After a grueling road trip, the Kings returned home for another disappointing defeat. The Hawks, who hold the best record in the East, were without two of their All-Stars. Yet, they beat Sacramento 110-103 on the road and continued their dominance to assure home court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Both coaches talked about being on the road during their pre-game press conferences. Kings head coach George Karl mentioned his young guys played better at home than on the road. While Atlanta's head coach Mike Budenholzer gave kudos to his team for their success on the road.
"Winning on the road is something that's really hard in our league," said Budenholzer. "I think it takes a little bit of mental toughness. You have to have more attention to detail, you have to be more together. Things are not going to always go your way on the road. It's important to establish that you can win on the road."
Sacramento played without their second-leading scorer, Rudy Gay who missed his second straight game due to a left patellar tendon strain. DeMarcus Cousins finished the night with 20 points and 13 rebounds and Jason Thompson added 18 off the bench. The Kings cut the lead they had been chasing most of the game by one point late in the fourth but Atlanta pulled away behind DeMarre Carroll's three-point shot with just over 3 minutes left in the game.
"There were a couple of plays that ruined it for us tonight," Cousins said. "But that's what they do. They shoot 3's. Our biggest problems were turnovers and our transition defense. There were some plays where we weren't in position and they took advantage of it."
The Hawks didn't need Kyle Kover, who was back in Atlanta after injuring his nose, and Al Horford was given the night off for rest. The reserves had a good night. Carroll finished with 16 points and eight rebounds. Former All-Star Elton Brand saw some action and Kent Bazemore, who went 1-for-7, hit a big three-pointer with 1:06 left in the game to give the Hawks a 103-99 lead.
"We can't wait to go out there and get some minutes out there," Brand said. "When the starters are out there, the minutes don't come as much."
The Kings bench also kept them in the game. While Thompson came off the bench giving the team a spark, Andre Miller added 16 points and seven assists. But the turnovers resulting in 17 Atlanta points proved costly. There's still an adjustment period under new head coach Karl. No one said this process will be easy and the players and staff understand that.
Unfortunately, for Sacramento the abundance of injuries have hurt the team. Cousins complained about being sore after the game and will look to speak with management about some time off. But realizes his request may fall on deaf ears. With the season coming to an end, the Kings may have already started focusing on next year. In the meantime, every game counts.