Kings

Kings takeaways: What we learned in 123-101 blowout road loss to Jazz

Kings takeaways: What we learned in 123-101 blowout road loss to Jazz

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Jazz knocked the Sacramento Kings onto their heels in the first quarter and never let up Saturday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena. 

Maybe it was an afternoon trade that sent Trevor Ariza, Wenyen Gabriel and Caleb Swanigan to Portland that distracted the Kings, or maybe they were just unprepared to match the home team’s intensity. Whatever the reason, the game was over early as the Jazz dropped the Kings by a final of 123-101

Bojan Bogdanovic, Rudy Gobert, Jordan Clarkson and Donovan Mitchell all broke the 20-point barrier and Joe Ingles picked the Kings apart with a game-high 12 assists.   

Here are three takeaways as the Kings fell a season-high 12 games under .500 at 15-27 on the season.  

Missed assignments

The Jazz are a very good offensive team, but the Kings made them look like the Houston Rockets.

It started with the two-man game featuring Mitchell and Gobert. When the Kings tried to slow the pair in the pick-and-roll, the Jazz’s shooters started launching at will.

In one of their worst defensive performances of the season, the Kings allowed the Jazz to shoot 50.6 percent from the field on their way to a 22-point blowout. 

Fouling Fox 

De’Aaron Fox loves to go up against Mitchell, a fellow 2017 draftee. The speedy guard continued his recent hot streak, finishing with 21 points on 10-of-16 shooting to go with eight assists and four rebounds. 

Unfortunately for Sacramento, their starting point guard struggled with foul trouble beginning early in the game, which limited his aggressiveness on the defensive end. 

Fox managed to play 31 minutes, but he fouled out with 3:18 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Battle of the Bogdanovics

Bogdan Bogdanovic made his return to the court after missing the previous six games and he looked rusty. The Kings’ six-man scored 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting and chipped in four rebounds and four assists.

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The Jazz’s Bojan Bogdanovic (no relation) hammered the Kings for 30 points on 10-of-15 from the field and 6-of-9 from behind the arc. Sacramento had no answer for the 30-year-old sharpshooter.

Bogdan has struggled with injuries all season long. Bojan is having a career-year after signing in Utah as a free agent. On Saturday night, the Jazz’s version was the better player. 

Kings show playoff dreams are premature with blown opportunity in OKC

Kings show playoff dreams are premature with blown opportunity in OKC

Playoffs? Are we talking about playoffs?

The Sacramento Kings haven’t given up on the notion of snapping the franchise’s 13-year postseason drought. But losses like the one against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night make the talk, well, nothing more than talk.

If you want to be a playoff team, you can’t blow 19-point third-quarter leads. You can’t turn the ball over in crucial moments, and when you get a late 3-point opportunity and no one is within 15 feet of you, you have to hit the shot.  

Sacramento had the playoff-bound Thunder on the ropes. OKC has been one of the best teams in Western Conference since November. The Kings had them in their clutches and then the Thunder dictated the final 19 minutes of the game.

That is exactly what a playoff-bound team does. They measure the will of their opponent and they adjust accordingly. 

The Kings aren’t a playoff team today, although they still have an opportunity to become one. If that is the goal and what the team is entirely focused on in the final 24 games of the season, they can’t have let-downs like they did in the final quarter and a half against the Thunder.

“Disappointing loss,” Luke Walton told media members following the team’s 112-108 defeat. “We gave a really nice effort. Give Oklahoma City some credit. They really picked up that defensive intensity. We didn't do a good enough job of keeping our composure from the third quarter on. We had our chances, but unfortunately, we couldn't find a way to close that out. Give them a lot of credit. That's a really good team over there.”

There are no more moral victories. If the Kings lost to the Thunder in a wire-to-wire tight ballgame, that’s one thing. But to have a team like this on the ropes and not give the knockout blow? 

Those moments are over. The Kings have a stack of shoulda-coulda-woulda games from the first 50 games of the season. From here on out, when they have a lead, they need to finish the game off or stop talking about that “P word” they don’t quite understand.

Yes, the Kings played without De’Aaron Fox. Yes, they played without their starting center Richaun Holmes and forward Marvin Bagley has played a total of 13 games on the season. Those are reasons why you get destroyed by 20. 

At some point, the club has to take responsibility for the fact that they are in contention for a playoff berth for the first time in over a decade and that means stepping up when the chips are down.

Bogdan Bogdanovic can’t shoot 4-of-14 from the field. He can’t miss crucial shots and he certainly can’t step out of bounds or give the ball away off the dribble in crunch time. 

Buddy Hield can’t ask why he’s getting pulled from a game after committing offensive fouls, turning the ball over in fast break opportunities and missing wide open 3-pointers that could have changed the outcome of the game. 

Nemanja Bjelica can’t start the game 6-for-6 from the field and finish with nine shot attempts and Harrison Barnes can’t wait until the fourth quarter to score 10 of his 21 points. 

It takes a team effort to win each and every night in the NBA and the Kings are still trying to find their rhythm.

If Sacramento wants to change the conversation regarding their team and their franchise, they have to take advantage of every opportunity. They can’t give up a 19-point second half lead or get into the bonus three minutes and 37 seconds into the fourth quarter, and expect to win. 

Sacramento will get another opportunity to claw within three games of the No. 8 seed on Friday night when they face a depleted Grizzlies team. The Kings aren’t out of the chase, but they have to take advantage of every game.

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One loss to the Thunder may just be a hiccup in the Kings’ push to the postseason. It could also be the reason they aren’t in the playoffs. 

No more excuses. Win the games you should, and when you have a team on the ropes, put someone on the canvas and don’t let them get back up.

Kings takeaways: What we learned in brutal 112-108 loss to Thunder

Kings takeaways: What we learned in brutal 112-108 loss to Thunder

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The win that got away.

In shocking fashion, the Sacramento Kings built a 19-point third-quarter lead on the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder. And then they gave it all back.

The Thunder hit the Kings with a 15-0 run late in the third to cut Sacramento’s lead to just one heading to the fourth. It was all OKC in the final 12 minutes as the Kings got in early foul trouble and watched the game slip away at the line.

With the 112-108 victory at Chesapeake Energy Arena, the Thunder moved to 37-22 on the season and strengthened their position as the fifth seed in the Western Conference standings.

Here are three takeaways as Kings’ three-game win streak comes to an end and they fall back to 10 games under .500 at 24-34 on the season.

The collapse

With 7:03 remaining in the third quarter, Nemanja Bjelica knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Kings a 78-59 lead. From that moment on, it was a wild barrage by the Thunder. 

Sacramento didn’t score again in the quarter until Harry Giles hit a pair of free throws with 26.6 seconds remaining. The Thunder stole the momentum and trailed just 82-81 heading to the fourth after a 22-4 run. 

The Kings’ inability to hit the simplest of shots hurt. The fact that they allowed the Thunder to drop 22 points in seven minutes was completely unacceptable.

Bjeli ache

Bjelica had a quiet game against the Warriors on Tuesday evening, scoring just one point in 27 minutes of action. That is not the player that showed up in OKC.

The Kings’ starting power forward hit his first six shots against the Thunder, including four triples. He faded a bit down the stretch for Sacramento, but he still finished with 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting to go with nine rebounds.

Bjelica is one of the unheralded saviors for the Kings this season. With Marvin Bagley playing just 13 games, Bjelica has held down the fort and provided the Kings with an elite shooter at the four. 

Bigs go big

Giles and Alex Len came to play against NBA strong man, Steven Adams. 

Giles got it going early, scoring 15 points in the first half. Foul trouble took him out of the game for much of the second half, but he was effective in his 24 minutes of action, scoring 19 points to go with eight rebounds in the loss.

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Len went to work as well. In his third game with the Kings, he managed to score 11 points and grab 11 rebounds in 21 minutes of action for his first double-double with the Kings. 

With no return date set for starting center Richaun Holmes, this pair is providing a spark for Sacramento.