The Sacramento Kings logged their most blaring loss on Wednesday night, falling to the New Orleans Pelicans 125-95. What might have ordinarily been a blip on the radar toward the end of a regular season turned out to carry heavy implications for both teams and thus, made for a highly important competition.
Both the Kings and the Pelicans are vying for the 10th seed in the Western Conference, a chance to play-in to the postseason and see their win-now trade deadline moves come to fruition. Prior to tip-off, the Pels sat in 10th place while the Kings hold 13th, separated by 3.5 games.
“Tonight means everything,” player development coach Rico Hines told Mark Jones ahead of the ball game.
The achilles heel of this team has been their response on the defensive end of the court night-in and night-out, and despite their ability to score the basketball at a high clip during their first two frames in New Orleans, it was the difficult race to the finish line with any offensive advantage.
Meanwhile, the cast of characters in Crescent City were bouncy as all get out tonight, with as many dunks as we should have seen at All-Star Saturday night this last month. Their starting line-up featuring Jaxson Hayes, Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valančiūnas boast a sizable advantage that was not an easy match-up for the smaller Sacramento squad. This is all without their superstar Zion Williamson, who the Kings, and the rest of the association, have not seen yet this season.
Turnovers once again plagued this Kings squad as they mis-read easy offensive schemes leading to a second and third quarter collapse. Ingram poured in 24 first-half points in a seasoned and productive outing that he built on for the rest of the ball game.
Despite the high-quality offense from the starters for most of the contest, it wasn’t enough when the defense remained absent on the other side. We lost in disappointing fashion, in a game we really needed most. Can’t say it’s off-brand for Sacramento to go down like this, but transparently things looked to be different following the trade deadline.
Giving credit where it’s due: there were good things on offense from De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis and Harrison Barnes. But they didn’t string it together for four frames. And effort only goes so far.
These teams will meet one more time before the end of the regular season, which will in turn continue to have the play-in implications has Sacramento inch further away from that coveted 10th seed.