Despite my own personal feelings, life goes on. The Sacramento Kings played another basketball game tonight, this time at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers. We can break down the advanced numbers, we can speculate on trades, and we can try to pinpoint the one needle in the haystack of problems that explains why this team blows until the cows come home. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters in this league is winning basketball games. And although it could be argued that they don't deserve it, the Kings had another chance to do that tonight. Against every fiber of my being, let's see how they did:
Outcome: Kings lose, 109-108
Sacramento Kings: 108 pts, 42.9% fg, 46.7% 3 pt, 72.7% ft, 20 ast, 43 reb, 12 to
Cleveland Cavaliers: 109 pts, 49.4% fg, 29.4% 3 pt, 86.7% ft, 29 ast, 48 reb, 17 to
It is the true Sacramento Kings fan experience to see them lose their fifth game in a row and feel less dead inside than when they lost their fourth one. It was a tough loss with the game ending on a missed De'Aaron Fox pull up jumper that would have won the game, but there were moments throughout the night that stirred up some positive feelings. If you've been here all season, you understand why the bar is so low, so let's take the good vibes where we can and run like hell with em'.
The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly
- Queta Unleashed: With Tristan Thompson sidelined tonight, Neemias Queta, along with the entire country of Portugal, prepared to make the most of this opportunity. He was ready. Queta spent all of his 24 minutes working his butt off on the boards, moving his feet on defense, and getting his hands on the ball. I was completely sold on this guy when I saw him locate a body in a Cavs' jersey, box out, and grab a rebound with two hands. That's all it took. I'm all in. Even when he made mistakes, it was noticeable that his mind was in the right place and his body was still trying to catch up. He made himself big when defending the PnR action, while still keeping tabs on the rolling big man, which allowed his guard to recover and avoid a switch. That alone made me want to give him all the minutes. Queta finished with 11 points and five rebounds, as well as a strong two-hand grab to secure the final possession to give the Kings a chance to steal the game.
- The Comeback: The Kings entered halftime trailing by 13 points. In the first quarter, they got abused in the paint. In the second quarter, they got shot out of the gym from distance. It felt like a familiar night where the eternal 12-point gap would haunt them until the final buzzer. But tonight, the Kings kept fighting. They started with a solid 6-0 run to start the third quarter, something we aren't used to seeing. They hung around all through the rest of the third until Tyrese Haliburton had his takeover moment early in the fourth quarter. Haliburton finally got aggressive in looking for his own shot and scored nine of his 21 points in the fourth quarter. Buddy Hield went on a heater to dig the Kings out of their double-digit deficit by shooting 5-8 from deep. The Cavaliers responded with a run of their own and put the Kings back down 10 with 2:30 left to go. Things felt pretty abysmal at this point, but again, the Kings put another run together to take the decision down to the final possession. While they didn't come out with the win, it was refreshing to see some fight from this group.
- Fourth Quarter Execution: When the Cavaliers went on their response run in the middle of the fourth quarter, they did so by getting high quality shots from their best players. Darius Garland got good looks on drives to the rim and Evan Mobley was set up for open shots in the paint. On the other end, the Kings spent a handful of possessions looking disconnected and unsure about the intent of their execution, and many of these possessions ended in Chimezie Metu long-range shots. When it matters most, the Kings need to understand who and where they want their shots to come from and execute an offense which gets them those shots.
- Cooked by Love: The Cavaliers got big production from their big men tonight. Jarrett Allen finished with 18 points and 17 rebounds, while Evan Mobley had 17 points and Lauri Markkanen contributed 15 more. But that's not what killed the Kings in the end. What killed the Kings was the 18 points from Kevin Love. If they're going to let the main guys eat, they can't also let the bench guy cook.
The King of Kings
PORTUGAL STAND UP! Tonight's King of Kings goes to Neemias Queta for staying ready, playing big, and representing his country admirably. If he keeps boxing out, I just might resurrect from the dead and feel something good about this team again.
Wednesday, January 12th vs. Los Angeles Lakers - 7:00 P.M. (PT)