Kings’ loss to Mavs presents ‘great opportunity’ for bounce-back game

NBC Sports Bay Area

SACRAMENTO – A little adversity never hurt anybody.

At least that’s what Kings coach Mike Brown believes, as he detailed before Sacramento’s pivotal game against the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday.

His message was simple: Adversity could be good for a team, but he doesn’t believe the Kings have faced much of it since he became head coach last season.

Brown might have spoken too soon, though, and unintentionally got what he asked for in Tuesday’s miserable 132-96 blowout loss to the Mavericks at Golden 1 Center – matching the team’s worst of the 2023-24 NBA season. The defeat met the requirements for what Brown considers an adverse situation.

“Yeah, this is a great time for us to see if we have it within ourselves go out and play the right way,” Brown said postgame. “You’re not going to win every game, obviously. I don’t care how well you play. But you don’t want to walk away from the game, if you can help it, with a bad taste in your mouth, knowing that there were a lot of things out on the floor that we could have done better. Just by keeping the game simple. Just by doing what we do, doing what we emphasize.

“And that’s what makes it tough is there are a handful of things that we emphasize a lot, but as of late, it’s been about the sprays and it’s been about the contest. And we didn’t do a good job in either area. So, to me — to all of us in that locker room — it’s a great opportunity for us to see if we can bounce back, play the right way and see if we can get a win against these guys in the next three days.”

Not only will the Kings look to avenge an embarrassing, nationally televised loss when they host the Mavericks on Friday for the second half of a two-game set, but they also will be battling for NBA playoff seeding.

Sacramento and Dallas have gone back and forth as the Western Conference’s No. 6 seed, which is the final playoff spot that bypasses the NBA play-in tournament.

With matching records entering Tuesday’s contest, the Kings had the slight edge over the Mavericks. But after the loss, the sixth seed remains fair game. Sacramento could have clinched the tiebreaker with a win Tuesday night after winning the previous two contests in Dallas earlier this season, but the Mavericks’ win brought the season series to 2-1 — and made Friday’s contest that much more interesting.

By the end of the night Tuesday, the Kings (42-30) and Mavericks (43-29) flip-flopped in the standings, with the latter leapfrogging into the sixth spot.

“It’s just great to feel the pressure of big games or big moments,” Brown said before Tuesday’s tip-off. “Especially when we as a group haven’t felt it a ton, so some guys handle it different. But for us all to continue to go through it and experience it and hopefully have success with it, that’s what we’re gunning for or trying to get to. But to have success with it, it just helps us grow.

“I’ve said this already: A lot of the great ones say even if you fail sometimes, you can learn and grow from it. I hope we don’t [fail] in any of our cases, but at the end of the day, that’s life. And no matter what experience we go through, it’s going to benefit us long term.”

The Mavericks knew what was at stake Tuesday. So did the Kings. Players and coaches from both sides talked about it leading up to the matchup.

Unfortunately for Sacramento, Dallas was better prepared Tuesday night. Fortunately for Sacramento, there’s a chance at redemption in less than 72 hours.

“We play this team again, so hopefully, if we’re able to win that game, then we have the tiebreaker [and] we’re back tied up again,” Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox said postgame. “But definitely in the West right now, especially when you’re playing a team that you’re right in the running with, obviously a win or loss here against them and if they get a win or a loss is a whole game difference.

“So we know this is an extremely important game, and that just makes Friday’s game all the more important so we can get the tiebreaker, win the series 3-1 and we’re back tied up and we’re in front of them. So we have to be prepared for the next game.”

On Friday, the Kings have a chance to respond to the adversity Brown preached about pregame.

Brown maintained that losing to the Golden State Warriors in a best-of-seven playoff series thriller last season wasn’t adversity. Neither was entering the 2023-24 season with heightened expectations for the first time in a long time. Dealing with several injuries this season after a healthy and consistent year last season didn’t meet Brown’s adversity criteria, either.

Tuesday’s loss, however, absolutely did. And Brown is looking forward to seeing how his guys respond and rise to the occasion in just a matter of days.

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