Playing to the level of their competition has been an issue for the Sacramento Kings all season long. The issue reared its ugly head in the team’s loss to the New York Knicks on Friday and once again on Tuesday when the team traveled to Charlotte to face the Hornets.
After a competitive three quarters, the Kings came out flat to start the fourth quarter and Charlotte made them pay.
Malik Monk came off the bench and pounded the Kings for 23 points. Cody Zeller played well in the post and Devonte’ Graham got hot late to propel the Hornets to a 110-102 victory.
Here are three takeaways as the Kings struggled down the stretch and fell to 12-15 on the season.
Fantastic Mr. Fox
After a 17-game layoff, De’Aaron Fox returned to game action Tuesday and instantly resumed his role as the head of the snake.
The 21-year-old entered the game with seven minutes remaining in the first quarter and immediately started setting up his teammates. On the offensive end, he didn’t miss a beat.
He started rolling in the second quarter, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers. When Fox entered the game in the third, he started attacking the rim and the Hornets had no answer.
In his first game in five weeks, Fox finished with 19 points, eight assists and two steals. He was a step slow on the defensive end, but he played 29 minutes and looked very good for Sacramento.
Trouble with the triple
The Kings should be one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the NBA. They shoot a ton of long balls, but they are just 13th in the NBA in 3-point accuracy at 35.9 percent.
Sacramento wasn't shy against Charlotte, hoisting 40 attempts from beyond the arc. The Kings hit just 14, including three late ones from Buddy Hield when the outcome had already been decided.
Harrison Barnes shot just 1-of-6 from deep and Nemanja Bjelica converted only two of his eight attempts. If you’re going to shoot that many 3-pointers, you have to knock down a better percentage.
Marvin Bagley walked into the league with the ability to score 20 points per game. His athleticism is elite and so is his offensive skill set.
In his first four games back from a broken right thumb, the 20-year-old big has put up numbers, like the 14 points and seven rebounds he dropped on Charlotte. But on the defensive end, he has a long way to go.
The second-year big has been slow to rotate and he’s almost non-existent as a help defender. After a rough first half against the Hornets, Bagley made a few adjustments in the third quarter and looked better, but he remains a work in progress.
It doesn’t help that Bagley is taking Richaun Holmes’ -- the team's best interior defender -- spot on the floor. Continuing an early-season trend, Bagley was a minus-19 over 22 minutes on Tuesday.