Sacramento dropped their 7th straight game on Monday, losing 110 to 117 to the New Orleans Pelicans. De'Aaron Fox had his second 43 point game of the season against the Pelicans but it wasn't enough to overcome a huge early deficit. Brandon Ingram (34 points) and Zion Williamson (30 points) led the way for New Orleans.
Despite the Kings being the team with a day off and the Pelicans being on the second night of a back to back, it was New Orleans who came out with more energy. The Pelicans got out to a 31 to 19 lead after the first quarter and extended that lead to 26 points by the end of the second quarter before eventually going into halftime up 68 to 45.
Sacramento came out with a lot more energy on both sides of the ball in the second half, with newly signed Damian Jones getting his first in-game action for the Kings. Jones started the third quarter in Richaun Holmes place as Holmes left the game with a sore hamstring. It remains to be seen if Holmes will miss additional time.
The third quarter was Sacramento's best defensive quarter, and Jones played a big part in that, providing excellent size, lateral movement and rim protection. De'Aaron Fox came out of halftime with purpose and scored 15 of his 43 points in the quarter. By the end of the third period, Sacramento had cut New Orleans' lead to just 12 points.
The fourth quarter was a back and forth affair most of the way, with Sacramento unable to get within more than 8-12 points and New Orleans unable to put the game away. Finally, with 2:28 left in the game, De'Aaron Fox hit a floater to cut the lead to just 5 points, and New Orleans missed on the other end of the floor. Fox quickly pulled up for three on the other. Brandon Ingram had consecutive scoring possessions for the Pelicans on the other end to put the lead back to 9 points and seemingly too far away for Sacramento, but the Kings weren't done fighting just yet, and a Fox three pointer with 28.4 seconds left cut the lead to just 5 points.
Sacramento intentionally fouled Eric Bledsoe on the inbounds but Bledsoe made both free throws, putting the Pelicans up by 7 with 24.3 seconds left, the game seemingly out of reach... until Harrison Barnes was fouled on a deep three attempt on the other side of the court a few seconds later. Not only was he fouled, but the officials judged that Naji Marshall committed a flagrant foul by stepping under Barnes as he shot, giving Sacramento three shots and the ball. Barnes sank all three free throws, but Fox just missed his three point attempt on the ensuing possession, and that was pretty much the ball game.
Aside from the early deficit, the biggest problem areas for Sacramento were their outside shooting, free throws and rebounding. Sacramento was without Buddy Hield for the first time since 2017, and they dearly missed his shooting, especially in the first half when they went 0-14 from distance before De'Aaron made a three to end the half. The Kings also went just 22 of 37 from the line, an abysmal percentage for that many attempts. Fox himself shot just 8 for 15 and of all the Kings who shot a free throw, only Harrison Barnes didn't miss at least one.
New Orleans is also a big, physical team, and they showed it on the glass, outrebounding Sacramento 61 to 52. Steven Adams had 16 by himself, including 5 offensive boards.
The one area where the Kings really excelled tonight was in turnover differential. Sacramento had just 10 turnovers to 21 New Orleans, and 27 points off those turnovers (to just 11 for the Pelicans). Newcomer Delon Wright shows a penchant for stealing the ball, totaling 4 steals for the game.
The Kings will look to end their skid on Wednesday when they return home to face the Washington Wizards.
- As I mentioned earlier, Jones played very well in his first stint with the Kings. His stats don't jump off the page (2 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 1 block in 18 and a half minutes) but he had a team-high +10 and helped provide an answer to New Orleans' physicality. I'd much rather seen Jones and Metu play than Whiteside for the rest of this season. Speaking of Whiteside, he was a -7 in three minutes with nothing but a foul to his name.
- Maurice Harkless had perhaps his best game as a King although he couldn't buy a bucket from outside (0-5 from downtown). Harkless finished with 15 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals while playing aggressive on both ends of the floor.
- The Kings love taking quick threes late in the game early on in the shot clock despite not needing to. Work the offense a little bit, get in the paint and just score. If a three is there, sure, take it. But too often we see Sacramento rush an attempt isntead.
- Terence Davis thinks far too highly of his isolation offense.
- Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram are like if a Center and Shooting Guard kept their heights but traded weights.
- I hereby propose to NBC Sports California that no mention of the "play-in" game be made on the broadcast anymore.