playing time. Considering their lack of NBA experience, Jones and Slawson played fine, putting up 8 points on 4-8 shooting, 1 rebound, and 1 steal and 4 points on 2-3 shooting, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block respectively.
Mitchell dished out 8 assists, which is great, but struggled to score, just like Edwards. None of them played with the energy and urgency needed in that moment, but it wasn’t just the bench.
De’Aaron Fox had his worst game of the season, Domantas Sabonis struggled with the presence of Jonas Valanciunas, and Kevin Huerter’s three-point shot stayed at the hotel.
The Kings played a bad game on both ends of the floor
Defensively, the Kings couldn’t stop anyone. They gave up 75 points just to Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and Herb Jones. Obviously, the Pelicans had a big size advantage, but a lot of it also just looked like a lack of effort from Sacramento, leading to easy shots.
The Kings gave up 64 points in the paint, which is an abysmal number. To put this into perspective; the Pacers currently rank last in points allowed in the paint across the league with 62.7. The Kings crushed that number. They might just as well not have had any defenders in the paint at all.
Offensively, it didn’t look much better. No King scored more than 16 points, and Harrison Barnes was the only volume shooter to hit a good percentage of his threes. Nevertheless, the Kings took a total of 43 threes, settling for outside shots instead of attacking the Pelicans in the paint.
They also lost the rebounding battle, not faring particularly well in any of the hustle categories. It is frustrating and demoralizing when shots aren’t falling, but Mike Brown didn’t ask anyone to be happy with how the game was going. He simply wanted them to go down with a fight, but that did not happen.
Bad games happen, it’s no reason to panic, especially if the team had as many games in as many days as the Kings. Even the best teams sometimes fail to deliver. What matters is how you respond.
The two teams meet again on Wednesday, and that time around, the Kings have to play with better energy and more fight. Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and Herb Jones are incredibly talented young players. They are not easy to beat but the Kings have a lot of talent as well.
This is not a fight they should back down from. If the Kings truly want to be a contender in the West, this is just one of the talented teams they will have to beat or at least compete with.
When the Kings play the way they did in Dallas or Los Angeles earlier on this road trip, they can hang with any team. Unfortunately, they didn't do that last night, and Coach Brow undoubtedly expects them to do better on Wednesday.