The Kings lost another close game Monday night, falling to the Utah Lazz by three points at home. Sacramento had fourth quarter leads; in fact, the Kings led by two with less than four minutes left. The Kings are now 7-12 in games decided by fewer than five points.
That's not a perfect measure of poise, or will to win, or whatever you want to attribute late-game performance to. (Some would say coaches have a large effect; on the other end, studies show whether teams win or lose a close game could be due to chance.) But it's a measure nonetheless: the Kings lose more close games than they win.
Is this outside the norm in terms of young teams? I picked three losing squads from recent years with famously young rosters to run a quick comparison. If they performed much better than the Kings in close games, maybe there's reason for worry here. If not, let's all breathe easy and remember The Blueprint.
* The 2008-09 Oklahoma City Thunder, starring a sophomore Kevin Durant, sophomore Jeff Green and rookie Russell Westbrook, went 23-59 on the season. In games decided by five points or less, the Thunder went 8-14. This season, they are currently 33-17 overall, and 14-6 in close games.
* The 2006-07 Portland Trail Blazers went 32-50. Along with veteran Zach Randolph, they were led by rookies Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. In games decided by five or fewer points, the Blazers went 16-12. Last season, the Blazers went 50-32 overall, and 12-11 in close games.
* The 2008-09 Memphis Grizzlies went 24-58 with a third-year Rudy Gay, a second-year Mike Conley and rookies Marc Gasol and O.J. Mayo. In close games, they were 9-11. This year, the Grizzlies are 27-26 on the season, and 10-9 in close games.
This remains anecdotal at best; a fuller study of close game performance for public consumption is warranted, with controls for team age, quality and other factors. This is far smaller scope, but I hope it eases some concerns. The Kings already love pointing toward the Thunder way, right? Well, guess what? They sucked in close games too!