Buddy Hield

Twelve losses that Kings regret most in chase for elusive playoff berth

Twelve losses that Kings regret most in chase for elusive playoff berth

SACRAMENTO -- Shoulda, coulda, woulda. While the Sacramento Kings have taken leaps and bounds forward this season, they are on the outside looking in on the postseason picture for a 13th straight season.

With 12 games remaining, the Kings trail the Clippers and Jazz by seven games in the standings for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoffs. Sacramento isn’t where they want to be and there are a grouping of games they let slip through their fingers that they wish they had back.

Here is a look at the 12 toughest losses of the season for the Kings. A bounce here and there and any one of these could have gone a different direction. Even a split of these games would have this team in the hunt for a postseason berth.

Kings vs. Warriors - Nov. 24 - Oracle Arena  

The NFL is known as a game of inches, but that’s often the case in the NBA as well. The Kings came into their first matchup of the season with the reigning Champs at a surprising 10-8. They gave Golden State all they could handle for a full 48 minutes.

After a Willie Cauley-Stein block, Klay Thompson secured his own rebound and scored the go-ahead basket with five seconds remaining in the game. On the ensuing possession, Buddy Hield missed an 8-footer for the win, but rookie Marvin Bagley flew in for the board. With only a few ticks on the clock, Bagley wedged the ball between the rim and the backboard and the Kings failed to get another shot off, dropping the game by a final 117-116.

Kings vs. Warriors - Dec. 14 - Golden 1 Center

In another epic battle with the Champs, the Kings took a one-point lead on a jumper from De’Aaron Fox with 46 seconds remaining. After a 5-0 run from the Warriors, Hield missed a 25-footer with five seconds remaining that would have tied the game.

Sacramento fouled Stephen Curry with two seconds remaining to give Golden State the 130-125 victory. The Kings led by 10 points in the fourth quarter, but were outscored 17-2 over the final 4:23.

Kings vs. Lakers - Dec. 30 - Staples Center

With LeBron James on the shelf, the Lakers were very beatable in December. Sacramento took a lead into the fourth quarter and held the lead until Los Angeles tied the game with 2:55 remaining.

The shots stopped falling for Sacramento down the stretch. Hield even missed a free throw off of a technical foul. Los Angeles finished the game on an 11-4 run to come away with a 121-114 victory.

Kings vs. Trail Blazers - Jan. 1 - Golden 1 Center

Sacramento opened the new year with an overtime loss at home to the Blazers, but it never should have gone to an extra frame. Leading 101-92 at the 3:10 mark of the fourth, the Kings’ offense went dormant again.

Portland hit the Kings with an 11-2 run to tie the game. Fox missed a 20-footer that would have ended the game in regulation and the Blazers took control in the extra session for a 113-108 victory.

Kings vs. Warriors - Jan. 5 - Golden 1 Center

Leading by seven to open the fourth quarter, the Kings didn’t wait until the final seconds to go cold. On their home floor, they scored just two points in the first 5:31 of the fourth. Sacramento didn’t quit. They took a lead with 2:24 remaining, but then went cold again.

The Kings missed five out of six shots down the stretch, losing a close game to the Warriors for the third time on the season, this time by a final of 127-123.

Kings vs. Suns - Jan. 8 - Talking Stick Resort Arena

The Kings walked into Phoenix at 20-20 with an opportunity to move back over the .500 mark against a 9-32 Suns team. They punished the home team early, taking a 72-53 lead into the half. And then things went sideways.

Phoenix outscored the Kings 33-14 in the third quarter to tie the game going to the fourth. Cauley-Stein hammered home a dunk with 1:03 remaining to give the Kings a 111-110 lead, but Sacramento never scored again, falling to a bad Suns team by the final of 115-111.

Kings vs. Nuggets - Feb. 13 - Pepsi Center

In the start of a string of brutal losses, the Kings finished their pre-All-Star break schedule with a stop in Denver against a very good Nuggets team. Sacramento opened the game with a huge first quarter, outscoring the home team 41-30 in the opening 12 minutes. The Nuggets erased the deficit in the third quarter and took a two-point lead into the fourth.

After going back and forth the entire quarter, the Kings hit Denver with a 6-0 run in the final 1:02 to tie the game at 118-118. Nikola Jokic missed a four-footer in the final seconds, but tipped the ball back in with barely any time remaining on the clock. Hield got off a 3-pointer as time expired, but it missed and the Nuggets escaped with a 120-118 victory.

Kings vs. Warriors - Feb. 21 - Oracle Arena

Coming out of the break, the Kings faced the Warriors for the fourth and final time. Like every other contest between these two teams, it came down to the wire. In a wild fourth quarter that saw five lead changes and four ties, the Warriors went up by six with just over a minute remaining.

Riding the hot hand of Hield, the Kings trailed by just two points with 10 seconds remaining. After a pair of missed free throws from Andre Iguodala, Hield came up short on a 12-foot jumper and the Warriors escaped with a 125-123 victory. Golden State swept the season series 4-0, but by a total of 10 points over the neighbors to the north.

Kings vs. Bucks - Feb. 27 - Golden 1 Center

Playing out a string of games against the best the league has to offer, the Kings took the Bucks to the brink in both regulation and overtime before falling by a final of 141-140. The Kings rallied from an eight-point deficit with just over three minutes remaining. They took a lead with 26 seconds left, but the Bucks tied it up on an Eric Bledsoe bucket. With 11 seconds remaining, the Kings had the ball and a chance to win it in regulation, but Fox couldn’t get a shot off.

In the overtime session, the Kings had plenty of chances, but a series of small mistakes added up to disaster. Cauley-Stein turned the ball over with 40 seconds remaining. Bogdan Bogdanovic followed that with a missed free throw, which proved to be the difference in the final score.

Kings vs. Celtics - March 6 - Golden 1 Center

The Kings trailed by five going to the fourth quarter, but they didn’t cash it in against Boston. With seven seconds remaining, Gordon Hayward fouled Hield shooting a 3-pointer. Hield knocked down all three from the line to tie the game at 109-109.

With two seconds remaining on the clock, Hayward got his revenge, knocking down a nine-foot jump shot to give Boston a two-point lead. Harrison Barnes had a look from 30-feet out to win the game as time expired, but he was offline and the Celtics handed the Kings a tough loss.

Kings vs. Wizards - March 11 - Golden 1 Center

In a must-win game on the road, the Kings came out flat in the third quarter and the Wizards took advantage, taking a nine-point lead into the fourth quarter. But the Kings battled back, as they have in plenty of games this season.  

With 3:41 remaining, Sacramento retook the lead at 112-111 on a Hield layup, but then they disappeared. The Kings couldn’t buy a bucket down the stretch and were outscored 10-3 to fall by a final of 121-115.

Kings vs. Nets - March 19 - Golden 1 Center

This one takes the cake. Rarely have the Kings stomped on a team like they did during the third quarter of this game. They hit Brooklyn with a 20-0 run to start the second half and looked like a team poised for a second straight victory.

[RELATED: Kings learn harsh lesson and squander huge lead vs. Nets]

Sacramento led by 25 points to start the fourth, but they allowed D’Angelo Russell to score 27 of his 44 points in a wild final 12 minutes. The Nets silenced the home crowd and with 0.8 remaining on the clock, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson converted a layup over the outstretched arms of Marvin Bagley to give Brooklyn the win. The visiting team outscored the Kings 45-18 in the final period to pull out the improbable 123-121 victory.

Kings learn another harsh lesson, blow massive lead in loss to Nets

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USATSI

Kings learn another harsh lesson, blow massive lead in loss to Nets

SACRAMENTO -- The hum of a stocked glass-door refrigerator in the corner was the only discernible noise in the Kings’ locker room Tuesday night. The weight of a monumental 123-121 loss to the Brooklyn Nets hung in the air, and no one was in a mood to speak to the media.

In a season of harsh lessons, blowing a 25-point fourth quarter lead and giving up the winning bucket with 0.8 seconds remaining may have been the straw that broke the Kings' backs.

“It’s just a bad loss,” a frustrated De’Aaron Fox said.

“We blew it. I hate losing, especially like that,” rookie Marvin Bagley said.

After destroying Brooklyn with a 20-0 run to begin the second half, the Kings looked unbeatable headed into the fourth quarter.

Bagley was having another breakout game. Fox looked finished for the evening when Joerger turned to Yogi Ferrell off the bench.

Sacramento led by 103-78 heading to the final frame. They were well on they’re way to their 35th victory, and a move back to .500.

Then, D’Angelo Russell caught fire.

The Kings have seen a player do something similar in the past. Golden State’s Klay Thompson hit the team for 37 points in a third quarter of a game back in Jan. 2015. But this was different.

This wasn’t a run to blow a team out. Russell’s 27-point outburst in the fourth came in a hostile environment, as every point cut into a big deficit. The All-Star guard finished the evening with 44 points out of necessity for his club, and the Kings had no answer.

“Well, that certainly can be a tough one to take, but it’s a good opportunity for our guys to learn and hopefully we’ll be in those opportunities again in the future where we have a lead and we don’t relax,” coach Dave Joerger said. “We relaxed and were very casual, didn’t run back on defense, turned the basketball over a ton and took a lot of jump shots because we thought it was going to be easy.”

The lead evaporated quickly. Sacramento started missing shots, and turning the ball over. Russell started pulling up for 3-pointers on the break, and hitting them.

A stunned Golden 1 Center crowd was silenced as the Nets hit the Kings with one blow after another.

“They made shots, we turned the ball over, they got it going and got hot and they finished the game better than we did,” Fox said.

When Russell missed a couple of shots, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson picked up the slack. When they needed a big 3-pointer, veteran Jared Dudley knocked it down.

Joerger tried different looks in the fourth, but nothing seemed to work. Sacramento shot just 22.7 percent in the final 12 minutes, and turned the ball over seven times. Only Buddy Hield hit more than one shot in the final 12 minutes, and even he went just 2-of-6 from the field, and missed all three of his 3-pointers.

“They wanted it more than us,” Hield said. “They out-toughed us. Outplayed us. They were the guys that were the most confidence. They were talking, having fun. They took the fun away from us in the fourth quarter.”

[RELATED: Why Christie never can forget LeBron's famous first dunk]

In the end, the Nets hit big shots and the Kings came up short. The ball got sticky, the game slowed down and a team with a lot to play for handed Sacramento a devastating loss.

“We kind of relaxed in that moment and the basketball gods punished us. That’s how it goes,” Bogdan Bogdanovic said.

With the defeat, the Kings dropped to 34-36 on the season. Combined with a Los Angeles Clippers victory, Sacramento fell seven games out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference standings with 12 games remaining.

Kings continue to balance development, winning in surprise season

Kings continue to balance development, winning in surprise season

SACRAMENTO -- Coming into the 2018-19 season, the Kings' plan was to develop the young guys. That idea had to be augmented early in the campaign when Sacramento decided to make winning a priority as well.

This isn’t an easy task for Dave Joerger and his staff. Balancing a roster filled with young players has its challenges, especially when games matter.

It hasn’t always been pretty. There have been plenty of ups and downs, but through 69 games, the Kings have not only fought to stay in playoff contention, but they are identifying a core that they can build around for the long haul.

The starting backcourt of De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield was the first to make the leap, but there are others on the rise as well.

[RELATED: Fox believes Kings 'growing,' details franchise's next step]

Bogdan Bogdanovic has struggled as of late, but he looks like a long-term fixture in the rotation. The Harrison Barnes addition at the deadline brought in another young body and Willie Cauley-Stein has had moments for the Kings.

It doesn’t end there for Sacramento. Down the stretch of the season, the young duo of Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles are forming a fierce frontline for the future.

Giles struggled with foul trouble early in the year, but he’s continued to improve as the season has progressed. Joerger has slowly increased his role with the team and he’s answered the call.

“I’m starting to come into myself,” Giles said following Sacramento’s win over the Bulls on Sunday. “Just taking my time, patience. It’s all starting to come along for me. It took some time, but it’s right where I want to be. [I’m] making the right steps and I’m just going to keep going with it.”

After redshirting last season, the former Duke product has shown statistical improvement every month this season. In March, he’s taking his game to the next level, posting 11.0 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 19.9 minutes per game.

Giles has cleaned up a lot of his early mistakes, especially on the defensive end. He hasn’t had a breakout rebounding game, but he’s showing flashes as a passer and shot-blocker.

Taken with the second overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft, Bagley came into the league with all kinds of fanfare. He’s lived up to the hype in year one, although injuries have set him back twice.

Bagley hit his stride in February, averaging 17.5 points and 9.4 rebounds in 29.2 minutes per game before going down with a left knee sprain.

Against Chicago, he totaled 21 points and nine rebounds in just 21 minutes as he continued to work through a minutes restriction with the Kings’ medical staff.

As good as they’ve been individually, the two 20-year-olds are showing signs of some incredible chemistry. They are making reads and cuts and they are looking for each other.

“There’s a lot of times where Harry could have gone up and scored a basket, but he decided to pass, and there are times where I could have had a bucket to score, but I see Harry and return the favor,” Bagley said. “We’re just playing off each other and having fun with it at the same time.”

Giles is the lunch pail guy. He’s physical and making his presence felt. Bagley is the scorer with the jaw-dropping athleticism and advanced offensive game. Both play with intensity and have big-time motors.

“I feed off of all my teammates, that’s what I try to do,” Giles said. “But with Marvin, he just brings so much energy so it’s not hard to feed off of him. I think he’s an easy guy to play with, especially for me.”

[RELATED: Kings' Giles explains the origins of the 'Litty Committee']

The pair has been together for just part of one season, but they have an opportunity to develop into something special. They both need to get stronger in the offseason and the sooner they are able to extend their shooting range, the better.

“It’s the start of something that can be -- who knows,” Giles said. “It’s our first year. We’ve had some success, but we have to take it with a grain of salt, knowing that anything can happen.”

Anything can happen, but if Giles and Bagley put in the work and make a jump anywhere close to what Fox and Hield accomplished, the Kings have the foundation of a winner.