Kings pose latest road challenge for Knicks

Two teams hoping to beat up on each other before continuing rugged schedules collide Monday night when the New York Knicks visit the Sacramento Kings.

The Knicks are coming off an impressive 116-93 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. That’s the good news.

The bad news: Sunday night’s game was on the front half of a back-to-back that falls in the middle of a 12-day trip.

Having already had to deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns and Clippers over a five-day stretch, the Knicks will jump right back into the frying pan after the stopover in the California capital when they complete the trip against the Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies and Brooklyn Nets over another five-day span.

If the Knicks were either fatigued by the schedule or demoralized by a seven-game losing streak, however, they didn’t show it against the Clippers. They never trailed, went up by as many as 32 points and coasted home so comfortably, no starter was pressed into more than 33 minutes of duty.

Coach Tom Thibodeau had to be pleased with the effort, after having warned his club it wasn’t going to be easy to turn things around.

“We have to have the mental toughness to get through this,” Thibodeau said. “When you face adversity, being mentally tough is the most important thing to be in any situation. We can’t hang our heads; we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve got to get out there and fight.

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“That’s what this is about right now. This is about our fight, our will, determination, togetherness, our spirit, all of that. We’ve got to make it happen.”

In Sacramento, the Knicks will see a team they shellacked 116-96 in January in New York behind 50 percent shooting and four 3-pointers apiece from Evan Fournier and Alec Burks.

That Kings team did not feature Domantas Sabonis, acquired last month in a trade with the Indiana Pacers.

Sabonis has recorded double-doubles in nine of his 10 games with Sacramento, including the last six. The Kings have gone 4-6 in those games.

They were 3.3 seconds away from a 5-5 split in those 10 games before Dorian Finney-Smith buried a 3-pointer to give the Mavericks a 114-113 home win on Saturday night. Sabonis had 15 points and 10 rebounds, while De’Aaron Fox did most of the heavy lifting for Sacramento with 44 points.

The NBA on Sunday also admitted two crucial officiating errors that went against the visitors in the final minute of the game while Sacramento was in possession of the ball, leading by a point.

The loss clinched the Kings’ NBA-record 16th straight season with a losing record, with one of the roughest patches in the schedule still to come. Starting Wednesday, Sacramento’s next six games will be against the Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Chicago Bulls, Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns.

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Undaunted, interim coach Alvin Gentry stressed positives and one fixable issue after the heart-breaker in Dallas.

“I thought we played great for most of the game,” he insisted. “We have to do a better job of managing our turnovers.”

The Kings committed 16 turnovers, which turned into 19 Mavericks points.

-Field Level Media

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