MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The groan made its way through the gritted teeth of Francisco Garcia, the Kings swingman sitting ever so gingerly in his chair and finally succumbing to the pain in his right knee.
Garcia was asked if he might sit out the coming game in Houston, just as three Kings starters had done Saturday night against Memphis.
"I'm not going to sit out -- ever," said Garcia, who hobbled through much of his 30 minutes yet had 15 points, four rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks. "My heart is not built like that."
Garcia opted to play through pain in a 117-111 loss to the Grizzlies at FedExForum while Beno Udrih, Brad Miller and Ron Artest rested their weary frames.
Although it might have made the objective of grooming the team's young talent even easier and gave rookie center Spencer Hawes his first career start, it did little for the Kings' reputation of falling to the worst of foes. In a season in which they have downed defending champions and division leaders, the Kings suffered their second loss to the 18-51 Grizzlies and their 11th loss to teams with winning percentages of .400 or below.
"It's the theme of the season," said shooting guard Kevin Martin, who had 29 points but went 8 for 24 from the field. "We play great with the best ones and play terrible with the worst ones."
Memphis, which gave up most of an 18-point lead in the third-quarter lead but used the 11 fourth-quarter points from Juan Carlos Navarro to hold on, has its second two-game winning streak of the season. Navarro (22 points) hit six three-pointers, three in the fourth quarter, and the Grizzlies have notched two wins this season against only the Kings and 16-54 Seattle.
According to Kings coach Reggie Theus, Udrih (lower back strain) had aimed the past few days to return Monday against Houston. Miller (right elbow bursitis) had deemed himself questionable after falling on his injury Friday night in San Antonio. Artest had been questionable against the Spurs with a sore knee and stiff right elbow yet played well, only to sit against the Grizzlies.
The Kings were severely short-handed in what appeared to be the most winnable game on this three-game road trip, and coach Reggie Theus admitted his disappointment.
"No matter what time of year it is, the games you definitely can win, you've got to go after it," Theus said when asked about his absent players. "There's nothing you can do about injuries, about guys getting hurt. But it is depressing because we've been doing this all year.
"We get everybody together for a few games, and then all of a sudden it happens again. We've been on a pretty good little stretch (winning four of five games before facing the Spurs), and we've got a chance to win some games."
Hawes made the most of his chance, scoring a career-high 19 points on 9-for-13 shooting while grabbing a career-high 12 rebounds and blocking three shots. It has been an active month for the 19-year-old, who was drafted for his offensive skills but has had to prove himself defensively to earn playing time from Theus.
"I never really worried about getting minutes before," Hawes said. "I've always just thought about offense, and the rest was gravy. I think (Theus) doing that has made me a better player, where I'm starting to block more shots and keep working on the team principles, the rotations -- It's kind of a new aspect of the game I'm starting to like."
Hawes' outing was more than enough to satisfy Theus.
"It's a big night for him," Theus said.