Rudy Gay's game winning jumper last night was a nice bit of catharsis for Kings fans. For once, the collapse and heartbreak didn't happen and the Kings were able to make it out of a tight game with the win. And yet, this game was just another example of the Kings' execution lapsing down the stretch.
With 1:20 left, the Kings led by 8 points after a three pointer by Rudy Gay. Normally, that'd be enough, but not for the Kings, who let the Jazz get all the way back in it, tying the game at 101 with 4.1 seconds left, the first time the game had been tied since DeMarcus Cousins hit a free throw in the first quarter to make it 3-3.
The numbers back up Sacramento's terrible end of game execution. For the season, the Kings have an offensive rating of 102.8 (11th) and a defensive rating of 106.0 (27th) per NBA.com. Both those numbers take a tumble when looking at clutch stats. NBA.com defines the "clutch" as the game being within five points with five minutes left in the game. Sacramento's offensive rating in the clutch falls to 99.0 (26th) and their defensive rating plummets to 121.7 (28th). Those numbers fall even further to 87.4 and 123.1 if you define the clutch as being within five with just three minutes left.
According to NBA.com the Kings have been in 19 games in which the clutch applied with three minutes left in the game. Their record in those 19 games is a measly 6-13. Only the Philadelphia 76ers have a worse winning percentage (Phoenix has the same 6-13 record) in the clutch than the Kings, and guess who their one win came against? That's right, your Sacramento Kings!
George Karl had some thoughts on the Kings inability to close out games yesterday.
Karl on the process: "You’re not going to be brilliant at closing out games in one month or 30 games. It’s going to take maybe a season."— Jason Jones (@mr_jasonjones) January 15, 2016
The Kings don't need to be brilliant yet, but they can't be the utter dunces that they have shown this season. This team is too talented and wins are too important to continue to perform at such a below-average level during the most crucial period of the game.