By Morris Phillips
Losing streaks are hard enough to digest, and the individual moments within those streaks even more so.
For the Kings, losing at the middling Pistons, the ninth-ranked team in the Eastern Conference, for their sixth straight loss while allowing Detroit 19 points more than their season average may rank as the nadir for fading Sacramento.
It certainly felt like it in the third quarter when the Pistons turned a 57-50 advantage at the half into a rout.
“Basketball is a simple game: Defend without fouling, make the right play and knock down shots early,” coach Bill Walton said. “I feel like we didn’t do any of those things.”
The Kings certainly didn’t defend. The Pistons were without Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin, along with taking the occassion to send a message regarding punctuality to rookie Sekou Doumbouya, who didn’t start for the first time in 10 games. Despite the absences, the Pistons got way too comfortable shooting the basketball at 53 percent for the game, and at an even higher clip than that in their 36-point, third quarter that put the game away.
Meanwhile, the Kings certainly didn’t have a coherent plan to match the high-scoring Pistons. Missing 25 of their 35 3-point shot attempts kept Sacramento’s offense disjointed and unable to make up the deficit, which grew and grew.
“There are times where we are out there playing good basketball and there are times when we’re not,” De’Aaron Fox said. “I said it before, you just try to play the best basketball you can for the most amount of time. I don’t think we’re doing that right now.”
With the recent trade of Trevor Ariza to Portland, and the Pistons’ lineup changes, the game became a battle of new faces. One stood out: Reggie Jackson, playing in his first game after missing 42 due to a back injury, led the Pistons with 22 points and four assists.
“When you alternate (Jackson with Derrick Rose, who also scored 22 points), you have stability at the point guard position, and that’s what this league is all about, guys that can create and run the floor,” coach Dwayne Casey said of his team’s offense.
Rose, the NBA’s renaissance man, and the guy most frequently mentioned to upgrade a playoff contender’s outlook down the stretch of this season, scored better than 20 points for the 10th straight game, matching his career-best stretch from his MVP season in 2011.
Christian Wood added 23 points to give Detroit three scorers with 20 or more, and Svi Mykhailiuk added 13. The Pistons poured it on in a 70-point, second half that far too much resembled a basketball clinic for the Kings’ liking.
“It’s about where we’re going and I’m a very patient person,” Walton said. “I believe in our group, but we need to do a lot of things including starting games with a much more competitive, engaged mindset. So, I still have all the belief in the world in our team. It’s still surreal to be coaching this team, but there are some things that we need to improve on and improve on quickly because it’s too late in the season to be having these same types of mistakes so frequently.”
The Kings continue their road swing on Friday in Chicago. The Kings and Bulls will be meeting for the second time this season after the Chicago held on for a 113-106 win at Golden 1 Center on December 2.