Kings come to halt after halftime, miss opportunity in Indiana

Kings come to halt after halftime, miss opportunity in Indiana

Another missed opportunity. The Sacramento Kings are playing a better brand of basketball of late, but Friday evening’s overtime loss to the Indiana Pacers stings. To open a four games in five nights stretch, the Kings blew a 16-point lead to a relentless Pacers team and lost by a final of 115-111.

Sacramento couldn’t miss in the first half, knocking down 11-of-16 from long range to take a 64-55 lead into the intermission. The ball was moving freely, everyone was involved and if not for the Pacers turning the ball over just three times in the first half, the Kings' lead could have been much greater. 

Pacers head coach Nate McMillan made adjustments at the break. His team came out physical, like they did a week earlier when these two teams met. Initially the Kings responded well, pushing their lead to 16 points, but then the game started to slow down.

“When they started being a little bit more aggressive, getting to the basket, we turned the ball over a couple of times,” point guard Ty Lawson told reporters following the game. “I thought we as a team got tight. Instead of attacking like we normally were, we started being a little apprehensive.”

Sacramento had just eight field goal attempts in the third quarter as the game slowed to a crawl. They went 15-of-19 from the line in the quarter, but their offensive rhythm was clearly disrupted. 

“The second half was the tale for us in our undoing,” coach Dave Joerger said in post game. “We shot 37.5 percent in the second half, we just couldn’t score.”

That carried over to the fourth quarter where the Kings continued to control the game until the midway point of the period. 

“We had them on their heels pretty much the whole game besides the last five minutes of the fourth,” Darren Collison said to media members after the game.

The Pacers were the aggressors late. They chipped away at the Kings' 11-point fourth quarter lead, but Sacramento still had control of the game.

At the 3:39 mark of the quarter with the Kings leading 100-95, Jeff Teague missed a floater in the lane. DeMarcus Cousins went high for the rebound and bought it down, but veteran forward Matt Barnes lowered his shoulder into Myles Turner who was crashing the glass and after a review, he was called for a Flagrant 1.

Instead of being up five with the ball, Turner hit one-of-two at the line and the Pacers retained possession. Turner hit a 19-foot jumper to cut the Kings lead to two and set up a wild final three minutes. 

“It’s not just that one play by Matt, it’s every play in all. I can take credit for some of the plays I made down the stretch,” Collison said. “Whether it’s Cuz or GT (Garrett Temple), everybody makes some plays that we wish we could take back. In a game like that, there’s no excuses.”

Sacramento almost won the game in the final 0.6 seconds of the fourth when Barnes threw an alley-oop pass to Cousins on a back cut. Cousins got his hands on the ball, but it rolled off the iron to send the game to overtime.

The Kings shot just 3-of-9 in the extra session, but they had an opportunity to tie the game late on a Collison layup. Initially it looked like the veteran point guard was blocked, but replay footage showed that the ball caught the underside of the basket and rolled out of bounds off the Kings. 

“I thought it was either going to be a foul or they tipped the ball,” Collison said. “But they obviously saw the review and they saw it the way they saw it.”

That sequence sealed the deal. It was one of the few miscues for Collison who finished the night with 26 points, five assists and three steals. 

It’s a disappointing outcome for the Kings, who came into the game with a modest two-game win streak. Following the contest, the team boarded a flight for Charlotte where they will face a Hornets team Saturday that lost 110-107 on the road to the Knicks Friday night.

The Kings have Sunday open before finishing off their brutal eight-game road trip with their third set of back-to-backs Monday in Philly and Tuesday in Houston. 

Kings Under Review: De'Aaron Fox leads comeback over dysfunctional Bulls

Kings Under Review: De'Aaron Fox leads comeback over dysfunctional Bulls

The Kings did exactly what they needed to do on their road trip against primarily cellar-dwelling teams - win three out of four and return home over .500 on the season. But for 24 minutes, it looked like Sacramento might not be so lucky.

The dysfunctional Chicago Bulls (6-22) gave the Kings all they could handle early, but the visiting squad came out with a different mindset in the third quarter. With a dominant performance in the second half, the Kings pulled away for a 108-89 victory.

Sacramento currently stands at 14-12 on the season with the win. Here are a few positives and negative from the game:


First half blues

Buddy Hield and De'Aaron Fox struggled in the first half. Fox missed all five of his shot attempts and posted just two assists before the break. Hield hit a late 3-pointer to get on the board after missing his first five attempts.

The Kings won't normally be able to afford either of their top two scorers to have an off night, let alone both of them. The Bulls led by as many as 14 in the second quarter and took an 11 point lead into the intermission. But then they let Sacramento off the hook.

A better team could have put the Kings away early while Fox and Hield were adjusting their energy levels. 


Fox steals the show

After looking out of sorts early, Fox broke out in the third quarter. It started on the defensive end with a pair of steals, but once the 20-year-old got going on the offensive end, the Bulls had no answer.

Fox dropped 16 points in the period, hitting 3-of-4 from behind the arc and single handedly changing the entire pace and tempo of the game.

When Fox is hitting from the perimeter, he's tough to stop. When he's playing elite defense, he's impossible.


Bagley vs. Carter

The battle of the rookie bigs was fun to watch. Marvin Bagley (#2 pick) and Wendell Carter Jr. (#7 pick) teamed up last season at Duke and faced off on Monday for the first time in their young NBA careers.

Bagley scored 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting, showing his high-end potential as an offensive weapon. Carter dropped in eight points and eight rebounds, while his team lost by 19.

Although Bagley came away with the stat line and the win, he also posted a second straight sub-par rebounding night, which is why he makes both the positive and the negative list.

Since returning from a back injury three games ago, Bagley has grabbed a total of five rebounds. That's a concern.


Impacting the game

Willie Cauley-Stein isn't consistently scoring or consistently rebounding, but he is consistently producing for the Kings.

Against the Bulls, he hit the glass for a season-high 16 rebounds to go with 11 points, three assists and three steals.

The double-double was the ninth of the season for the Kings' starting center. He had a total of 12 double-doubles in 73 games played last season.

Cauley-Stein isn't perfect, but he's seems to be figuring out what his team needs on a nightly basis. He's active on both ends of the court and he's making an impact.

Willie Cauley-Stein sees Kings culture change: 'It's a brotherhood'

Willie Cauley-Stein sees Kings culture change: 'It's a brotherhood'

You can see it when you watch these Sacramento Kings. They play with joy and energy. They play for the one common goal of winning games, not for one individual player's stats.

Fourth-year center Willie Cauley-Stein has been there for some bad moments, and now he's seeing something completely different.

"We're a ballclub now. We're linked. We're together," Cauley-Stein said Monday, according to The Sacramento Bee. "Regular teams be on some regular s***, but we ain't regulars. We're a club. It's a brotherhood."

The Kings just wrapped up a 3-1 road trip with a 108-89 win over the dysfunctional Bulls. Sacramento has a 14-12 record and sits half a game behind the Dallas Mavericks for the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff picture.

The next step for this "brotherhood" is to keep this strong play going and make a push for a playoff spot.