The playoff drought continues.
The Sacramento Kings fell apart late in the fourth quarter and lost 116-110 to the Memphis Grizzlies. The defeat officially eliminates the Kings from play-in contention, and the franchise will miss the postseason for the 15th consecutive year, which ties the NBA record.
Seldom-used guard Justin James was phenomenal and helped Sacramento keep pace with Memphis. He finished with a career-high 25 points, while Chimezie Metu chipped with 17. King-killer Dillon Brooks led the Grizzlies with 30.
The undermanned Sacramento squad gave everything it could in this one. The Kings went on a 16-2 run to open the fourth quarter and held a six-point lead with 3:08 remaining.
But it was all Memphis from there. The Grizzlies went on a 12-0 run to finish the game and clinch the victory.
Head coach Luke Walton deserves credit for how hard his players have played in recent weeks. Already without De’Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes and Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento suffered another blow in the first quarter when starting center Richaun Holmes was forced to leave the game with an injury.
His absence left a gaping hole on the backline of the defense, and Memphis took full advantage, outscoring the Kings 66-46 in the paint. The Grizzlies also finished the game with a 48-35 rebounding advantage.
It was a tightly-contested first quarter that saw both teams go blow-for-blow. The Grizzlies shot an impressive 62.5 percent from the field and bullied the Kings inside, scoring 22 points in the paint.
But Sacramento did its damage from the perimeter, connecting on 7-of-11 3-point attempts and only trailed 36-32 going into the second.
The game remained close in the second quarter. Neither team was able to maintain a sustained run and pull away.
James was awesome for the Kings in the first half. He set a new career-high with 16 points, while Buddy Hield had 12, and Delon Wright chipped in with 11. Brooks — who always seems to play his best against Sacramento — led the Grizzlies with 12 points in the half, but the Kings held a 60-59 lead at the break.
It's the show!— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) May 14, 2021
JJ has tied his career-high in the first half with 1️⃣6️⃣ points and counting pic.twitter.com/olJF5pOchd
Memphis came out of the locker room like gangbusters and outscored Sacramento 17-8 over the first six minutes of the third to take an eight-point lead. But the Kings didn’t back down and fought to stay in it.
James continued with the hot hand and scored nine points in the period. He had 25 after the third quarter, and Sacramento trailed 89-83 going into the fourth.
Inconsistency plagued the Kings this season. The two pair of nine-game losing streaks torpedoed any hopes of sneaking into the play-in tournament. If they could have snuck out a couple of victories during those stretches, the final two games would likely have been meaningful.
Sacramento made some strides this season but will need to go back to the drawing board in the offseason in order to end the 15-year playoff drought next season.