March 12, 2015

It seemed that George Karl was well on his way out of Sacramento, but he is getting a second chance from general manager Vlade Divac.

Karl will try to take advantage of his new opportunity by leading the Kings to a much-needed win in their final game before the All-Star break Wednesday night against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Sacramento was reportedly set to fire Karl in the coming days with the team having watched its playoff hopes quickly fade following eight losses in nine games. The Kings (21-31) were blown out 120-100 in Cleveland on Monday for their fourth consecutive defeat after showing little motivation heading into the contest.

Point guard Rajon Rondo said only "three or four" players showed up for an optional shootaround Monday morning.

That was likely among the reasons for a rumored meeting between Karl and Divac on Tuesday, where the coach agreed to make changes. The league's fifth-winningest coach has gone 32-50 since taking over just after last year's All-Star break.

"(George Karl) is our coach and we're collectively working through our issues," Divac said in a statement.

The Kings could go a long way toward lifting the franchise's spirits by avoiding a seventh straight road loss, something they haven't done since Jan. 22-Feb. 11, 2014.

Sacramento has dropped to 10th in the Western Conference after being eighth on Jan. 24 after winning a season-best five in a row.

"We can't just keep laying down. We've got to fight," Rondo said. "We're all men. We're all grown. You can't want it more than the other person next to you does. We've got to stop making excuses."

Philadelphia (8-44) is 12-4 against Sacramento since the beginning of the 2007-08 season and has a winning record versus only one other club over that same period - 9-7 against Houston. The 76ers are 3-2 against the Kings during their particularly hapless stretch of the past two-plus seasons (.208 winning percentage), matching their record versus Denver as their best against any opponent.

They won 110-105 in Sacramento in the latest meeting Dec. 30, seemingly a new low point for the Kings as they fell to 12-20 after falling to a Philadelphia team which entered 2-31.

Nerlens Noel led the 76ers with a season-high 20 points. Ish Smith scored five of his 18 in the final 3:16, and Jerami Grant made three late free throws to finish with 16 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks.

Grant had a team-best 17 points and 11 boards Monday, and Smith added 16 points with a career high-tying nine rebounds after missing one game due to a sprained ankle, but Philadelphia fell 98-92 in overtime to the Los Angeles Clippers.

The 76ers missed a chance at their first win streak of the season by blowing a 19-point lead against one of the league's hottest teams, totaling 33 points in the final 29 minutes.

"It's another tough loss that we have to learn from and get better from," Smith said. "These are games that we should be winning. ... We played well. We gutted it out. We just didn't have enough down the stretch."

DeMarcus Cousins is averaging 31.0 points and 17.3 rebounds in his last three games against the 76ers.

Cousins, who has had his share of problems with Karl, had his lowest-scoring game of 2016 on Monday with 14 points as he shot 5 of 14. Sacramento's only win in the past 2 1/2 weeks came when Cousins was out with a sprained ankle.

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