The Sacramento Kings (13-21) fell to the Charlotte Hornets (16-17) 127-126 on Sunday night. After leading by as much as fourteen early in the game, the Kings held onto a tight lead until the waning seconds. Late mistakes, including two missed free throws by De’Aaron Fox and a three-point foul by Harrison Barnes, ultimately doomed their effort.
For the second straight game, the Kings demonstrated balanced scoring, with six players in double digits and four of those with 20 points or better. Shooting guard Buddy Hield made history, becoming the fastest player ever (350 games) to make 1,000 career three-pointers. Stephen Curry of the Warriors previously held the record, set in 2015 at 369 games. Hield led the Kings with 30 points and helped them to their fast start, sinking five from beyond the arc in the first quarter alone. Barnes followed with 28 points and six assists, making some key shots late before the ugly foul that contributed to the loss.
STAR OF THE GAME
The Hornets’ power forward P.J. Washington exploded for 42 points and 9 rebounds against the Kings. He nearly doubled his previous season-high of 22 points set against the Atlanta Hawks on January 9th. He also uncharacteristically made 5 out of his 8 three-point attempts and added two blocks and two steals.
De’Aaron Fox couldn’t even hit his open shots against the Hornets, going 9-for-22 overall. He only made one of his three attempts from three-point range as well. While his shooting suffered, he was moving the ball around effectively. He had a season-high 14 assists, which facilitated the broad scoring.
More concerning is that both teams (but especially the Kings) were rarely crowding the ball in the defensive paint. It was easy to lose count of the times Richaun Holmes was alone fighting a swarm of Hornets for a rebound. If the Kings are going to improve their dismal point allowance, Marvin Bagley III and Harrison Barnes need to get inside and help Holmes more consistently. There has to be more emphasis on getting and keeping the basketball.
Of course, that kind of effort under the basket will wear out the bigger players. It would require more rest time for Holmes and Bagley, who have been playing a lot of minutes for the Kings. Getting a couple of solid rebounders on the bench to support the existing starting five is a need the Kings could address by the trade deadline on March 25th.
Marvin Bagley III has been stepping up, averaging over 18 points and 8 rebounds over the last eight games. These represent significant lifts over his season averages of 13.7 and 7.5, respectively. Against the Hornets, he scored 24 points and nearly matched his 2020-21 best (12) by snagging 10 rebounds.
The Kings have needed a solid presence in the frontcourt to aid Richaun Holmes. Bagley showed on Sunday night that he can contribute in a big way, both in defense and in scoring. Additionally, Bagley showed that he can even sink shots from beyond the three-point line. Being able to play the “big” role and shoot the ball in today’s NBA makes him a player worth watching as the season progresses.
The Kings get a much-needed two-day rest, then a couple of tough games before the All-Star break, starting with:
vs Los Angeles Lakers, Wednesday, March 3rd at 7:00pm PT
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