A fun loss? The Sacramento Kings continued their home-stand falling 135-126 to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night. Following a thrilling victory over the Chicago Bulls on Monday, Sacramento was able to build momentum surrounding their victory, with a game that highlighted some the their many strengths while also narrowing in on what this team can work on in the final chapter of this season.
Early in the second quarter, De’Aaron Fox logged his 2,000th career assist, becoming the No. 2 in franchise history to reach that milestone in a Kings uniform. It goes without saying, but when Sacramento converts points off assists, good things happen. In situations prior where this team had a tendency to overshare on possessions, make senseless passes and generally use the rock more like a paperweight. In recent nights, creating efficient plays for each other has led Sacramento to better looks on offense.
In his first game facing his former club, Donte DiVincenzo logged a productive night on defense, collecting two steals in his first five minutes of action. He gave Fox a solid rest in his second quarter entrance, finding his stroke beyond the arc for 6 points and a dime. Fox sustained a hand or finger injury of some sort in the first frame, and although he returned to play did not look as smooth as his recent outings have proven to be. It was clearly a point on contention in his game going forward, and to the detriment of Sacramento, felt his absence in the box score.
Milwaukee garnered momentum nearing the end of the second frame, when favorable splashes from Serge Ibaka and George Hill gave them an offensive push for a 40-point frame. The Kings were able to hold the Greek Freak to just 14 first half points, while his running mate Khris Middleton quietly accumulated his own 17 points. It was an ugly stanza for the home team, but didn’t feel out of hand trailing 68-61 heading into the locker room.
Trey Lyles opened the third frame making plays on both offense and defense, cutting the 11-point Bucks’ lead to just one on a combination of outstanding rebounding and firing from beyond the arc. In his short time with Sacramento, Lyles has proven to be an effective role player alongside the starting five.
It was Giannis, of course, who had his own response, exploding in the third quarter and getting to the line what felt like the entirety of the frame. It was MVP behavior that catapulted the Bucks right back in the upper echelon of this contest, with the Kings in hot pursuit to catch a victory. 21 trips to the free-throw line between Sacramento and Milwaukee made up the entire third quarter, as momentum stalled with so much time logged at the charity stripe.
Defense was the name of the game in the fourth, with Davion Mitchell pouring in 19 points and more importantly, key deflections on the opposition. DiVincenzo similarly contributed highly productive dense off steals, playing chippy and keeping Sacramento in this contest, trailing 108-105 with less than 9 minutes to play.
And oh did the end of this game feel like trading buckets until someone went on a run. The Kings answered back from being down 14 points by tying things up, even taking the lead in the final minutes of the contest. An emphatic slam from Richaun Holmes followed by a tough and-1 from DiVincenzo were enough to make Golden 1 Center roar.
And once again, NBA officiating really didn’t want the Kings to win this game. It’s simply ridiculous at this point, but the amount of no-calls Sacramento received tonight were ridiculous. Fox didn’t attempt his second free-throw until 3:43 left in the contest.
A 5-point swing ended the game in Milwaukee’s favor. And despite the loss, this game was fun as hell. Sacramento are making clear improvements, and although we don’t tally moral victories over here, this is logged in the ‘growth’ folder for this era of Kings basketball.