For the most part, this has been an absolutely wonderful season. The Kings are further along than we expected, we’ve seen a ton of growth from the young guys and the future is definitely bright. That early season success sometimes makes us forget just how inexperienced this team really is however, and that inexperience has reared its ugly head too much as of late.
Last night’s humiliating defeat to the Nets was the worst of the season, but it was hardly the first time we’ve seen the Kings blow a big fourth quarter lead or fail to execute in the clutch this season. We’ve got multiple examples just since the All-Star break.
(Editorial Note: Just FYI, the following four “ads” are actually video clips of the specific situation I describe, the ad is just the preview image.)
Against the Clippers at home with playoff hopes on the line and the Kings down 3, Harrison Barnes got the ball off a Clippers miss and pushed, but committed an offensive foul and turned the ball over.
Against the Bucks, the Kings made a furious comeback to even be in the game, but then with the chance to win the game, they didn’t even get a shot off and turned the ball over instead.
Then of course there was the game against the Warriors where Buddy Hield passed up a deep (but completely wide open) three to instead dribble into traffic and toss up a heavily contested jumper.
And of course, last night, not even accounting for the fact that the team gave up a TWENTY EIGHT POINT THIRD QUARTER LEAD AND TWENTY FIVE POINT LEAD HEADING INTO THE FOURTH QUARTER, the Kings once again had a chance to at least take the lead with 20 seconds left and instead turned the ball over.
With the Kings firmly in the playoff hunt at the break, there was hope that the team would rise to the occasion and stay in the race all the way through. But much like in the above games, the team has seemingly collapsed under the pressure, going 4-9 in that stretch. Four of those losses have come by a single basket, and none of them have come by double digits. The Kings are staying with teams, but they haven’t figured out how to finish the job yet. It’s incredibly frustrating because we’ve seen how close they are, but time and time again, they fail to execute.
It’s easy to think that this team will eventually get better in these situations, especially since they’re at least putting themselves in a good position in these games. After all guys like De’Aaron Fox (21), Harry Giles (20) and Marvin Bagley (20) are all extremely young. But nothing is given in the NBA, and everything is earned. The West will be even tougher next season, and if this team wants to make the playoffs, they can’t afford to coast. They let their foot off the gas last night and got punched in the teeth by a determined Nets squad. Hopefully the lesson sinks in this time.