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Kings' brutal loss to Hornets falls on core, not officials

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The NBA’s Last Two Minute report does nothing to change the outcome of a game. In fact, the L2M report usually just adds more frustration to the conversation, especially for the team that came up short.

In the Kings’ 127-126 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday, there wasn’t much to take away from the L2M report itself. The Kings missed five free throws and made two or three crucial defensive errors in the final 1:09, which is why they are now 13-21 and not 14-20. But there is still one questionable situation that needs to be looked at.

With 33.9 seconds remaining in the fourth and the Kings leading by five, Harrison Barnes was called for a foul against Terry Rozier, who was in the act of shooting a 3-pointer. At least one NBA expert believed the call was incorrect.

“This foul call on Barnes was straight trash.” The Athletic's John Hollinger said. “Blatant right leg kick by Rozier, and ref needs to know shooters are going to hunt the foul in that situation.”

It really is clear that Rozier kicked out and initiated contact with Barnes. The L2M report excuses the act by somehow making an assumption that Barnes would have made contact.

“Barnes (SAC) jumps towards Rozier (CHA) to contest his jump shot attempt and makes contact with his lower body that affects his jump shot attempt. Barnes would make contact with Rozier regardless of any leg extension.”

 

By the book, this should have been called an offensive foul on Rozier, who missed the shot. He knocked down all three free throws, which brought the Hornets to within two points and gave them a shot at a comeback.

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This was the crucial moment in the game. It’s a moment where the officials impacted the potential outcome of the contest, but regardless of the official’s snafu and the league’s decision to back the crew calling the game, this loss isn’t on one person with a whistle.

Not admitting the mistake is frustrating to a certain degree, but one or two officiating miscues are just salt in an open wound to the core of the Kings’ squad.

De’Aaron Fox missed two free throws at the 1:09 mark of the fourth, which would have given Sacramento a 10-point lead.

Marvin Bagley followed Fox’s lead and missed another set of free throws at the 44.8-second mark, which would have extended the Kings’ lead back to seven, or in NBA terms, three possessions.

With 10.7 seconds remaining and the Kings leading by one, Buddy Hield, a career 86.4 percent shooter from the line, hit one out of two at the line, which put the Kings up two and set up the final play for the Hornets.

On the last sequence of the game, Cory Joseph overplayed Malik Monk, allowing him to get into the paint. Richaun Holmes took one misstep trying to stay with his man and was late to rotate on the play as the help defender. Joseph gave up the tying basket and Holmes committed an inexcusable foul.

A little over a minute of basketball might have captured the Kings’ season in a nutshell. The five starters and their lone major-minute veteran off the bench all made crucial errors. None of the mistakes were intentional, but collectively they proved to be Sacramento’s undoing.

It was a perfect storm. It was Kings basketball. The officiating crew arguably made a mistake, but it wasn’t nearly as egregious as the multiple gaffes by the players representing Sacramento.