SACRAMENTO -- The Kings' shooting over the last two games has only had two temperature levels. They get blistering hot, and can overcome just about any deficit. But, they also go ice cold at the most inopportune times, as was the case in Tuesday's 113-108 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Riding the hot hand of sixth man Bogdan Bogdanovic and the high energy of rookie big Harry Giles, the Kings erased a 14-point halftime deficit late in the third and early in the fourth quarter. They pushed their lead over the Portland to nine points with just 3:10 remaining, and then ... nothing.
In front of a sold-out Golden 1 Center crowd, the Kings allowed the Blazers to finish on a 11-2 run to force overtime. And then Portland’s experience won out.
“We’ve just got to execute at the end of the game,” point guard De’Aaron Fox said. “We had shots, we had makeable shots and we just didn’t make them.”
Sacramento missed its final six attempts of the fourth quarter, including Fox's 21-footer at the buzzer for the win. The cold streak continued in overtime, where the Kings missed the first eight shots of the five-minute session for a streak of 14 bricks.
“We didn’t close out how we’re supposed to,” guard Buddy Hield said. “Another game where we had the lead and we didn’t close out. Growing pains, man, that’s all it is. We’ve just got to get better.”
Style of play is one reason the Kings are prone to such fluctuations in scoring. They run up and down the court at a frenetic pace, and sometimes that leads to questionable shots and untimely turnovers.
“We do what we do best, we push the pace, we’re going to have fun, we run and gun,” Hield said. “When it comes down to the last possession of the game, we’ve got to figure out how to put the ball in the basket. No ifs, ands or buts about that. We’ve got to make shots when we’re supposed to. That’s just the game.”
At the end of the day, games like this are about execution and hitting open looks. Unlike Sunday's loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, where the Kings continued to launch from long range and come up empty, Sacramento took eight shots within 10 feet of the basket late in the fourth and in overtime.
The Kings didn’t settle, but they also played into the Blazers' hands. Jusuf Nurkic played goalie around the rim, blocking two shots in the fourth. Al-Farouq Aminu had a pair of blocks in the fourth quarter and overtime. Ultimately, Moe Harkless’s swat with 25.5 seconds remaining in regulation gave Portland the opportunity needed to tie the game late.
“Another game we lost and another game we had in our hands and we missed the game-winning shot,” Bogdanovic said. “It is what it is, it’s the NBA - from winning three games in a row to now we lost two in a row, that’s the NBA.”
With the loss, the Kings dropped to 19-18 on the season, and are left once again with the feeling that they let one slip away.
“We missed shots, they made shots and we didn’t close out, so hats off to them,” Hield added.
The Kings return to the court Thursday evening, where they’ll host a Denver Nuggets team that has won three straight and sits atop the Western Conference.