Each and every loss is more frustrating than the last. Frustrating, because these are games the Kings should be winning.
Tuesday night Sacramento fell 119-113 to the Utah Jazz after squandering yet another opportunity to close out a game against one of the premier teams in the West.
Trailing 90-87 at the start of the fourth, Sacramento hung around throughout most of the final quarter, even taking a 102-101 lead with five minutes remaining in the game.
“A lot of these games are going to come down to these last five minutes," Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton said after the loss. "We knew it the whole night that tonight was going to come down to the last five minutes. Down the stretch they made plays and we didn’t. It’s as simple as that.
“If we want to go on to be successful and go on to do things that we want to do, we’re going to have to be able to finish games. Right now we’re figuring that out. Obviously, we haven’t figured it out yet, but in due time.”
What went wrong in the final five minutes? The Jazz hit big shots, as winning teams often do, but it was the 50/50 balls that Utah came down with that proved to be the difference down the stretch.
“It came down to the wire and they played harder than us, they made plays, they got 50/50 balls, they hit big shots," rookie guard Davion Mitchell told reporters after the game. "Hats off to that team. We just have to do a better job of rebounding.”
Coach Luke Walton appreciated how hard his team fought Tuesday night, even though Utah came away with the key rebounds.
“Sometimes it’s luck, but most of the time it's (whoever is) first to the floor," Walton told reporters. "The team that is playing harder, willing to get dirtier -- I wouldn’t say they were playing harder, we were playing hard -- but those 50/50 balls go to those teams that are willing to get to the floor and get dirty and sacrifice their body.”
Another factor that played a role in the Kings' loss was the continued shooting struggles for point guard De'Aaron Fox.
Scoring just 13 points on 4-of-15 (26.7 percent) from the field and 0-for-4 from 3-point range, Fox's shooting struggles have played a role in each of Sacramento's losses this season.
His teammates, though, aren't worried at all.
“He’s fine," Haliburton said. "He’s missing some shots, but that’s part of it, we all go through these little slumps. It happens to everybody. I think it’s being made a bigger deal than it is, I’m not concerned by it by any means. Just a slump right now, but we’re his teammates and we’re going to help him get out of it. We came here and he didn’t play very well and we still almost beat one of the best teams in the (Western Conference). It’s blown out of proportion in my eyes.”
All four of the Kings' losses have been frustrating. Each one was the result of a failure to close out games, but Walton and the Kings have maintained a positive perspective despite the obvious frustrations.
“I want to be very clear, as frustrated as I am right now, it has nothing to do with how hard the team is playing and how together the team is playing," Walton told reporters. "It has everything to do with the attention to detail. When you’re playing as hard as they’re playing, you should win games. When you don’t give yourself the best chance, you feel for the group. As a coach from the outside, you can see it as the game is going.
“They’re doing an incredible job playing the roles we need them to play, they’re doing an incredible job of playing together and they’re playing incredibly hard every single night. That’s a really good foundation, we just have to clean up things along the way.”
The Kings will begin a four-game homestand starting Wednesday night against the New Orleans Pelicans at 7 p.m. (Pacific) on NBC Sports California.