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Kings comeback falls short in 106-100 loss to Nuggets

We’ll see you next season, Denver.

Denver Nuggets v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The Sacramento Kings’ season finale against the Denver Nuggets came in the form of a 106-100 loss from Golden 1 Center on Wednesday night. Still in between that final push to make the play-in tournament or mailing in the season, Sacramento entered this game five games back of the 10th seed with decisions to be made.

Prior to tip-off, interim head coach Alvin Gentry shared in media availability that the final 15 games of the season would be about experimenting with line-ups, finding chemistry and giving deserving players their extended audition. So not out-right saying it - the Kings might have began to end their season after Monday night’s loss.

On the heels of Domantas Sabonis’ one-game suspension, the center-thinned squad rolled out Alex Len in place of the five, relying heavily on Damian Jones off the bench to survive against Denver’s big-man tandem of DeMarcus Cousins and Nikola Jokic.

The Nuggets just boast such a deadly offense with the presence of the Joker, who has the most smooth approach when driving and getting a shot off. It’s really exquisite to witness when the Kings aren’t on the receiving end of the outcome. Jokic poured in 15 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists in the first quarter alone.

Meanwhile, Trey Lyles found great success in this the first frame against his former club. Lyles led the Kings in scoring at the end of one with 11 points on 5-6 shooting from the field. His effectiveness has proven to be one of the more refreshing storylines since the trade deadline. Since he transitioned into a starting role, Lyles has exceeded the Kingdom’s expectations offensively.

There was a window for the Kings to keep their heads above water as Cousins garnered 3 first-half fouls, but Sacramento line-up choices were questionable as those ‘experiments’ Gentry spoke on earlier in the evening proved to be unsuccessful.

Storming back from a double-digit deficit in the first half, Sacramento trailed by just 2 points in the third quarter thanks to the play of De’Aaron Fox who made a statement comeback when Denver’s offense stalled. The swing in momentum led the Kings to an opportunity for victory behind Fox’s 14th straight contest with 20+ points scored, and his 10th of the season with a 30-piece.

Officiating hampered all flow in this contest, stalling the third quarter that felt like almost an hour within a 12-minute span of game clock. Fox received a technical foul that stayed under review forever, only for a rare Jokic miss at the free-throw line. On both sides of the floor the whistles were flying, and it ripped all sense of rhythm out of this contest. Despite that uncontrollable aspect of play, Sacramento trailed just 80-77 heading into the final frame.

The Kings answered the call in the fourth, hitting their stride beyond the arc and keeping the contest close only trailing by one point 87-86 with less than 8 minutes to play. Fox kept this team in the game where Harrison Barnes came up short offensively, but the defense of Justin Holiday, Chimezie Metu and Jones were big factors in bringing Sacramento back into contention tonight.

Down to the wire, Denver were out-whistling Sacramento - getting to the line often for the remainder of the quarter with a stalled Kings offense, the Nuggets claimed their win and a season sweep of Sacramento. The defensive adjustments were good to see, but no moral victories are of value at this point in the Kingdom.