“I get no respect,” Rodney Dangerfield famously said.
The Kings walked into Saturday’s back-to-back in Miami riding a three-game win streak. They walked out with a 105-104 loss and a feeling that the late great Dangerfield knew all too well.
In a back-and-forth game, the Kings shot just 5-of-11 from the free throw line. They certainly could have hit more than five, but let's get back to those 11 attempts.
The Heat’s Jimmy Butler hit 14-of-16 from the stripe on his own. Overall, the Heat outshot the Kings 26-11 at the line ... in a one point game.
“One player on their team made more free throws than our whole team shot,” coach Luke Walton said. “It’s going to be hard to win when that’s happening. We stayed in attack mode, that’s all we can do.”
The Kings aren’t asking for favors. But clearly the whistles from the officiating crew of Tony Brothers, Brent Barnaky and Robert Hussey appeared unbalanced.
“If I go to the rim and there can be contact and not be a foul, then I feel like if they go to the rim and there is contact, then there shouldn’t be a foul,” De’Aaron Fox explained after the loss.
Both the Kings and Heat scored an identical 42 points in the paint. Sacramento shot 21-of-34 in the key and Miami shot 21-for-35. It was a physical game, especially at the rim, but one team struggled to get calls and the other did not.
“If it was consistently a no-call or a foul, then I would be fine with it,” Fox said. “But I don’t think the whistle was consistent on both ends, so that’s where the frustration comes from, at least on my end. I don’t want to speak for anybody else.”
The Kings came into the night fourth in the league in free throw attempts at 25.5 per game. That’s a tremendous improvement over the 20.3 attempts they averaged last season.
This is who the team wants to be. They aggressively try to get in the paint against their opponents and either make a shot, draw a foul or find an open shooter on the perimeter.
“Everyone who watched the game saw it,” Luke Walton said. “You live in the paint. We’re fourth in the league in free throw attempts. We do it every night. It’s part of our DNA, it’s part of our make up.”
By comparison, the Heat rank 20th in the NBA in free throw attempts at 21.2 per game, although they’ve been without Butler for part of the season.
Fox is frustrated. He said that the Kings have sent in footage of him being fouled to the league multiple times this season. During games he has discussions with the officials, who often tell him they had an obstructed view of the play. When he watches the tape back, that is not at all what he’s found.
During the first half, Fox picked up a technical foul for voicing his frustration. Moments later he nearly picked up a second technical when he rolled the ball out of bounds after another questionable call. Walton could be seen on the sidelines verbally sparring with the officials trying to deflect some of the attention away from Fox.
Fox missed 5-of-8 at the line, which should also be considered. Any one of those misses goes in and the Kings are potentially looking at a different outcome. The Kings’ starting point guard came into the night shooting just 69.2 percent from the stripe, which is holding him back as a scorer.
“I know I’m going to get fouled, I know I’m going to have to get there,” Fox said. “I’m not saying I’m uncomfortable being there, I just have to be able to make them.”
Fox has to get better at the line, but he also needs to continue to put pressure on the officials. The disparity in free throws is likely the difference between the Kings sitting at 9-10 heading into the final game of their road trip against the Pelicans and them sitting at 8-11.
It might not seem like a huge difference, but every game matters, especially in a compacted 72 game schedule with games being postponed almost daily due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This game mattered and the Kings will now wait anxiously for the league Last Two Minute report tomorrow that should show at least a couple of gaffs in favor of the Heat. There’s nothing like salt in an open wound, especially when there is zero recourse.