With elimination staring them in the face, the Sacramento Kings wilted once again Sunday night in the Orlando bubble.
The Kings were the aggressor early, but once the Rockets started hitting their perimeter shots, it was lights out.
Led by a career night from Austin Rivers and a typical big game from James Harden, Houston pulled away in the second half to come away with the 129-112 victory.
Here are three takeaways as the Kings couldn’t keep up once again and fall to 1-5 in the Orlando bubble.
Fox finishing strong
Regardless of the final score or the disappointing 14th straight season without an NBA playoff appearance, De’Aaron Fox has been impressive in the bubble.
The third-year guard came into the night averaging 26.2 points and seven assists in the five games in Orlando. Against the Rockets, he managed to lead the Kings with 26 points and nine assists, although it came in another loss.
If the Kings are going to turn the franchise around, their hopes depend on this type of play from Fox for a full 82 games. He has the talent, now he just needs to find consistency.
DaQuan earns a spot
Outside of Fox and maybe the play of Bogdan Bogdanovic, the Kings have looked off. With starters and rotational players underperforming all over the court, rookie two-way player DaQuan Jeffries has taken advantage of the opportunity and likely earned a roster spot for next season.
Built like the Rockets’ P.J. Tucker, the 6-foot-5 Jeffries plays hard every time he steps on the floor and he plays with a force that the Kings desperately need.
With the Kings short-handed, Jeffries played 30 minutes off the bench and finished with a career-high 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting. The rookie out of Tulsa is a restricted free agent heading into the summer and he’s earned a chance to make the opening day roster next season.
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Ben McLemore spent two tours of duty with the Kings and was almost out of the league before finding a home as a perimeter shooter for Houston.
Taken by Sacramento with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, McLemore showed his former squad what they were missing. The 27-year-old wing hit 6-for-14 from 3-point range on his way to 20 points as a starter for Houston.
Sometimes a player finds the right fit at the right time in their career. It’s good to see McLemore find success after a rocky couple of years both on and off the court.