Harrison Barnes

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 vs. 76ers watch guide: Lineups, injury report, player usage

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AP

Kings vs. 76ers watch guide: Lineups, injury report, player usage

Searching for answers the Sacramento Kings head back out onto the hardwood Friday evening for a clash against the playoff-bound Philadelphia 76ers. They'll need a big showing from every player that steps on the floor if they hope to pick up their fourth straight victory over a quality Sixers team.

Sacramento is coming off a disappointing loss to the Boston Celtics on Thursday. De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes all posted big numbers. The trio also played major minutes, which might come into play on the second night of a back-to-back.

[RELATED: How to watch Kings-Sixers online and on MyTeams app]

Philadelphia has won two straight and is building towards what they hope will be a long postseason run. They have a star-studded roster, including current and former All-Stars Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler, as well as Kings' killer, Tobias Harris.

Kings Pregame Live on NBC Sports California begins at 3:30 p.m., with tipoff scheduled for 4:00 p.m. All coverage can be seen on the MyTeams by NBC Sports app.

The team will return home following the game where they'll kick off a four-game homestand beginning with the Bulls on Monday evening. The Kings will host the Nets, Mavs, and Suns before heading back out on the road for another five-game trip.

Line

Sixers by 9.5

Projected Lineups

Kings
PG De’Aaron Fox
SG Buddy Hield
SF Harrison Barnes
PF Nemanja Bjelcia
C Willie Cauley-Stein

76ers
PG Ben Simmons
SG J.J. Redick
SF Jimmy Butler
PF Tobias Harris
C Joel Embiid

Injury Report

Kings 
No injuries to report.

76ers
PG Ben Simmons (illness) probable, PF Mike Scott (illness) probable, SF Furkan Korkmaz (knee) out.

Rotation Outlook

Kings

Dave Joerger made a lineup change against the Celtics on Thursday, moving Nemanja Bjelica back into the starting lineup at the four and shifting Harrison Barnes back to the small forward spot. The change helped Sacramento get off to a fast start, but it didn't help them come away with a much-needed win.

With Barnes starting at the three, Bogdan Bogdanovic moved back to the second unit. He struggled with foul and turnover issues, as well as missing all three of his 3-point attempts. The Kings could use a bounce-back game from their super-sub.

[RELATED: Bogdan Bogdanovic continues to struggle, prompting questions about fit]

Marvin Bagley returned to action after missing five straight games and he is not listed on the team's injury report heading into Friday. Joerger limited him to just 19 minutes of play against Boston, but that didn't stop the rookie from dropping in 14 points and six rebounds.

76ers

Philadelphia is an offensive juggernaut with five players that can hit you for 30 points on any given night. They present matchup problems at multiple positions for Sacramento, including the point guard position where  Simmons has a seven-inch height advantage over Fox.

Under head coach Brett Brett Brown, the Sixers have the fifth highest scoring offense in the NBA and rank eighth in pace. They allow 111.5 points per game, which is 16th in the league and their defensive rating is slightly better, coming in at 11th overall.

Philly ranks fourth in both rebounding and assists, but they turn the ball over a lot, which could play into the Kings' hands.

How Harry Giles, Nemanja Bjelica benefited from Marvin Bagley's injury

How Harry Giles, Nemanja Bjelica benefited from Marvin Bagley's injury

With Marvin Bagley expected to return soon, possibly as early as later this week, Kings coach Dave Joerger’s rotations will have to adjust again.

The rookie was rolling before injuring his left knee in the Kings' Feb. 27 overtime loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. His absence opened a door of discovery, and two players made the most of the opportunity.

After starting 55 of the Kings’ first 56 games this season, Nemanja Bjelica had fallen out of the rotation at the time of Bagley’s injury. Joerger turned back to Bjelica over the last five games, and he’s played extremely well.

In five games in March, the 30-year-old forward is averaging 9.2 points and seven rebounds in 26.4 minutes per game, and his impact goes beyond the raw stat line. Bjelica is posting a combined plus-45 in the plus/minus category over the stretch, and he earned a spot for the stretch run.

Bjelica is not the only player to show his worth during Bagley’s absence. Rookie Harry Giles doesn’t play the same position as Bagley, but he’s thrived with the additional touches in the offense.

When Bagley left the Bucks game, Giles took over, finishing with 18 points and seven rebounds. He continued that push over the first five games of March.
 
Giles is averaging 11.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 20.2 minutes per game in the month. Like Bjelica, his plus/minus numbers show that his impact goes beyond the standard box score. He’s posted a positive in four of the five games Bagley has missed, and is a combined +11 over the stretch.

Joerger has shrunk his rotation to eight main players with Yogi Ferrell or Alec Burks picking up a few minutes on the side. When Bagley returns, those extra minutes might completely disappear.

Bjelica can either start or come off the bench at power forward, and he’ll likely share minutes with Bagley as he works his way back into playing shape. Giles is splitting time at center with Willie Cauley-Stein and showing major improvement down the stretch.

[RELATED: Time for a Kings lineup change?]

If Bjelica sticks in the rotation, it would allow Joerger to move Barnes back to small forward for more minutes and Bogdan Bogdanovic to eat more minutes in the backcourt.

Joerger is in a never-ending battle to find the right pieces to put into place. The silver lining to Bagley’s injury is that it gave Bjelica and Giles time to build confidence and momentum as the Kings head into the final 16 games of the season.