With a hyped home crowd and a division rival at Sleep Train Arena, the Kings came out a step slow.
The Kings eventually caught up but couldn’t complete their comeback and lost to the Los Angeles Clippers 111-104 in the season opener for both teams.
"I think we played terrible," said All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins, who had 32 points, 13 rebounds and three assists, but also a game-high eight turnovers. "Turnovers killed us, especially on my end. I don’t think we really ran well tonight. I think we could have done a better job sharing the ball. But even with all that being said, we still had a great chance of winning this game."
The Kings offense relies on pace — fast and quick decisions. But those things were lacking while the Clippers had their way early, leading by as many as 15 points.
Concerns about the Kings’ ballhandling and defense proved to be warranted, as they committed 18 turnovers and the Clippers shot 52.5 percent.
The Kings had a one-point lead with four minutes left in the fourth quarter before the Clippers used an 11-4 run to create separation.
The game featured several reminders the Kings still have a lot of work to do before reaching the same level as the Clippers, a team with aspirations of winning an NBA championship.
The Kings lacked the energy expected early and the Clippers capitalized, most notably Blake Griffin, who made 10 of his first 12 shots and finished with 33 points.
"We played like we were young and that’s something we can't do if we want to be a good team," said Kings forward Rudy Gay.
The Kings' bench provided a spark with Darren Collison (13 points, six assists), Marco Belinelli (nine points, seven assists) and Omri Casspi (five points, nine rebounds) helping fuel the second-half comeback.
"It just shows the potential is there; the goal for our team is there," Cousins said. "We just have to put it together. We've still got a lot of growing to do."
Chris Paul had 18 points and 11 assists for the Clippers.
Collison said the Kings looked like a team playing its first game. Communication on defense has to improve and the pace on offense has to pick up, but Collison thinks those problems can be remedied.
"These are things we definitely can fix," Collison said. "I'm not concerned by any means."
The Kings acknowledge they have a lot of work to do, but they also do not want to fall into the trap of believing they have a lot of time to fix their problems.
"We want to be great," Gay said. “It’s not an option to be bad, not for us, not anymore. The kind of people we have around here, we all want to win. It’s just going to take some time."
Gay had 16 points and said he’d only slept about six hours in the past two days since the birth of his second son. He arrived at the game less than two hours before tip off.