Are you still here? You have one resilient spirit, outmatched by absolutely no other fan base in the world (at least we have that going for us, right?). The flames are still raging here in basketball hell, Twitter fingers all across the greater Sacramento area are exhausted, and although it seems we say this every few months, this feels like a new rock bottom. And as if things couldn't get any worse, we now had to watch the Kings take on the #1 team in the league in the Utah Jazz. Although you probably don't want to, let's see how they did:
Outcome: Kings lose, 128-112
Sacramento Kings: 112 PTS, 47.7% FG, 33.3% 3 PT, 63.6% FT, 23 AST, 10 TO
Utah Jazz: 128 PTS, 45.5% FG, 36.0% 3 PT, 85.7% FT, 22 AST, 10 TO
Honestly, I can't even articulate how I wanted this game to go. If they win, this team makes literally zero sense and my brain explodes. If they lose, that pours more salt into the losing streak wound and the pain continues. Tonight was the latter, except with the special caveat that the Kings actually put themselves in a position to win this game through three quarters. They ultimately fumbled the bag in the fourth, and my minimal hopes were squashed, but we can at least say they weren't embarrassed tonight. Silver linings, right?
The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly
- Fox Returns: It's become abundantly clear that this team is heavily dependent on the play of De'Aaron Fox. If Fox plays well, the Kings are able to compete. If Fox is having an off night, you might as well go on about your night. Tonight we got the former as Fox made an immediate impression by scoring 13 points in the first quarter. He led by example with aggressive attacks on offense and confidence in shooting, connecting on 4-7 from the 3-point line. After some recently lukewarm performances from Fox, he seemed to find his fire again tonight, emphatically demonstrated in this jam:
De'Aaron Fox throws it down against Utah! pic.twitter.com/KM2l8947VV
— Brenden Nunes (@BrendenNunesNBA) April 11, 2021
- Transition Defense: The Kings were able to keep the Jazz to just one point for the first four and a half minutes of the game. Amazing, right? How did they do it? They forced the Jazz into tough shots in the half court. Taking an early 12-1 lead, the Kings were able to keep the Jazz from getting into a rhythm early. However, they weren't able to hold this lead for long and ended the quarter down by three points after allowing the Jazz to capitalize in transition. Despite only committing four turnovers in the first half, the Kings still allowed the Jazz to beat them down the floor in transition and get them out of shape early for open looks and mismatched drives. Had the Kings been able to slow the Jazz down earlier on the court, they could have continued their success in defending in the slowed down half court setting.
- Defensive Details: It's the little things! Yes, the Kings competed tonight and held Rudy Gobert to just six points. But, they also suffered 42 points from Donovan Mitchell, 26 points from Mike Conley, and 20 points from Joe Ingles off the bench. Examining the Kings' defense, it's the little things that a disciplined team like the Jazz can easily punish them for. Half-effort closeouts allow enough space for Donovan Mitchell to blow by for a strong attack at the rim. The inability to fight through a screen and communicate a recovery allows Mike Conley to attack the Kings' bigs off the dribble. Help side from an ineffective angle not only does nothing in stopping a drive, but also allows an easy kick out for an open 3-point look that Joe Ingles happily drains. An off-ball screen for an easy pass to a flaring Donovan Mitchell results in a knock down jumper. These little things on defense all added up tonight as the Jazz were able to answer all of the Kings' runs with easy scoring runs of their own.
- Fourth Quarter Fumble: Behind Fox's early performance, the Kings were able to keep up with the Jazz through three quarters. But, by the fourth, the better team prevailed. As the Jazz locked in on defense and executed on offense, we once again saw the Kings fail to focus in on the details it takes to beat a playoff team. Kings' turnovers, ill-advised shots, and defensive miscommunications were all things the Jazz quickly took advantage of to pull away and bury the Kings.
The King of Kings
Tonight's crown for the King of Kings gets to rest atop Richaun Holmes' head for being damn near perfect tonight. Richaun maintained perfection through the first half, contributing 21 points on 8-8 shooting from the field, giving the Kings a six-point lead going into the tunnel. Although he eventually missed a shot in the third quarter, he didn't let this keep him from being aggressive. He finished with 25 points in all, but spent most of the second half cleaning things up on the defensive end for the Kings as he completed his double-double with 1o rebounds.
Monday, April 12th @ New Orleans Pelicans - 6:00 P.M. (PT)