Kings

Buddy Hield struggles, Richaun Holmes impresses in Kings' loss to Spurs

Buddy Hield struggles, Richaun Holmes impresses in Kings' loss to Spurs

The Kings had the San Antonio Spurs on the ropes and couldn’t deliver the knockout blow Friday night in a 105-104 overtime loss at AT&T Center.

Sacramento blew a nine-point lead in the final 1:50 of the fourth to go to overtime. In the extra frame, they fouled the Spurs twice on 3-point attempts and still had four shots in the final 17 seconds to win the game.

Effort isn’t an issue, and neither is competing. The Kings have to learn how to finish games or this is going to be a very long season.

Here are a few notes and quotes from the Kings’ loss.

Buddy Hield is struggling

The sharpshooter came into the evening shooting just 12-of-50 from 3-point range over his previous four games. Against the Spurs, Hield knocked down 3-of-11 from deep and just 10-for-27 from the field.

The burden of keeping the Kings in games seems to be overwhelming Hield. He is forcing shots and has lost his rhythm. With De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley out of action, teams are camping on the Kings’ shooters on the perimeter. Both should be back soon, which will relieve a lot of pressure off of Hield and others on the Kings’ roster.

Hield’s shooting is an issue, but he also had a late mental mistake on the defensive end, which allowed Marco Belinelli to drill a 3-pointer to tie the game with 4.1 seconds remaining.

“I left Belinelli open, I should have took him when he was driving,” Hield told reporters in San Antonio following the loss. “I took my eye off of him. He walked on and I got trapped on the screen and it was too late and it went in”

Harrison Barnes' bounce-back game

Barnes posted one of his worst games of the season in the Kings’ loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, and he took full responsibility for his performance.

“The people who are out there, we’ve got to get it done,” Barnes told NBC Sports California on Wednesday. “Tonight wasn’t a great performance on either side of the ball for myself. and I know I can be better, but for everybody, we’ve just got to find a way. We’ve done that this season and we’ll continue to do that. Hopefully at some point, we’ll all be healthy and on the floor at the same time.”

Against the Spurs, Barnes played well in his 43 minutes on the court. He finished the night with 21 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. He turned the ball over four times, but he also went 9-of-11 from the line, which accounted for half of the team’s free throw attempts.

Manna from heaven

The Kings have made plenty of mistakes in free agency over the last few seasons, but Richaun Holmes was a true find. The 6-foot-10 center came into Friday second in the NBA in field-goal percentage, shooting an incredible 66.9 percent.

Against the Spurs, Holmes played a career-high 45 minutes, posting 13 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks. Through 21 games, he has eight double-doubles, which is just three shy of his combined career total coming into the season.

Unexpected errors

Cory Joseph isn’t going to break off a 3-point scoring performance anytime soon, but he has been a steady hand who has helped guide the Kings through a very difficult stretch without Fox. With 1:50 remaining, it was Joseph’s 3-pointer -- just his eighth triple of the season -- that gave the Kings a nine-point lead. And then things went sideways for the veteran.

Joseph then had two egregious turnovers that led to breakaway dunks by San Antonio over the next 34 seconds of play. To compound the mistakes, Joseph missed all three of his shots in the overtime session and then fouled Patty Mills shooting a t3-pointer with the game tied and under a minute remaining.

The veteran point guard was questionable coming into the game with a sore back and still managed to give Walton 38 minutes of hard-nosed basketball. He just has to avoid making big mistakes in crunch time.

[RELATED: Bagley cleared for contact, moves closer to Kings return]

17.4 seconds of hell

The final box score is unkind for Sacramento and will likely be sifted through by the NBA’s Two Minute Report, just for fun. The last 17.4 seconds from the play-by-play log are something else. 

:17.4    MISS B.Hield 11' Pullup Shot
:14.4    B.Hield REBOUND
:10.3    MISS T.Ariza 26' 3PT Jump Shot
:07.2    B.Hield REBOUND
:04.2    MISS T.Ariza 26' 3PT Jump Shot
:01.3    B.Hield REBOUND
:00.9    MISS B.Hield 10'

Ariza had two wide-open shots and missed. Those were his only two misses on the evening after knocking down his first three 3-point attempts.

“Yeah, I just missed them. I had real good looks, I just missed,” Ariza told reporters following the loss.

Hield was active and even looked for an open man after his first two rebounds. His 10-footer at the buzzer was rushed, but it was also wide open on the baseline.

“No, I'm not frustrated," Hield said in San Antonio. "I mean again, make or miss it, you tell me Trevor is going to get open 3s, two of them, I’ll take that. But he got a nice rebound and had a clean look too, I’ll take that as well. That’s not frustrating, what’s frustrating is the turnovers at the end of the regulation. That’s something that we can’t do as a group.”

The Kings have had the ball bounce their way a couple of times this season, but they also have five losses by six points or fewer. 

Doug Christie reveals story behind fight with Rick Fox in Kings-Lakers game

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AP

Doug Christie reveals story behind fight with Rick Fox in Kings-Lakers game

The Kings have missed the playoffs in each of the last 13 seasons. But before that drought began, they were one of the best teams in the NBA.

Back in the early 2000s, the Kings even had a bitter rivalry with the Los Angeles Lakers, who were led by Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.

The Lakers defeated the Kings in seven games in the 2002 Western Conference finals and went on to win the NBA title that season. The following year, the teams met in the preseason and things got chippy between Doug Christie and Lakers forward Rick Fox.

In the latest episode of NBC Sports NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh's "Habershow" podcast which debuted Friday, Christie opened up about what happened on Oct. 25, 2002.

"So there was a lot of venom from the fact that there was a lot of talking going back and forth at that particular time," Christie, who is now an analyst for NBC Sports California, told Haberstroh. "And you know, they had won, and I think when you're competing against someone, you have an idea where you are in the pantheon of that. You know what I mean? And I think they felt us. And I think they might have felt we were a better team than they were. But they won. And they had to the two most dominant players probably of the era at the same time, in their alpha dog prime. So when you win, you usually don't have to say anything, 'I won.' But you're still talking.

"So, when we got to the preseason, you know they had the [Sacramento] Queens things, and Rick would always do little stuff and one of them is he would catch the ball at the pinch post, which is the elbow junction, and he would, as you were coming up -- now it's illegal -- he would pivot into you and hit my thigh. And for me, that's big because I'm moving around a lot. So it was just little stuff and in that particular time, I sold an offensive foul. He hit me and I fell down. So then he threw the ball at me and I caught it, so it didn't really hit me and I caught it. So as I got up, I hit him in the face with the ball all in one motion and that's when he kind of mushed me. As soon as he touched me, I just went 'Bang.' That was it."

Christie and the Kings never were able to get over the hump. That 2001-02 season was their best chance to win an NBA title and the Lakers got in the way.

[RELATED: Kings must be held accountable]

The Kings would make it back to the playoffs in each of the next four seasons but never made it out of the second round.

The fight between Christie and Fox will go down as arguably the greatest preseason NBA fight of all time.

Frustrated Kings enduring most disappointing season in over a decade

Frustrated Kings enduring most disappointing season in over a decade

SACRAMENTO -- The last thing the Kings needed Wednesday evening was a visit from Luka Doncic. The budding superstar, who the team passed on during the 2018 NBA Draft, ran over Sacramento on the way to his NBA leading 12th triple-double of the season. 

Adding to the frustration of the night, with a 127-123 loss, Sacramento fell 11 games under .500 and finished the first half of the season at 15-26. They currently sit five games behind last season’s 20-21 record at the midway point and they are in 14th place in the Western Conference standings.

The Kings are lost. They are 3-12 over their last 15 games and they are about to hit their longest road trip of the season, beginning Saturday in Utah. 

If ever there were a soft spot in an NBA schedule, the Kings just went through one. They played 10 out of 12 at home with seven of those games against sub-.500 teams. They went just 2-8 at home over the stretch in front of near-sellout crowds. 

Fans booed during Monday’s loss against the Mavericks. It’s not the first time they’ve made their displeasure known this season and the way things are heading, it won’t be the last.

“Everybody is frustrated, it’s not even them, we’re trying to figure it out too,” Buddy Hield said following the loss. “But it’s the home team and we get booed...we don’t agree with it, but they’re going to voice their opinion.

“I understand their frustration, but like I said, I’m going to keep shooting the ball,” Hield continued. “When I make a three they like me, when I don’t, they hate you. That’s how Sacramento fans are, man, so you’ve got to embrace it.”

Hield is wrong. This is not how Sacramento fans are. They are loyal to a fault and at this point, they are being tested. 

Fans are voicing their angst because they feel like they were sold a “Super Team, just young” and now the Kings are neither super, nor young.  

After watching one of the most exciting teams in basketball last season, management made the decision to fire their coaching staff and start over. Instead of building on the success, the players were forced to learn a new system and terminology during an abbreviated training camp due to a trip to India. 

On Opening Night, the injury bug hit the Kings and hasn’t let up the entire season. The team looks disjointed and out of sync, although they have enough talent to make every game close.

This isn’t a Luke Walton issue, despite the fan rhetoric. Yes, he has an over-reliance on a few veterans, but he’s also had his core of Hield, De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley, Harrison Barnes, Richaun Holmes and Bogdan Bogdanovic healthy for just one game this season. 

Not only has this group of players missed a combined 59 games, they rarely have practiced together or had time to build any continuity in a new system. Getting everyone healthy is only going to create its own set of issues.  

We can talk about the 19 games decided by five points or less. We can talk about the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report. We can talk about missed draft picks or bad free agent signings. There is a litany of issues that are either reasons or excuses for the Sacramento Kings.

The fact is, this is the most disappointing first half to any season since 2006-07 when the Kings’ streak of missing the postseason began. Watching Doncic tear through the team was just salt in an open wound.

[RELATED: Holmes back at practice, but weeks away from Kings return]

These are the questions facing a Kings franchise in complete disarray. 

Is it too late to turn the season around? 

No, but the clock is ticking.

How does this situation get better? 

Luck, better health, and an epiphany moment where the core players understand the system, play extended minutes together and find a rhythm.

Is it possible that moment comes this season? 

Yes, but a lot of damage has been done. The record is one issue, but the confidence of the team would have to completely change. They may not have the leader behind the scenes to fight through the adversity they are currently facing.

Were expectations too high?

Absolutely not. This is the most talented roster the Kings have had in over a decade. They have four top-seven draft picks in their starting lineup and enough role players to fill in the gaps. They won 39 games last season and that number would have been closer to 42 if they didn’t collapse in the final week of the season.

When do people start losing their jobs over this?

It doesn’t sound like that’s happening anytime soon.

This isn’t how anyone saw the first half going for the Kings. They are on pace to win 30 games this season and finish outside the postseason picture for a 14th consecutive season. They have not only lost massive amounts of time due to injury, but also major development time for some of their young players.

The team needs a solid second half to the season to assess where they are moving forward. If they post one similar to what we’re seen through the first 41 games, someone needs to be held accountable.