Way back when, in January of this year, the Kings caught a break and got a surprise four days off when their back-to-back road matchup in Memphis got postponed. The Kings took advantage of this surprise R&R to win six of their next seven games and we all thought this could finally be the year where the Kings turn the corner. Ah, yes, those were the days... the foolishly hopeful days. Fast forward to today and everything has pretty much gone up in flames once again and the Kings are dangling a fire hose of hope above us but still haven't shown whether or not they'll turn the water on. With just three games left, the Kings have to pay their dues back for that early time off. They had their first of two matchups against the 9th seeded Memphis Grizzlies tonight. Let's see how they did:
Outcome: Kings lose, 116-110
Sacramento Kings: 110 PTS, 43.8% FG, 41.5% 3 PT, 64.3% FT, 33 AST, 10 TO
Memphis Grizzlies: 116 PTS, 50.0% FG, 33.3% 3 PT, 83.3% FT, 30 AST, 18 TO
Well, it looks like they broke the spigot and there's no water coming, folks. The New York Knicks lobbed one up for the Kings tonight by completing a comeback win over the Spurs and the Kings let it slip right through their hands. At least we know our fate for certain now - no play-in, no hope, no fun. How does the saying go? "16th time is the charm", right?
The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly
- Good Game: After two blowouts against the tanking Thunder, tonight's matchup proved to be much more important to both teams. The Grizzlies are chasing the Warriors for the 8th seed and the Kings were fighting for their chance to join them in the play-in tournament. All of this made for a heightened sense of urgency on the court. Both teams locked in on defense down the stretch and created as much of a playoff atmosphere as these two small market teams could muster. Midway through the first quarter we saw baskets being traded and multiple lead changes. Both teams went on some significant runs through the middle stretch of the game, but things remained close for all four quarters. As familiar as this disappointment is, the quality of an important game has not been common for this Kings team. Until the Grizzlies pulled the rug out from under the Kings in the last few minutes, we at least got to enjoy 45 minutes of good basketball and wonderment.
- Matador Defense: In just the second defensive play of the game, we saw the Kings' worst defensive habit from the night form. As Jaren Jackson Jr. attacked the right side of the basket and gained a step on his defender, Moe Harkless threw one hand over in attempt to help his teammate and got called for the foul. This became a common theme throughout the night as the Kings played matador defense by only halfway showing themselves on the help side and either letting the ball go by or committing a foul from being out of position. This lack of commitment to team defense gave the Grizzlies enough space for all five of their starters to finish in double digits.
- Third Quarter Nap: The Kings entered the third quarter up by one point and left it down by six. They seemed to have left their sense of urgency, intensity, and energy in the locker room and they couldn't really find it again until the fourth quarter. With the exception of some strong Justin James minutes, the third quarter was the Kings' worst stretch for the night as they got outworked and outscored by the Grizzlies.
- Final Three Minutes: The Kings had an explosive fourth quarter as Justin James, Chimezie Metu, and Terence Davis all hit big shots to get the momentum back in the Kings' favor. They found their motor again and it led them to a 6-point lead with three minutes remaining. Did you feel hopeful at this point? I don't blame you if you did. Just a few minutes before, the Spurs' loss was finalized, and things just felt like they were falling in line for the Kings. But then things just unraveled. A Justin James turnover, an ill-advised 3-point look from Buddy Hield, an airball from Chimezie Metu - it all turned so dark, so quickly. The Grizzlies went on a 10-0 run to finish the game. Goodbye hopes, goodbye dreams, goodbye 2021 season.
The King of Kings
Shining as brightly as his neon green shoes, tonight's King of Kings goes to Justin James for having the game of his life, scoring 31 points on 12 made field goals. JJ skipped the leaps and bounds and went right to the flying when it comes to a breakout performance. He showed comfort, confidence, and even some snarling swagger on the court and it was just downright fun to watch him play.
Friday, May 14th @ Memphis Grizzlies - 6:00 P.M. (PT)