SACRAMENTO -- The hum of a stocked glass-door refrigerator in the corner was the only discernible noise in the Kings’ locker room Tuesday night. The weight of a monumental 123-121 loss to the Brooklyn Nets hung in the air, and no one was in a mood to speak to the media.
In a season of harsh lessons, blowing a 25-point fourth quarter lead and giving up the winning bucket with 0.8 seconds remaining may have been the straw that broke the Kings' backs.
“It’s just a bad loss,” a frustrated De’Aaron Fox said.
“We blew it. I hate losing, especially like that,” rookie Marvin Bagley said.
After destroying Brooklyn with a 20-0 run to begin the second half, the Kings looked unbeatable headed into the fourth quarter.
Bagley was having another breakout game. Fox looked finished for the evening when Joerger turned to Yogi Ferrell off the bench.
Sacramento led by 103-78 heading to the final frame. They were well on they’re way to their 35th victory, and a move back to .500.
Then, D’Angelo Russell caught fire.
The Kings have seen a player do something similar in the past. Golden State’s Klay Thompson hit the team for 37 points in a third quarter of a game back in Jan. 2015. But this was different.
This wasn’t a run to blow a team out. Russell’s 27-point outburst in the fourth came in a hostile environment, as every point cut into a big deficit. The All-Star guard finished the evening with 44 points out of necessity for his club, and the Kings had no answer.
“Well, that certainly can be a tough one to take, but it’s a good opportunity for our guys to learn and hopefully we’ll be in those opportunities again in the future where we have a lead and we don’t relax,” coach Dave Joerger said. “We relaxed and were very casual, didn’t run back on defense, turned the basketball over a ton and took a lot of jump shots because we thought it was going to be easy.”
The lead evaporated quickly. Sacramento started missing shots, and turning the ball over. Russell started pulling up for 3-pointers on the break, and hitting them.
A stunned Golden 1 Center crowd was silenced as the Nets hit the Kings with one blow after another.
“They made shots, we turned the ball over, they got it going and got hot and they finished the game better than we did,” Fox said.
When Russell missed a couple of shots, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson picked up the slack. When they needed a big 3-pointer, veteran Jared Dudley knocked it down.
Joerger tried different looks in the fourth, but nothing seemed to work. Sacramento shot just 22.7 percent in the final 12 minutes, and turned the ball over seven times. Only Buddy Hield hit more than one shot in the final 12 minutes, and even he went just 2-of-6 from the field, and missed all three of his 3-pointers.
“They wanted it more than us,” Hield said. “They out-toughed us. Outplayed us. They were the guys that were the most confidence. They were talking, having fun. They took the fun away from us in the fourth quarter.”
[RELATED: Why Christie never can forget LeBron's famous first dunk]
In the end, the Nets hit big shots and the Kings came up short. The ball got sticky, the game slowed down and a team with a lot to play for handed Sacramento a devastating loss.
“We kind of relaxed in that moment and the basketball gods punished us. That’s how it goes,” Bogdan Bogdanovic said.
With the defeat, the Kings dropped to 34-36 on the season. Combined with a Los Angeles Clippers victory, Sacramento fell seven games out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference standings with 12 games remaining.