The Nets have been knocked down plenty of times lately, but no one has gone down much harder than Sean Kilpatrick did when he was leveled by Sacramento’s Matt Barnes with 9:35 left, just moments after their deficit had climbed to 20 points Sunday night at Barclays Center.
Barnes was ejected for a flagrant-two foul with intent to injure, and for a few exciting minutes, the incident seemed to inspire the Nets.
Kilpatrick got to his feet and hit a pair of foul shots, and the Nets found the gumption to put together a 16-2 run, pulling within six points after Kilpatrick made a steal and fed Trevor Booker for a reverse layup with 6:54 left. But that’s where all the grit drained out of the Nets’ hourglass. The Kings scored the next 16 points on their way to a 122-105 victory.
It was the seventh straight loss for the Nets (4-12), who, after a promising 4-5 start, are showing signs that they are what the forecasters thought they were.
“For the most part, it woke people up,” Kilpatrick said. “But I don’t know. I was kind of out of it once that happened. My mindset changed completely. At the end of the day, if we’re going to win in this league, we’ve got to come out with some type of edge. If it takes something like that for us to have some type of edge, then it’s not good.”
DeMarcus Cousins dominated for the Kings (7-10) with 37 points and 11 rebounds. Rudy Gay added 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists and Darren Collison scored 18 points. The Kings made 13 of 23 three-pointers (56.5 percent).
Kilpatrick topped the Nets with 22 points and Brook Lopez added 17 points and seven rebounds.
Despite their burst of fourth-quarter fighting energy, the Nets couldn’t sustain it as the Kings scored on eight straight possessions to regain control after Barnes was tossed.
“Luckily, we were able to keep our composure,” Barnes said. “We just had to pull it together. I was scared for a second because they went on a run, and I’m like, ‘Man, did I just cost the team the game?’ So I was a little nervous. But we regained focus and went on a run of our own and closed the game out strong.”
Unlike many of their recent losses, the Nets were competitive in the first half, leading by as many as nine points before settling for a 59-58 halftime edge. But they were struggling on defense as the Kings had it both ways. They banged down three-pointers, which opened the middle for them to get to the rim and control points in the paint by a 50-36 margin.
If there has been one undeniable trend for the Nets this season, it’s their tendency to let games spool out of control in the third quarter, and it happened again as the Kings drained three straight three-pointers to ignite a 22-8 run on the way to building an 82-72 lead. The final basket in that stretch was a lob pass by Barnes that hit the backboard and went in for a three-pointer.
“We have to fix the third-quarter blues,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “For some reason, we don’t come out with the requisite energy we need. We called a timeout and addressed it, but we need to figure that out because it’s hurting us.”
Kilpatrick admitted the Nets are frustrated, but they’re hoping things change when injured players Jeremy Lin, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert return.
“We’ve got to stick together,” Kilpatrick said. “Once we’re back at full strength, we’re going to be a problem in this league.”