In one of the biggest games in the last decade and half of Sacramento Kings basketball, the starting backcourt showed up in force. The rest of the team? Not so much.
The sprint to the finish line just got a whole harder when the Kings fell by a final of 129-120 to the San Antonio Spurs in their opening game of the restart.
De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic carried the team with a combined 63 points, but the Kings failed to close out on perimeter shooters, didn’t box out on the glass and when the game was on the line, the Spurs were the team that executed.
The Kings have been waiting for that moment when Fox transformed himself from a very good young player to a star. We might have just seen the turn.
“De’Aaron had a pretty special game and we’re going to need it out of him again when we play in two days,” coach Luke Walton said.
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Fox absolutely torched the Spurs for a career-high 39 points on 17-of-33 shooting. He got to the rim anytime he wanted to and without his production, it would have been a blowout loss.
“He makes the game a lot easier for us, shooters especially, but we’ve got to be able to help him,” Bogdanovic said. “That was a good game. I’m sure he’s not happy about it.”
Fox’s ability to draw and kick left Bogdanovic open from the perimeter. The Kings’ starting shooting guard knocked down 6-of-11 from long range to finish with 24 points, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
Despite the strong performance, both Fox and Bogdanovic were clearly frustrated in their post game media sessions.
“It’s just tough to swallow because we feel like we had a chance to win,” Fox said following the loss. “But at the end of the day, the starting group can’t start like that, having to fight back. And that fourth quarter, they just executed down the stretch better than we did.”
Fox has every right to be frustrated. He had the game of his life, but he also spent a lot of energy digging his team out of holes. When the game was on the line, he may not have had enough gas in the tank to finish the way he wanted to.
In a stunning performance to open the Kings’ restart schedule. Sacramento was confident coming into Game 1, especially against a team like the Spurs, who were missing an All-Star in LaMarcus Aldridge.
The Kings have an extremely difficult schedule in front of them. The Spurs have made the playoffs in 22 consecutive seasons, but they are having a down year. This was an opportunity for the Kings to keep pace with the Trail Blazers for ninth place and even pick up a game on the eighth place Grizzlies.
But the Spurs are still coached by NBA legend Gregg Popovich. They still have veterans DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay. They are always prepared and against Sacramento, they were the more physical team and aggressive team.
“I think they wanted it more,” Fox said following the game. “They got after loose balls more than we did tonight. That helped them. That kept them in the game in the time being and then at the end they were able to execute better than us.”
It’s back to the drawing board for the Kings. They have Saturday to make adjustments, but then it’s right back to the schedule on Sunday when they’ll play the Orlando Magic.
Games come fast and furious as the Kings play eight games in a total of 15 nights.
During the three-game scrimmage schedule, Sacramento was slow to close out on perimeter shooters. That was the case again on Friday.
San Antonio shot only 25 3-pointers, but most of them were uncontested and 11 of the attempts went through the net.
“Tonight, it wasn’t good enough from the things we could control, and then you’ve got to give San Antonio credit, their guys stepped up and knocked down shots when they had a chance,” Walton said.
Overall, the Spurs shot 53.3 percent from the field. They moved the ball well, finishing with 32 assists on 48 made baskets.
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The disappearance of Buddy Hield
Hield is always streaky, but seldom does he have a game like he did on Friday. The Kings’ second leading scorer on the season is one of the better 3-point shooters in the NBA. Against the Spurs, he shot just 1-of-8 from behind the arc and 2-for-13 overall.
If the Kings have a shot to bounce back, they need more than six points and three turnovers from one of their better players.