On Thursday night, the Sacramento Kings (22-34) dropped their ninth in a row in a hard-fought contest 122-114 against the west’s current #2 seed Phoenix Suns (40-15). The Kings drew first blood and then fell behind for most of the remaining minutes, regaining the lead in the fourth quarter on a Delon Wright layup. They fell behind again and regained the lead moments later on a Terence Davis 26-footer. The Kings stayed within seven points of the Suns throughout the bulk of the game, matching the Suns blow-for-blow, but finally were just outplayed.
De’Aaron Fox led the Kings with 27 points on 11-for-21 shooting and added 8 assists. Altogether six Kings finished with double-digit points. As a team, the Kings shot well, going 55% from the field and nearly 47% from three-point range. The team’s free throw percentage has slightly improved with the last two games, going from 59% against the Pelicans to 73% against the Suns. Buddy Hield found and sustained his three-point stroke, scoring 24 points on 5-for-10 from beyond the arc and 8-for-13 overall.
Deandre Ayton has the makings of a stellar big man and scorer in the paint. He put up 26 points against the Kings, shooting 91% from the field. He added 11 rebounds and a block to that total, playing the traditional center role in a league that (at least in perception) has shifted away from his style. Shooting guard Devin Booker followed up with an impressive 23 points of his own. Chris Paul, at age 35, put on another point guard clinic, dishing 11 assists and stealing three while scoring 13 on 50% shooting. This Suns team is very good all-around, but CP3 is the model point guard in this league and will be the x-factor come playoff time.
STAR OF THE GAME
DE’AARON FOX just keeps on producing at the level of an elite point guard. Over the nine-game losing streak, Fox has averaged 27 points and six assists per game on 45% shooting from the field. His free throw numbers are still weak (73%) which makes him easy to foul, and he has no three-point stroke to speak of, going 28% from downtown over that stretch.
The bottom line is that D-Fox is possibly one offseason away from becoming one of the best point guards in the league. He produces a lot and takes the reins for his team when they need him. He has some shooting problems to get through, and he gets beat up in the paint without having fouls called. He’s obviously frustrated by the last several games, and the predominance of small lineups by the Kings isn’t helping.
HASSAN WHITESIDE has been playing more minutes in Richaun Holmes’ absence, with mixed results. On Thursday he gathered eleven rebounds and scored eleven points on 5-for-8 from the floor.
That’s maybe not enough to raise heads, but Whiteside consistently shows his presence in the paint. He only got one block, and maybe by contrast to the rest of the Kings diminutive lineup, he looks bigger. But I think when Richaun Holmes comes back, the Kings ought to consider playing Whiteside as their starting power forward to improve their paltry rebounding and get some easier points inside.
The Kings played as hard as they could. They did their best, but in the end, their best just wasn’t good enough to beat the second-best team in the west (by record). They stayed tight, though, and got as balanced of a team effort as I have seen during this losing streak.
Without Richaun Holmes, the Kings have size problems. I already said before that a Whiteside/Holmes frontcourt could create some defensive opportunities, both for rebounds and blocks. What it could also do is open up the perimeter for more open looks, allowing Fox, Hield, Haliburton, and Barnes to find their three-point groove. If it works, the Kings would be a much harder team to defend against and lower their ppg allowed by gaining more ball-control opportunities.
Oh yeah, and free throws. I’m going to keep ringing that bell. Strategically, you just have to sink them, especially in close games like this one.
A much-needed two days off before going to…
@ Dallas Mavericks (30-24), Sunday, April 18th, 4:30 PM PT
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Sacramento Kings Scorched by Suns Sacramento Kings Scorched by Suns Sacramento Kings Scorched by Suns