Close, But No Cigar: Kings Run Out Of Steam Against Blazers
Sacramento held a lead for most of the game before faltering late on Wednesday night
Things seemed like they were on the right track for the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night as play entered the fourth quarter.
Then, things slipped out of their grasp.
Sacramento couldn’t find its offense late, dropping a game that was there for the taking as they would lose to the Portland Trail Blazers by a final of 132-126 at Golden 1 Center.
With the loss, the Kings fall to 5-7 on the season with a tough opponent coming into town on Friday night in the Los Angeles Clippers.
Sacramento took a five-point lead into the final frame before the Blazers outscored the Kings in the final frame 32-21.
For the sixth-straight game, the Kings allowed 120-plus points to an opponent, allowing a season-high 23 three-pointer’s to the Blazers in the process.
Buddy Hield had his biggest scoring outburst of the season against the Blazers, scoring 26 points on eight-of-18 from three-point range in a much-needed performance by the sharpshooter. Hield also dished a season-high five assists in the loss.
It was Hield’s first game topping the 20-point mark since the season-opener in Denver on December 23rd when he poured in 22 points. The 28-year-old also extended his streak of consecutive games with a made three-point field goal (78), the longest active streak in the NBA.
Hield–alongside De’Aaron Fox–paced the Kings offense in the back-and-forth affair with Portland’s star backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
Fox found his shot early on Wednesday night, scoring 15 points in the first half to give Sacramento a 68-65 lead heading into the break.
The franchise guard would go on to finish with 29 points (five-of-eight from 3PT), four rebounds and six assists in the tough loss.
“In the fourth quarter, they were able to make the plays when it mattered,” Fox said postgame. “For us we know we can get that lead. The next step is to keep that lead.”
Rookie phenom Tyrese Haliburton was in his bag early, dishing six assists in the first half to go along with 11 points. The talented guard would finish with a career-high 17 points and a career-high nine assists.
Haliburton had yet another impressive night from the field, knocking down seven of his 10 field goal attempts.
Richaun Holmes dished a career-high six assists on Wednesday night while contributing with 17 points and 9 rebounds.
The fan-favorite has had a very solid season for the Kings, acting as a defensive anchor in the paint while also shooting over 70-percent from the field (six-for-six on Wednesday night).
Defense is the glaring issue for this Kings team, as they could not pick up a stop when they needed most during the closing minutes of action.
Allowing 120-plus points night in and night out is not going to translate to the win column. Sacramento looked very solid on offense, dishing a season-high 35 assists and scoring 126 points.
But in the end, defense will decide games like on Wednesday against Portland.
“It’s not a lack of effort out there. Sometimes it’s just going against good players. We understand we gotta get better…the type of effort we are getting from our guys is what’s important,” head coach Luke Walton said after the game.
Sacramento will need to figure out its defensive schemes if they want to start climbing out of the cellar of the Pacific Division. So far this season, they rank 29th in points allowed and dead last in defensive efficiency.
Lillard finished with 40 points and 13 assists in the Blazers win, while McCollum scored 28 points on 10-of-23 from the field.
The two star guards also accounted for 23 of Portland’s 28 assists on Wednesday night.
Two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers will travel to Golden 1 Center on Friday night to face the Kings in a Pacific Division showdown.
Be sure to tune in to Sports 1140 KHTK for all of the action, starting with pregame coverage at 6:30pm PST followed by tip-off at 7:00pm PST.