Kings guard Kent Bazemore sounded the alarm after his team allowed 87 first-quarter points in two devastating losses to the San Antonio Spurs and Orlando Magic.
Bazemore said the first period of Tuesday's game against the Dallas Mavericks would say a lot about the team's ability to achieve the level of toughness and intensity needed to compete in a playoff-style atmosphere in the NBA bubble. The Kings answered Bazemore's call for a strong start, but they couldn't finish in a 114-110 overtime loss at Walt Disney World Resort's HP Field House.
Luka Doncic record his 16th triple-double of the season for the Mavericks (41-29), posting 34 points, a career-high 20 rebounds and 12 assists. Kristaps Porzingis had 22 points and seven rebounds.
De'Aaron Fox had 28 points and nine assists for the Kings (28-39), who are still seeking their first win in the bubble. Buddy Hield scored 21 points. Bazemore had 16.
Kings coach Luke Walton shook up his starting lineup, inserting Cory Joseph instead of Nemanja Bjelica. Walton started Fox and Joseph in the backcourt with Bogdan Bogdanovic at small forward, Harrison Barnes at power forward and Richaun Holmes at center.
The small-ball lineup was effective early against the Mavericks. Fox, Barnes and Joseph combined for four 3-pointers as the Kings jumped out to a 12-4 lead in the opening minutes.
The starting unit did a nice job defensively against the dynamic Doncic and a high-powered Dallas offense. When the Kings went to their bench and suffered a defensive breakdown on Hield's first defensive possession, Walton immediately called timeout to address the issue. As the Kings made their way to the bench, Joseph was seen explaining the coverage to Hield.
The sense of urgency and attention to detail were much improved after two tough losses that left Sacramento behind the Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, Spurs and New Orleans Pelicans in the race for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
The Kings led 37-27 at the end of the first quarter and carried a 60-56 lead into the halftime break. Sacramento reestablished a double-digit lead in the third and again in the fourth before the Mavericks battled back to tie the game on a free throw by Maxi Kleber with 1:52 to play in regulation.
Neither team could get a bucket in the final two minutes. Fox missed a midrange jumper over Doncic as time expired.