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What we learned as Kings end first half with another loss

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USATSI

Two teams playing on the second night of a back-to-back. Two teams looking at the All-Star break and wishing it came a day earlier.

The Sacramento Kings and Portland Trail Blazers looked like two heavyweight fighters holding on for dear life Thursday night at the Moda Center. In the end, the home team had just a little bit extra in the tank and came away with the 123-119 victory.

Damian Lillard torched the Kings for 44 points on 13-for-26 shooting. Big man Enes Kanter chipped in a big-time 22-point, 21-rebound double-double and Carmelo Anthony added 16 points for Portland in the win. 

The Kings received solid contributions from every player who stepped on the floor, including a tremendous night from De’Aaron Fox.

Here are three takeaways as the Kings fall in a tough one to finish the first half 14-22. 

Short bench

With the season on the brink and potentially coaching for his job, Luke Walton has gone to a seven-man rotation to finish out the first half. His players are running on fumes, but with a week off starting on Friday, it’s time to put up or shut up.

After playing massive minutes in Sacramento on Wednesday night, the core of the Kings showed grit and a whole lot of heart Thursday in Portland. 

Not to discredit the combined 13 minutes DaQuan Jeffries has played over the last two games, but Walton asked a lot of his main guys and while they split the two games, they played well on a very difficult back-to-back. All seven players finished with double-figure scoring and despite tired legs, they turned the ball over just seven times as a team.

 

Finish strong

Fox is the straw that stirs the drink. Like the rest of the Kings’ roster, he’s struggling to get to the break with his body intact. In the fourth quarter, he found that little bit extra.

After a lively first 12 minutes that saw the Kings’ leading scorer drop 10 points, he had a quiet second and third quarter. He was clearly saving something for the finish. 

Fox went off late, dropping 18 points in the fourth to finish the night with 32 points on 12-for-25 shooting. In addition, he notched his 10th double-double in the season when he dished out 12 assists. 

In the Bag

Marvin Bagley finished the first half of the season on a high note. The third-year big was active, attacked the glass and even made a few nice passes.

This is the player the Kings thought they were drafting when they selected Bagley with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. He has a long way to go to reach his lofty potential, but he’s starting to string some really nice games together and he’s managed to stay healthy.

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Bagley finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and four assists for the game. He finished the first half the right way and is primed to have a big second half.