Sometimes you can see it coming. Despite the four-game win streak and the good feeling surrounding the Sacramento Kings recent play, it wasn't hard to imagine the drubbing they would take Wednesday night at the hands of the Golden State Warriors.
Sacramento held tough through the first half, even taking a lead into the intermission on a 3-pointer by Darren Collison. They displayed the same grit and determination that is becoming their calling card. And then it all caught up to them.
"We ran into the proverbial wall there in the third quarter," Dave Joerger told media members following the 109-86 loss to Golden State. "I think we've played a lot alot of close games, we've played a lot of games in the last 3-4 weeks where we've come from behind, haven't quit."
The Kings couldn't find the bucket coming out of the break and the Warriors punished them in transition, scoring 18 of their 40 fastbreak points in the the third. The best way to slow down the Warriors is to make your shots and the Kings hit just 21.7 percent in the quarter as the game spun out of control.
"They hit their little run, we knew it would happen, it was all downhill from there," Cousins told media members. "We just didn't respond well to that last hit."
The run was more of a landslide. Golden State rattled off a 28-2 burst, mostly on the back of Klay Thompson who scored 17 of his 35 in the quarter. The Warriors turned a three point halftime deficit into an 89-65 lead heading into the fourth.
"We couldn't hold onto the ball, couldn't dribble it, couldn't pass it," Joerger added. "Give their defense credit. Their defense ignited their fastbreak, they got out and ran and away they went in the third quarter and it was tough to catch them."
Sacramento came into the night shorthanded with Garrett Temple, Rudy Gay, Omri Casspi and Ty Lawson all on the shelf. Arron Afflalo tightened up during halftime with a glute and hamstring issue, leaving the Kings completely undermanned for the final 24 minutes.
"Facing this team, you need as much firepower as possible, as many bodies as possible," Cousins said. "The good thing about this is, it's the break. We'll be able to get guys back. We'll be able to make this late push."
Once the game spiraled out of control, Joerger was quick to pull most of his starting crew, giving his young players plenty of time on the court. Cousins played just 23 minutes, finishing the night with 13 points, six assists and four rebounds.
Matt Barnes played well, even during the wild third quarter. The veteran forward finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds and Collison added 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting in 28 minutes. Willie Cauley-Stein took advantage of the opportunity, scoring 13 points and grabbing seven rebounds.
Rookie Malachi Richardson looked confident in his 28 minutes of action, finishing the night with 10 points and seven rebounds before pulling up lame with 1:06 remaining on the clock. The 21-year-old shooting guard is scheduled to undergo an MRI on his right hamstring Thursday in Sacramento, leaving his availability for the stretch run in question.
The Kings are off until next Wednesday when the Denver Nuggets roll through Golden 1 Center. There is hope that Sacramento will regain the services of Lawson, Temple and Casspi coming out of the break or very soon after.
Sacramento trails the Nuggets by just a game and a half for the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff chase heading into the All-Star break. They'll see Denver three times between Feb. 23 and March 11, giving them plenty of opportunity to get back into the mix for the postseason.