The last time the Kings had their standard regular season starting lineup of De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Marvin Bagley, and Richaun Holmes healthy at the same time, Sacramento held a decent 12-12 record heading into a home game vs. the Philadelphia 76ers. The Kings have lost 7-straight games since.
But here we are: February 23rd, 2021, and the Kings are finally healthy once again. Would it make a difference against a very good (and without Kevin Durant) Brooklyn Nets team? Probably not, but you never know? That's why they play the games.
The Kings started this one with some of the most pathetic defense they've played all season, and that's saying something. Kyrie Irving and James Harden were doing whatever they wanted out there, but you expect that to some degree. What shouldn't happen is Bruce Brown beating the Kings defense down the court repeatedly for easy buckets inside. Bad, bad, bad.
This game looked over already after 8 or so minutes until Tyrese Haliburton saved the Kings to the extent that you can save a team that lost the first quarter 42-28. In 18 first-half minutes Hali dropped 18 points on 7/11 shooting from the field and 4/5 shooting from three, with 4 rebounds and 6 assists. He was also the only '+' player for the Kings in the first half at +4.
Harrison Barnes picked up his scoring a bit, too, and Sacramento smartly fed Holmes the ball in the paint repeatedly, and you know he just doesn't miss near the bucket.
This was Tyrese Haliburton's night, though. It was his brilliance that turned this game from a first quarter blowout to a respectable 72-66 Nets lead at halftime.
If Monte McNair hadn't landed Haliburton with the 12th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, this would have been a considerably more depressing season. At least we have a future Fox-Haliburton backcourt to look forward to throughout all the losing. Outside of that, there isn't a lot of good happening here. But back to the game.
The Kings did the unthinkable in the third quarter, and actually took the lead briefly after a Haliburton mid-range pull-up jumper. We're so accustomed to the Kings losing games in the third that closing the lead gap vs. the Nets here is certainly a win. With neither team playing any defense whatsoever at this stage of the game, Sacramento gave themselves an opportunity to steal a tough game on the road with one quarter remaining. If you believe in acceptable losses, the Kings were heading in that direction here.
De'Aaron Fox was pretty quiet for most of this game until the 4th quarter when he knocked down a couple of big 3s, but ultimately it was too little, too late for the Kings' best player. Fox ended the game with 27 points, but it was a bit deceiving. He wasn't much of a factor through three quarters, and you aren't going to beat this Nets team when your best player doesn't have his best game, and your highest paid player (Buddy Hield) only contributes 11 points in 36 minutes.
The Nets cruised pretty comfortably to a 127-118 win. The Kings kept it competitive in the 4th quarter but never really made Brooklyn nervous. The better team took control, and the better team won.
I'm going to call this a good loss, though. Outside of a terrible start, the Kings competed hard. Haliburton looked fantastic. Fox and Buddy didn't have their best nights. It is what it is. The Kings aren't making the playoffs this season anyway, so please excuse my indifference in the outcome. A great Tyrese Haliburton performance is enough to keep me watching for now.
Most importantly, the Kings are in sole possession of the 5th pick (pre-lottery) of the 2021 NBA Draft after tonights loss, and are quickly gaining on Houston and Cleveland.
Meanwhile, in Dallas...
LUKA. FOR. THE. WIN. 💫 pic.twitter.com/xrKnMGjzTP
— NBA (@NBA) February 24, 2021