Below .500. You’d think by now that we as Kings fans would be used to it by now, but after how this season’s gone, it’s still a little disappointing to once again be under .500. Yet that is where the Kings find themselves after another game in which they let a big lead slip away and gave up run after run.
The Kings started this game out playing as well as we’ve seen them since the All-Star break. Coach Joerger went ahead with another lineup change, moving Harrison Barnes back to Small Forward and inserting Nemanja Bjelica back in as a starter, and it seemed to work out. Barnes provided much better size against Jayson Tatum than Bogdan Bogdanovic would, and he also scored 8 quick points to help get the Kings out on top early. The Kings put up 38 points in the first quarter to jump out to a 13 point lead, but the Celtics wouldn’t go away so easily.
While the Kings were scoring easily, they weren’t exactly stopping Boston either. The Celtics struggled with their outside shot but were getting whatever they wanted inside the paint. Kyrie Irving led the way for the Celtics, always there to provide a steady hand whenever the Celtics needed to stop the bleeding. Irving would finish with 31 points, as well as 12 assists and 10 rebounds for just his second career triple-double. Five other Celtics players finished in double digits, including Jaylen Brown scoring 22 points off the bench and Marcus Morris chipping in with 21.
Brown was a key part of the turn around for Boston, as he singlehandedly helped spark a big run for the Celtics that turned a 12 point Sacramento lead near the end of the third quarter into a 2 point Boston lead heading into the fourth.
The Kings never recovered from that run, and while they kept the game close, they never regained the lead. Buddy Hield did the best he could, leading the Kings with 34 points, including hitting his first five threes. De’Aaron Fox nearly had a triple-double of his own with 19 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds, and Harrison Barnes had an efficient 20 points. Marvin Bagley III made his return and quickly made an impact with 14 points and 6 rebounds, but in the end it wasn’t enough for the Kings to overcome Boston’s steady onslaught.
Willie Cauley-Stein finished with a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds, and a game-high +7 for the Kings, but this is one of those games where +/- really doesn’t tell the whole story. Cauley-Stein was invisible for much of the first three quarters, and his presence in the lane might as well have been a traffic cone for as much effect it had on Boston getting to the rim. The Kings need better rim protection and more importantly consistent effort from their starting center.
Bogdan Bogdanovic also continued to struggle. While he wasn’t as bad as he had been in previous games, scoring 9 points on 4-9 shooting, he was 0-3 from distance and had 3 really bad turnovers on soft passes. It’s been a rough 2019 for the second year guard.
The Kings also killed themselves at the line once again. In a six point game, the Kings made six less free throws than the Celtics, who only had three more attempts than them. De’Aaron Fox alone was just 4-8 from the line. That’s been something the Kings have struggled with all year, and need to get better at.
The Kings now head to Philadelphia on a back-to-back to do battle with a team that’s likely angry the Kings took one from them last month.
For the opponent’s perspective, visit Celtics Blog.