Late-fading Kings set to host Lakers

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Not long ago, Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins watched how his team performed in the fourth quarter of games, especially late, and opined that the Kings were one of the league's best in the game's final minutes.

It might be time for a reassessment.

The Kings (8-15) will be coming off two fourth-quarter disappointments when they host the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday at the Golden 1 Center. The second of those contests, a 104-84 loss at the Utah Jazz on Saturday, proved particularly galling. Sacramento trailed 78-76 entering the final 12 minutes and was outscored 26-8 in its lowest-scoring quarter of the campaign.

The Kings lost for the fifth time in six contests only 24 hours after they dropped a 103-100 decision at home to the New York Knicks. Sacramento scored just one basket in the final 2:09 of that game and fell to 4-10 during a 14-game stretch that started when it blew a 19-point first-half lead at home in a 101-91 loss to the Lakers on Nov. 10.

The earlier loss to the Lakers highlighted the inconsistency with which the Kings have played from quarter to quarter during much of their campaign, an issue at least as prevalent as their recent fades down the stretch. Cousins acknowledged as much in summarizing Sacramento's loss to Utah.

“It's the same mistakes that's been hurting us most of the year,” Cousins said. “Defensive breakdowns, second-chance points, same things.”

The heavy burden of carrying Sacramento's offense each night might be starting to wear on Cousins. The seventh-year veteran is averaging 28.2 points per game, the third-best mark in the league and a figure that marks 27.6 percent of the Kings' scoring this season. Cousins also is 10th in the league with 10.6 rebounds per game, 20 percent of his team's total. He is averaged 34.5 minutes while playing all 23 contests.

However, he went 7 of 22 from the floor against Utah and appeared to be laboring. The Kings' schedule isn't helping; Sacramento will be playing for the third time in four nights Monday and the 13th time in less than four weeks.

“DeMarcus looks like he's carrying a 50-pound weight around,” coach Dave Joerger said after the loss to Utah. “He looks exhausted.”

The Lakers don't look as spry as they did a month ago, when they surprised the league by winning 10 of their first 20 games. Coach Luke Walton's team lost its sixth straight Sunday, 118-112 at home against the Knicks. Los Angeles allowed at least 103 points in all six of those defeats and surrendered fewer than 100 in only five of its 26 contests.

Guard D'Angelo Russell (sore left knee) returned from a 12-game absence, and guard Nick Young (strained calf) played for the first time in seven games, putting the Lakers' starting backcourt back on the floor again. The two combine for 29.4 points and 8.1 assists per game.

Lou Williams scored 24 points for the Lakers on Sunday, leading Los Angeles in scoring for the fifth consecutive contest. Williams is averaging 32.2 points a game in that stretch, all while coming off the bench.

“Usually when you score a ton of points, you're going to get some wins out of it,” he said after putting up 35 in a victory over Phoenix on Friday. “We haven't had that. … Losing is losing.”