James Ham

Kings' narrow overtime loss to Heat all too familiar in trying season

Kings' narrow overtime loss to Heat all too familiar in trying season

The Miami Heat are the best home team in the NBA. They came into Martin Luther King Jr. day with an 18-1 record at AmericanAirlines Arena, and they picked up their 19th win in 20 chances with a nail-biting 118-113 overtime win against the Kings.

It’s another tough pill to swallow for Sacramento. After trailing late in the fourth quarter, Heat big man Bam Adebayo appeared to push off of Kings point guard Cory Joseph at the rim. Adebayo made a bucket with 0.8 seconds remaining that likely will show up on Tuesday’s Last Two Minute Report. 

The Kings fell behind early in overtime, but a couple of huge three-pointers from Buddy Hield gave them a late lead. Miami didn't give in, though, eventually handing Sacramento a fifth straight loss. 

“That’s more of our team that I’m used to seeing as far as how hard we competed,” Kings coach Luke Walton told reporters in Miami. “That kind of has to get back to being the standard of how we play each and every night. All guys giving everything they have. Unfortunate loss. Give Miami credit, they had a lot of big shots.”

In a season filled with bad beats and last-second misses, this one felt familiar. The Kings now have played 20 games decided by five points or fewer, and they are just 7-13 in those contests.

It’s not one player or one reason for the record, but an assortment of issues that always seem to pop up at the wrong moment. 

Nemanja Bjelica put up big numbers for the Kings in Miami, finishing Monday with 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting. His rebound and putback with 1.9 seconds remaining in regulation looked like the game-winner for the Kings.

Marvin Bagley put in a strong game as well, scoring 15 points and grabbing 15 rebounds in 38 minutes in just his fourth game back from injury. 

“I thought he gave a winning effort tonight,” Walton said of Bagley. “It’s unfortunate it didn’t turn into a win for us.” 

Hield gave the Kings a late lead in overtime, but the Heat kept charging back once again.  

“He’s always a constant threat to score quickly and he’s evolving as an all-around player too, taking more responsibility on defense and the other things that we ask him to do,” Walton said. 

Hield finished the night with 20 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, but he also shot just 5-of-17 from 3-point range in 43 minutes of action.

“I don’t necessarily consider ourselves a bad team, we just can’t figure it out,” Hield said. “Guys hurt, in and out of the lineup. We’re trying to figure out coverages.”

[RELATED: What will Kings' plan be as NBA trade deadline approaches?]

The Kings have been in a tailspin since mid-December, and it could continue. 

They are 3-13 over their last 16 contests, and they currently sit a season-worst 13 games under .500 at 15-28. The Kings also are in the middle of their longest road trip of the season with stops in Detroit, Chicago and Minnesota on the schedule before their next home game on Feb. 7.

Kings takeaways: What we learned in 118-113 overtime loss to Heat

Kings takeaways: What we learned in 118-113 overtime loss to Heat

BOX SCORE

The best way to avoid the South Beach flu? Spend an extra day in Utah.

After a blowout loss to the Jazz in Salt Lake City on Saturday, the Kings (15-28) took their time getting to Miami. They looked fresh and focused from the opening tip Monday night against the Heat (30-13) and put up a strong showing against one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.

Unfortunately for the Kings, it wasn’t quite enough to come away with a win.

Playing without All-Star Jimmy Butler, veterans Goran Dragic and James Johnson stepped up to combine for 40 points off the Heat bench. Rookie Kenrick Nunn scored 25 and Duncan Robinson hit some huge threes to give Miami a boost in a 118-113 win over Sacramento. 

Here are three takeaways from the Kings' fifth straight loss. 

From Serbia with love

Nemanja Bjelica and Bogdan Bogdanovic have plenty of chemistry from their time playing together on the Serbian National team. Against the Heat, the two looked completely in sync. 

Bjelica hit his first five shots and finished the game with 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting. He added six rebounds, three assists and a steal in 36 minutes of action.

In his second game back from injury, Bogdanovic came off the bench to score 14 points for Sacramento. He had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds, but Johnson blocked the 3-point attempt.

Battling Bagley

Marvin Bagley struggled with his pick-and-roll defense against Rudy Gobert on Saturday. That wasn’t the case Monday against the Heat. 

Bagley scored 15 points on 7-of-13 shooting and grabbed a season-high 15 rebounds. He was active on the defensive end and even had a couple of big hustle plays. 

This is the type of game the Kings need from their second-year centerpiece. Bagley held Bam Adebayo in check, and he was opportunistic on the offensive end. 

In the final minutes of regulation, Bagley attacked the glass and came up with a pair of huge putbacks to help the Kings keep it close.

[RELATED: What will Kings' plan be as NBA trade deadline approaches?]

Stuff the stat sheet

Buddy Hield is known for his scoring, but he did a little bit of everything against the Heat.

With his 3-pointer on the fritz, Hield became a distributor for Sacramento and dished out seven assists. He hit the glass for seven rebounds and even picked up three steals and a pair of blocks. 

When the shot isn’t falling, this is the type of outing the Kings need from Hield. He was active on the defensive end and made an impact on the game.

After hitting just 3-of-14 from deep through the first 48 minutes of the game, Hield finally got a pair of triples to drop in the overtime session and finished the game with 20 points.

What is Kings' NBA trade deadline plan after disappointing first half?

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USATSI

What is Kings' NBA trade deadline plan after disappointing first half?

If Saturday’s five-player trade that sent Trevor Ariza, Wenyen Gabriel and Caleb Swanigan to the Portland Trail Blazers is any indication, the Kings are open for business and aren’t waiting around for the Feb. 6 NBA trade deadline to start overhauling the roster.

At 15-27, this is the right move. The Kings got off to a rough start and they currently are spiraling out of control as they make their way through the longest road trip on their schedule.

General manager Vlade Divac and his group need to be bold if they hope to hold their core together and perhaps build on it.

Here is how the roster shakes out with a little over two weeks before the deadline.

Untouchable

De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley

Fox and Bagley are completely off the board in any trade scenario, according to a source with knowledge of the Kings’ thinking. Fox is taking another step in his development in Year 3 and is the face of the franchise. Bagley has battled injuries throughout his two NBA seasons, but the Kings still believe in his talent and aren’t even close to moving on from the 20-year-old power forward.

Rather Keep

Richaun Holmes, Harrison Barnes

Holmes is the surprise of the 2019-20 season for the Kings. It took him four games to displace starter Dewayne Dedmon, and at two-years, $10 million, he’s one of the best deals in the league. He’s a hard worker and a high character guy and his age fits the current player arc.

While Barnes isn’t having his best offensive season, there is a reason why the Kings traded for him and then signed him to a four-year, $84 million contract. He’s a pro’s pro who rarely misses a game. The Kings can run him out on the court for 38 minutes a game and know they are going to get solid production at the small forward position.

Rather keep, but it's complicated

Bogdan Bogdanovic

Bogdanovic is a wild card for this team. They are just 2-9 when he misses a game, but are just 13-18 when he plays.

After paying Barnes and Buddy Hield over the summer and knowing that Fox and Bagley extensions are just around the corner, the Kings are going to have to scramble to keep everyone. Bogdanovic will be a restricted free agent on July 1, but he likes Sacramento, they like him and as long as the money doesn’t get completely out of control, the two sides would like to continue their union.

On the Block

Dewayne Dedmon

On paper, Dedmon was the perfect fit next to Bagley in the post. Poor shooting, high turnover rate and a general malaise cost the veteran center his starting job, and his decision to go to the press demanding a trade cost him $50,000.

The Kings would love nothing more than to find a taker for Dedmon and his three-year, $40 million contract. There are teams that have sniffed around, but no takers as of yet. Dedmon is owed $13.3 million next season, but the final year of his deal is guaranteed at just $1 million. Expect the Kings to do their best to move on from the 30-year-old big, even if they have to get creative.

Veterans worth keeping

Cory Joseph, Nemanja Bjelica

Joseph signed a three-year, $37.2 million deal to back up Fox and provide veteran leadership. Early season injuries cost Fox 18 games, leaving Joseph to play heavy minutes. While he isn’t the offensive weapon that Fox is, Joseph plays hard and has one of the longest current games played streaks in the NBA. He’s owed $12.6 million next season, with a $2.4 million buyout in the third year. If the right deal came along, the Kings would listen, but Joseph has been as advertised in his first season in Sacramento.

Divac and his staff went searching for a perfect frontcourt pairing for Bagley, but they may have had the guy they needed already on the roster. Multiple teams have scouted Bjelica and would love to take the 31-year-old Serbian off the Kings’ hands. He’s on a team-friendly deal with a club option for next season at $7.2 million. He’s far outplayed his contract and he’s tough as nails.

Would they listen?

Buddy Hield

Contract negotiations were contentious leading into the season, but Hield finally got his payday from the Kings. Injuries to Fox and Bogdanovic have forced coach Luke Walton to use Hield in ways that he’s not suited for and he hasn’t responded well to the challenge. While he’s still leading the team in scoring at 20.1 points per game, his shooting numbers have taken a massive dip and his turnovers have spiked.

Hield’s contract status is complicated. He signed a four-year, $86 million extension during training camp, but he currently is making $4.9 million under his old deal. Dealing him before July 1 almost is impossible under the current collective bargaining agreement. Hield's bouts with inconsistency, specifically on the defensive end, have frustrated plenty of folks in Sacramento and his decisions to go public with internal matters haven’t helped his case.

The magnifying glass only gets hotter when he starts making $26.4 million next season. 

Expiring contracts

Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver, Yogi Ferrell, Harry Giles

The Kings now have a variety of expiring contracts to work with, including the massive $19.2 million owed to Bazemore that they picked up in the deal with the Blazers. Tolliver is a veterans minimum player who makes $2.6 million and Ferrell is in the final year of his deal that pays him $3.2 million this season. Bazemore and Tolliver are slightly complicated because they were just acquired, but there still is a chance they can be moved, although as individual pieces.

In addition, the Kings have Harry Giles and his $2.6 million contract for this season. The team declined his fourth-year option, making him an unrestricted free agent after the season and limiting their ability to re-sign the 21-year-old big. Giles' contract limitations move with him, making his contract more of an expiring deal than a trade asset.

Additional assets

In addition to players, Sacramento also has a massive stash of second-round selections, including four in 2020, three in 2021 and a total of 13 over the next six seasons. They also own all of their own first-round selections moving forward, although it would take a blockbuster to get them to move one of them. The Kings also have an open roster spot that can hold value under the right circumstance, and rookie Justin James is on a minimum scale deal, although he is well-liked and is unlikely to be moved.

[RELATED: What Bazemore, Tolliver trade means for Kings]

Conclusion

Expect the Kings to be active and in asset collection mode. The season has not gone as planned, at all. They’ve made moves at the deadline the last few seasons and they've already started the activity this year. The Ariza deal opened up some new avenues and the team would love to move on from Dedmon and his contract, as long as it doesn’t hamper the franchise long term.

Lastly, despite the poor showing this season, the Kings still are just five games out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference with 40 games remaining. There still is enough time for Divac to swing for the fences and try to change the team's fortunes this season.