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Third Quarter Blues: Fox, Kings Can’t Keep Up With Clippers

(Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

Sacramento could not contain the Clippers in the second-half, ultimately dropping their fourth-straight game

The third quarter monster strikes again.

On Wednesday night at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, the Sacramento Kings trailed by only five points at halftime while facing a loaded Clippers team.

As has been the case many times this season, the Kings would crumble in the third quarter, being outscored by the Clippers 34-19 in the period en route to a 115-96 defeat.

Sacramento (5-10) has lost four-straight games and now falls to a season-worst five games below the .500 mark.

“Unfortunately these lessons are frustrating and painful, but we have to learn them,” Kings head coach Luke Walton said postgame.

Two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard gave the Kings more than they can handle, finishing with a game-high 36 points and six steals in the win for Los Angeles.

The third quarter would be the difference maker for the Clippers, as the 15-point differential would put them firmly in the drivers seat for the last 12 minutes of action.

Sacramento outscored the Clippers 21-20 in the final period, but the damage had already been done, sending the Kings to yet another disappointing defeat.

De’Aaron Fox turned in another strong performance on Wednesday night, proving once again that he is a budding star in this league. Fox, who was fresh off of a career-high 43 point performance on Sunday night, got his offense going early against the Clippers.

The star guard scored 17 points in the first half, setting himself up for yet another big offensive performance. Fox would go on to finish with 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the field to go along with seven assists.

Even with respected defenders in Leonard and Patrick Beverley covering him defensively, Fox was aggressive on Wednesday, creating offense and making plays regardless of who stepped between himself and the basket.

Fox has topped the 20-point mark in three of the past four contests, upping his season average to 20.8 points per game on the season.

Buddy Hield finished with 13 points (3-of-7 from three-point land) and three steals during Wednesday’s loss. Hield converted a three-point field goal for the 81st consecutive game, one away from equaling a full NBA season (82 games).

Glenn Robinson III provided Sacramento with a big boost off of the bench late, helping keep the Kings in the game with some big plays. Robinson would score 14 points on five-of-10 shooting to go along with two assists.

Another bright spot for the Kings in recent memory has been the development of Marvin Bagley III, who came into action on Wednesday holding averages of 19.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 0.7 blocks per game over his last three contests.

Bagley finished with 10 points on four-of-eight from the field to go along with eight rebounds during the loss. While that might look like a largely quiet night on the surface, the 21-year-old seems to be finding his groove, cutting down on forcing shots and letting the game come to him.

Since January 4th’s blowout loss to the Golden State Warriors, Bagley has turned the page.

Over seven games, Bagley is averaging 16.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game while shooting 57-percent from the field and over 40-percent from the three-point line.

Getting both Bagley and Fox going simultaneously is a significant key in creating offensive fits for other teams and creating success for the Kings–both should translate to putting more numbers into the ‘W’ column.

Free-throw shooting was a huge blemish for the Kings, with Fox missing five of his eight attempts and the team shooting 41-percent collectively.

Coming into play against the Clippers, the Kings were 26th in the league in team free-throw shooting (72.9%).

After turning in his strongest start to a season in his eight-year career, Harrison Barnes struggled to find his footing once again. Since dropping 30 points against the Indiana Pacers last week, Barnes is averaging 9.2 points per game on 31-percent shooting from the field.

Hassan Whiteside, last season’s league-leader in blocked shots, missed his third-straight game on Wednesday night due to a strained hip flexor.

The 31-year-old is considered day-to-day going forward.

Coming Up

The Kings will return to Golden 1 Center one last time before embarking on a six-game road trip when they face the New York Knicks on Friday night.

Sacramento and New York split their two-game series last season.

New York has looked like a surprise team in the making so far this season behind strong play from Julius Randle and new head coach Tom Thibodeau. The Knicks are 7-8 heading into Thursday night’s game against Golden State.

Fox and the rest of the Kings will catch the Knicks on the second-night of a back-to-back, something that should be taken advantage of after utilizing the off-day on Thursday.

Be sure to tune in for all of the action right here on Sports 1140 KHTK, starting with pregame coverage at 6:30pm PST with tip-off following at 7:00pm PST.