Kings Under Review: Struggles closing out games continue in loss to Pelicans

Kings Under Review: Struggles closing out games continue in loss to Pelicans

NEW ORLEANS -- The Sacramento Kings would love to finish the season strong, but they've run into a few issues. They're struggling to close out games and against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Kings were completely pushed around in the paint.

Despite playing without Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and E'Twaun Moore, the Pelicans led for much of the night. When the game was on the line, it was a ragtag group of fill-ins that made the difference for New Orleans.

The 121-118 loss dropped the Kings back below the .500 mark at 37-38. While it could have been a cleaner performance, there are some positives from the defeat.


Dominated Down Low

Julius Randle, Jahlil Okafor and Christian Wood attacked the Kings on the low block and the Kings struggled to make an adjustment.

Randle crushed the Kings for a game-high 34 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Okafor bullied his way to 12 points and nine rebounds in just 25 minutes and Wood, who was claimed off waivers March 20, dropped in 25 points on 11-of-16 shooting to go with nine rebounds.

The Kings were outscored 74-64 in the paint. They knew what was coming on almost every possession and they still couldn't stop it from happening.

The focus of the offseason has to be shoring up the interior defense. Either through scheme or a swap in personnel, the Kings have to get better inside.



At one point this season, the Kings were known for their late-game heroics and the ability to hit the big shot. That no is longer the case.

Since the All-Star break, the Kings have lost eight games by six points or less and four by three or less. That is the difference between being in the postseason hunt and standing on the outside looking in.

“We’ve got to finish, man, we’ve got to finish games,” Buddy Hield said following the game. “That’s our biggest downfall right now, not finishing games. It sucks, but that’s what’s killing us.”

This is a young team and that is showing down the stretch. Winning at the NBA level usually comes in stages. The Kings skipped a few of those stages this season, but that might be catching up to them now.


Guard Play

Make no mistake, this team is built around De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic. The trio were very good against New Orleans.

Fox was dynamic and is finishing the season strong. He dropped in 25 points on 11-for-22 shooting, but that was only the beginning. He posted a 12-to-2 assist-to-turnover ratio, grabbed five rebounds, picked up two steals and blocked a shot.

Hield struggled with his 3-point shot, knocking down 1-of-8 from long range. But he still managed to score 27 points on 11-of-21 shooting.

Bogdanovic didn't get the same run as the starters, but he still managed to finish the evening with 14 points on 6-for-10 shooting in just 18 minutes. He's quietly strung three very nice games together off the bench for the Kings.


Not so Magic

The playoff talk died down a little over a week ago, but the Kings have yet to face the reality of their official elimination.

Sacramento's magic number to be eliminated from the playoffs is now one.

[RELATED: Dave Joerger believes Marvin Bagley is Rookie of the Year]

A win over the Nuggets on Friday evening for the Thunder would end the Kings' chance of catching OKC. A loss to Rockets on Saturday evening seals Sacramento's fate completely.

If somehow neither of these events happen, the Kings face the Spurs on Sunday evening. If Sacramento loses, they are officially eliminated. If they somehow sweep the Rockets/Spurs back-to-back, they would still have to win the final five games and have either San Antonio or OKC lose out.

NBA rumors: Kings will go after Tobias Harris once free agency starts

NBA rumors: Kings will go after Tobias Harris once free agency starts

The Sacramento Kings are one of the up-and-coming teams in the NBA and they have money to spend to try to improve their squad.

One of the players they could target is power forward Tobias Harris.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Tuesday that the Kings are among five teams that could pursue Harris once he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

The Dallas Mavericks, Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz and Brooklyn Nets are the other four teams that would have interest, according to the report.

The Inquirer reports that the biggest contract the Kings and any other team can offer Harris is $141 million over four years, while the incumbent Philadelphia 76ers can top that with a five-year, $188 million contract offer.

According to, the Kings enter the offseason with $35.8 million in practical cap space.

Harris, who averaged a career-high 20.0 points per game this season with the Los Angeles Clippers and 76ers, would be an interesting fit with the Kings. Harrison Barnes has a player option worth more than $25 million, and the expectation is that he will exercise it. Marvin Bagley III, who was named to the All-Rookie First Team, should be the starter at power forward next season, so Harris' addition could complicate things. But at 6-foot-11, Bagley could potentially slide over to center, giving the Kings a smaller, but more dynamic lineup option.

[RELATED: Kings start search for second-round steals]

It will be interesting to see what the Kings do this offseason. After a 39-43 season, expectations in Sacramento are high, and their odds of winning an NBA title are increasing.

Spend your money wisely, Vlade Divac.

Kings forward Marvin Bagley selected to NBA All-Rookie first team

Kings forward Marvin Bagley selected to NBA All-Rookie first team

Marvin Bagley III capped off his successful first season in the NBA with a rookie's highest honor: NBA All-Rookie first team.

Bagley joined Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, Hawks guard Trae Young, Suns center Deandre Ayton and Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr. on the first-team squad. Those five players also happen to be the first five players selected in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Bagley averaged 14.9 points and 7.6 rebounds in his first season in Sacramento after being selected with the No. 2 overall pick. Bagley appeared in 62 games (4 starts) and came on strong during the end of the season, averaging 18.5 points per game after the All-Star break while putting up only 13.3 points before the break.

[RELATED: Kings start search for second-round draft steals, work out six]

The Duke product fit in seamlessly next to point guard De'Aaron Fox, as the Kings hope Bagley and Fox form a dynamic duo for years to come.