The Kings played bad first and third quarters but were great in the second and fourth quarters. However, the great play wasn’t enough to get the edge over the bad quarters and the Kings fall to 12-18 on the season. James Harden and Russell Westbrook were their usual selves. Harden nailing tough threes and Westbrook finishing at the rim along with the fouls they get. De’Aaron Fox’s 31 points kept the team in it, but it still wasn’t enough in the end.
Injury note: Bogdan Bogdanovic (OUT)
Starters: Fox, Hield, Barnes, Bagley, Holmes
Both teams exchanged baskets to start, then Clint Capela kept getting and-1’s down low and Richaun Holmes left early with two fouls. The Kings cut into in early deficit thanks to De’Aaron Fox mid-range jumpers and a drive to the rim. But then they got away from Fox and Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley missed shots. Houston the other way made it a 26-14 lead. Trevor Ariza would knock down a three and Nemanja Bjelica got a fast break layup to make it 26-19 and a timeout was called. Sacramento played horrible defense down the quarter letting Houston get wide open baskets off extra passes and backdoor cuts and they trailed 37-21 as a result. Fox led the Kings with six points.
The Kings fought back to make it a six-point game early in the second. Fox was being aggressive and of course it was working, despite still not getting foul calls that were being called the other way. Ariza made another three and the Rockets started to miss a few jumpers to give the Kings a chance to come back. The Kings would come within six but then Houston would always have an answer to extend their lead again. As I typed that, a Bagley rebound led to a pull up Buddy three in transition to make it a five point game. Right after, Harden got an and-1, Fox turned it over and Russell Westbrook got fouled. Sacramento was able to outscore the Rockets 36-28 but trailed 65-57 at the half. The Kings shot 4-14 from deep as well to Houston’s 8-22. Fox led the way with 10, Barnes had nine and Bagley and Holmes added eight each. Harden and Westbrook combined for 33 points on 10-19 shooting.
Well Houston came out on a 14-2 run to open the third quarter and it was 79-59 within a blink of an eye. Hield had made a three but he didn’t get if off in time and it resulted in a 24 second violation. The Kings weren’t making their shots and Houston was. It was that simple. Barnes had three looks from the same spot from deep and missed them all. Houston would outscore the Kings 32-22 after starting the quarter on a 21-4 run and led 97-79 entering the fourth. Sacramento couldn’t hit much from deep which Houston was doing well in as well as scoring inside. The Harden and Russ duo now had 51 points together. The Kings starting lineup had 52 combined.
Sacramento went on an 13-0 run to make it a 100-92 game with about seven minutes to go. Fox continued to be aggressive by driving to the rim and taking confident threes. Bjelica also got a steal, shielded himself from Russ and laid it in. Fox continued to be really good for the Kings as well as Holmes who got blocks and rebounds. Cory Joseph fouled out and “Refs you suck” chants permeated Golden 1 Center. Somehow the Kings turned it over on the inbounds and Russ made a three. Fox got many chances at the line but he always made 1⁄2 free throws. His struggles from last year remain. The comeback effort fell short for Sacramento and they drop to 12-18.
Nobody played close to perfect or good but De’Aaron Fox was the best of the bunch by a mile. His 31 points on 13-21 shooting, nine rebounds, six assists and one steal gave the Kings hope ever since the game began. The offense was successful when he was the focal point by attacking the rim and finding open players. The players he found didn’t reward him with assists enough. Fox’s downfall came at the free throw line where he went 4-9 with key misses in the fourth.
Richaun Holmes was the second best player pretty easily. He provided 12 points with great rim-running, grabbed 14 rebounds to go with three assists, two steals and a block but had five turnovers and four fouls which kept him from making his impact early.
Cory Joseph, offensive limitations and all, was great with Fox on the court. He had nine points on 4-6 shooting (one three), six rebounds and two assists. However, he fouled out during the comeback attempt but I can’t blame him for who he had to guard.
Trevor Ariza made an impact off the bench especially with Barnes disappearing for another game despite a good start. Ariza finished with 12 points on 4-8 shooting, six rebounds, two assists and a steal. He missed some threes badly and also had some costly foul calls but again, look at the opponent.
The Kings were 7-30 from three (23.3%) to Houston’s 15-39 (38%).
The Kings were also 15-23 from the stripe (65.2%). They’ll be good for a few games then fall apart here when it matters most.
Sacramento had more rebounds at 49-40 and had more assists at 20-18.
Sacramento also had 19 turnovers to the Rockets’ 11.
The points in the paint battle went to the Kings by 62-46. If the Kings dropped in a few more threes...
The 10-18 Minnesota Timberwolves are coming into town in a matchup of two teams who forgot how to win in the West. Tipoff is this Thursday at 7:00 p.m. PST.