The 2019-20 season isn’t over for the Sacramento Kings, but it hasn’t gone how anyone expected. Missteps in free agency, injuries, close losses and Last Two Minute reports have led to a 21-33 record for a team that came into the campaign with high hopes.
Before the Kings headed in different directions for the All-Star break, they had one last game to play. If the final score is any indication, the Kings might have missed the memo.
“Not how we wanted to go into the break,” head coach Luke Walton told reporters following the 130-111 loss at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks. “It’s going to make it tough to enjoy ourselves, but give them credit. They played well.”
Luka Doncic barely missed a triple-double, finishing the night with 33 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. Kristaps Porzingis dropped in a 27-point, 13-rebound double-double as Dallas' two stars took turns pounding on the Kings.
“For some reason, we didn’t feel the need to try to play much defense tonight,” Walton added. “We had a handful of guys that did. We couldn’t stop their top guys, and when we did it just didn’t feel like we had the passion and desire that it takes to win – especially on the road in this league. So that’s a good team and a frustrating loss – well, the loss we can live with, [but] the effort is frustrating.”
The defensive effort was one of the worst of the season for Sacramento. They allowed Dallas to shoot 56.5 percent from the field, including 17-of-40 from long range. The game tape won’t be pretty when the team sits down and dissects the action.
“I think we are just giving up dribble penetration too much, guys are getting to the lane and being able to shoot a layup or spread it out for an open three,” De’Aaron Fox told media members. “Obviously, that is something that we would have to address team-wise after the break.”
It’s called a getaway game for a reason. Buddy Hield is off to Chicago to compete in the 3-point shootout at All-Star weekend. The rest of the group will scatter around the globe for some much-needed rest and relaxation before returning for the final 28 games of the season.
The All-Star break is an important respite for the players. For a team like the Kings, who have struggled with consistency all season long, it’s a moment to get a mental and physical break from the game.
“I have needed a few days for a while, but I feel like we have been playing good basketball as of late,” Fox said. “We have dropped the last two but before that, I think that we were playing pretty good basketball – so to each their own as to that.”
Sacramento won’t return to the court until Feb. 20 when they’ll host Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies at Golden 1 Center. Following that game, they’ll hit the road for four games beginning Feb. 22 against Clippers at Staples Center.
The Kings are in no position to have a letdown game where they don’t really compete like the one they just had in Dallas. They walk into the break seven games behind the eighth-place Grizzlies in the standings.
If they have any hope of turning the season around they have to come out of the break with fresh legs and a new mindset.