The Sacramento Kings (12-18) traveled to the Milwaukee Bucks (18-13) on Sunday night, where they were embarrassed by Giannis Antetokounmpo and company. The Kings dropped the game 128-115 and extended their season-long losing streak to seven games going into Tuesday’s matchup with the vaunted Brooklyn Nets.
The early going was tight between the two teams. The Kings battled to keep the score close, ending the first period down by three at 28-25. Then, the wheels fell off. They struggled in the final three quarters and were down by as much as 23 early in the third. Sacramento struggled to make shots, tended to rush the shot-clock, and wasted good opportunities to work the floor. Reliance on the fast break and baskets from beyond the arc wore out Sacramento; on defense they looked as if their feet were glued to the hardwood.
STAR(S) OF THE GAME
While it should surprise no one that Giannis Antetokounmpo dominated the Kings’ back-of-the-pack defense, it is especially notable this time around since he finished with 38 points and 18 rebounds. Giannis’ performance made a mockery of the spiraling Kings, whose desperation sent him to the free throw line 24 times. He walked away from the game with half of his point total coming from foul shots.
While Giannis was being himself, an honorable mention must be given to Bucks forward Khris Middleton. Middleton came into the game averaging a little over twenty points and six rebounds per game and walked away with 32/8 at the final buzzer.
The Kings’ defense needs help. It had a glimmer of hope in returning their leading rebounder, injured center Richaun Holmes. Holmes started the game and provided a spark early, pulling down 11 boards of his own. The rest of the team needed a lot more hustle in terms of looking for rebound and steal opportunities. Between lack of ambition at the boards and their willy-nilly penchant for fast break opportunities, the Kings acted like they didn’t care at all about possessing the ball. Someone should remind them that the shot clock is 24 seconds long.
Starting point guard De’Aaron Fox had an off night, only scoring 13 points on 5-for-17 shooting. He did however help out with 10 assists. Fox, who leads all guards in field goal percentage underneath the basket, makes his bones pushing into the paint and coming away with points. Taking advantage of the big-small dynamic between Fox and Holmes demands that the Kings slow down and create opportunities for these two. As a point guard, it’s Fox’s job to help dictate that pace. When he’s running the court and driving to the basket early in each possession, the other four guys never get a chance to breathe. Controlling the clock is the best way to play good defense for the long 48 minutes.
Point guard Tyrese Haliburton came off the bench and scored 23 points to help keep the game close. He added to that total 8 assists and 5 rebounds. The Kings needed a big scorer to close the gap that the Bucks had created by the middle of the third quarter. Haliburton created some opportunities and hit some key shots to put his team back in striking distance. Despite the efforts of Haliburton and Holmes, the Kings finally just couldn’t overcome their inability to stop Giannis.
@ Brooklyn Nets, Tuesday, February 23rd, 4:30pm PT
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