SACRAMENTO -- Three games in four nights is the new norm in the abbreviated 2020-21 NBA season. That doesn’t make it any easier.
After knocking off the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers in back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday, the Kings gave a spirited effort Tuesday night against one of the best the Eastern Conference has to offer in the Philadelphia 76ers.
Sacramento lost to Philadelphia 119-111 after holding a four-point lead headed into the fourth quarter, but the Kings' heavy legs were readily apparent in the final 12 minutes.
“We looked tired to me,” coach Luke Walton said in a postgame video conference. “We’re trying to get these guys as much rest as we can.”
Walton said that at one point during the game, he leaned over to his coaches to ask how many timeouts he had remaining. He could see the fatigue setting in and wanted to buy as long of a break as he could.
After shooting the lights out in the first half, including an impressive 11-of-20 from 3-point range, the Kings struggled in the third quarter.
They missed their first eight 3-point attempts in the quarter and finished the second half with just three makes from long range in 22 attempts.
“Yeah, it sucked,” rookie Tyrese Haliburton said about the shooting woes. “But you know, what can you do? Sometimes that’s how the ball goes. We competed with the best team in the Eastern Conference. They’re really hot right now -- playing really well.”
In addition to the issue with 3-pointers coming up short, the Kings were also dominated on the glass. The 76ers are big and one of the league's best rebounding teams, but the Kings shouldn’t ever give up a 59-39 rebound advantage.
“Their point guard is the size of our center, right, so this is a big team,” Walton explained. “And then they have someone in Joel Embiid who demands double-teams, which makes it harder to rebound now you’re in rotations.”
Twelve of Philly's 59 rebounds were on the offensive glass, and the Sixers outscored the Kings 15-2 on second-chance points. Embiid, a three-time All-Star and current MVP candidate, was dominant on the boards, finishing with a game-high 17 rebounds.
“They’re big and they’re aggressive and they rebound the ball really well,” Haliburton added. “I thought we competed really well. We didn’t lay down or anything.”
The Kings were outscored 32-20 in the fourth and shot just 29.6 percent in the period as the 76ers tightened up their defense. The ball got sticky, wide-open shots climbed out and frustrations took over as the Kings’ four-game ended.
While it’s a disappointing loss, the Kings are playing some of their best basketball of the season. They’ve won seven of their last nine games, improving to 12-12 after a dreadful start.
All three teams the Kings faced over the last four days are perennial playoff contenders. The Nuggets made it all the way to the Western Conference finals last season, while the Sixers and Clippers have title aspirations. To come out of the stretch 2-1 is a feat for any team, but it’s tremendous for the Kings as they keep rolling.
The team gets a two-day break to catch their breath and prepare for the Orlando Magic on Friday. It’s likely they’ll spend most of the next two days having maintenance time with the hopes of recovering in time for another busy weekend of play.