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Kings’ Playoff Hopes Slipping Away After Loss to the Boston Celtics

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Take nothing away from this Sacramento Kings team, they have not backed down when it comes to playing the juggernauts of the NBA. Although, more often than, not they end up on the losing side of things, Sacramento fans have been treated to the most consistently competitive team that this franchise has had in over a decade. Wednesday night’s battle with the Boston Celtics was more of the same, as the Kings couldn’t overcome the deep Boston rotation, losing 111-109 inside the Golden 1 Center.

“That was a terrific NBA basketball game,” said Kings head coach Dave Joerger, “Those types of games come down to very small things – we turned the ball over too many times and missed too many free throws. Missed too many layups in the first half…”.

Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield combined for 47 points and led the Kings’ push offensively. All five Sacramento starters finished in double figures. Unfortunately, there was little offensive output from the bench unit, scoring just 13 points on 28% shooting.

Meanwhile, the Celtics got a nice boost from their bench unit, called upon more often with the absence of star point guard Kyrie Irving. Gordon Hayward built upon his solid outing against the Golden State Warriors Tuesday with a 12 point performance in Sacramento, which included the eventual game winner in the closing seconds.

Jayson Tatum led the way for the Celtics offensively, pouring in 24 points in 33 minutes. Veteran big man Al Horford added 21 points on a very efficient 80% shooting.

“We played with energy, they just made a lot of tough shots,” said De’Aaron Fox.

Fox turned in a 16 point, six assist performance, shooting 60% from the field. He was proud of his team’s defensive effort overall, forcing Boston to hit tough shots throughout the game. The Celtics never led by more than 10 points, despite shooting over 50% on the night. The Kings led by nine at one point, cashing in on 13 three pointers.

“Always tough to lose a close game like that,” Fox added, “It always comes down to a few key possessions.

The Kings had a chance to win the game with two seconds remaining, but were unable to cash in on a tough three point bomb from Harrison Barnes. Joerger admitted after the game that the Barnes’ three wasn’t the intended play, and that the Celtics defense did a great job taking away the top two Kings options on the inbound play.

Sacramento center Willie Cauley-Stein was asked about what the Kings need to do to get over the hump and win these close games; “I don’t know. Can’t tell you. We are doing everything right but (are) just falling short”.

The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Atlanta Hawks tonight, building their lead over the Kings in the 8th seed of the Western Conference to four full games. Sacramento is not mathematically out of it with 18 games remaining, but the climb is getting steeper every day.

“As long as there are games left we are still in it,” said Cauley-Stein.

The Kings begin a four game East Coast road trip on Saturday against the New York Knicks inside Madison Square Garden.