The Sacramento Kings saw their five-game post-All-Star break winning streak end on Saturday in a 138-134 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Minnesota went up by 16 in the third quarter and Sacramento did a good job of rallying to get the game back close, but ultimately, poor defense and some timely shots by Anthony Edwards were too much for the Kings to overcome.
Here are three takeaways from the loss:
The Kings’ defensive issues persist
For the most part, Sacramento is a bad defensive team. This has been the case for the first 63 games of the season and will continue to be the case as the team plays high-leverage games in April.
Unfortunately, on Saturday, the Kings’ offense was unable to outpace the bad defense, like it has on many nights this season. Even in Sacramento’s recent wins, the defense hasn’t been pretty, with a few exceptions here and there.
Sacramento just has no way to stop penetration, with their personnel. Toward the end of the game on Saturday, Anthony Edwards was going through the Kings’ defense like butter and getting whatever he wanted at the rim. Edwards is a superstar and can do that to most teams, but Sacramento doesn’t really have a good answer to stop that.
After the game, Mike Brown spoke about “embracing the little things,” which could definitely help, but ultimately that won’t fix all their issues.
If the Kings make a playoff run, it is going to be because their great offense outpaced their bad defense, not because they flipped some sort of defensive switch.
“Embracing the little things for 48 minutes is hard to do. But that’s what championship teams do.”— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) March 5, 2023
Coach Brown explains what the squad needs to do to take its defense to the next level. pic.twitter.com/Av1pjgZ0lb
Kevin Huerter’s slump is over
Huerter had his second consecutive productive game on Saturday, finishing with 29 points on an efficient 11-for-15 from the floor. This comes after he dropped 18 points in Sacramento’s win over the Clippers on Friday.
Huerter hit a couple of huge threes in the third quarter to bring Sacramento back into the game and really ignite the crowd. That familiar dribble handoff game with Domantas Sabonis was really cooking in a way we haven’t seen in a while.
For a while before and after the All-Star break, Huerter was really struggling to get a rhythm from deep. Luckily, it seems that he has his rhythm back.
Getting this recent version of Huerter more consistently makes Sacramento’s offense even more potent.
The Kings need star De’Aaron Fox to beat elite teams
It’s crazy that a player can be underwhelming and still score 25 points. That’s just what Fox did on Saturday.
He broke his eight-game streak of scoring at least 30 points and, by no coincidence, the Kings lost. Whether it was playing on the second night of back-to-back or just a somewhat off night, Fox didn’t have his recent juice.
Minnesota definitely isn’t “elite,” but they have an elite shot creator in Edwards who can be trusted to get them buckets at the end of games.
In the playoffs, close games often devolve into your best guy vs. my best guy, and the Kings’ guy is Fox.
Fox absolutely can do this. We’ve seen it on countless occasions this season.