Depleted Heat torch Kings, drop Sacramento to 7th in West

Feb 26, 2024, 9:46 PM | Updated: 9:47 pm

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 26: Domantas Sabonis #10 of the Sacramento Kings goes up for a sh...

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

There is a running joke among the Sacramento Kings fanbase that when an opposing team is missing several key players, it typically results in a loss for the ‘Beam Team.’

Well, these losses against shorthanded teams are starting to make this ‘joke’ feel less funny with each passing game.

Twenty-four hours removed from what head coach Mike Brown called Sacramento’s “most complete game of the season” in Los Angeles, the Kings turned around and finished the back-to-back with a disappointing 121-110 loss to the Miami Heat on Monday night at Golden 1 Center.

Not only were the Heat without star forward Jimmy Butler (league suspension), but they also took the floor without Tyler Herro, Terry Rozier, and Josh Richardson due to injury.

At this point in the season, each loss can come with enhanced consequences, and Monday’s defeat pushed Sacramento out of a playoff spot to the seventh seed in the Western Conference standings.

Kings vs. Heat Recap & Takeaways

Keegan Murray’s emergence as Sacramento’s primary defender has helped the team take baby steps forward on that end of the floor, but the Kings got more than just defense from the second-year forward on Monday night.

Murray, who scored 11 points (4/11 FG) during Sunday’s win over the Los Angeles Clippers, tapped into his offensive arsenal to help lead an overall sluggish start for a Sacramento team that appeared to be playing with tired legs to start things off.

The Kings got a boost from Murray in the first quarter as the sophomore scored 12 points (4/4 FG) to help erase an early seven-point deficit. While Murray’s offense lifted Sacramento to end the first, it was De’Aaron Fox’s turn to lead the charge in the second.

De’Aaron Fox scored eight of his 12 first-half points in the second quarter while also handing out a few impressive dimes, the most noteworthy being an alley-oop lob to his former college teammate Malik Monk.

While the Kings’ offense shot 58 percent from the field and seven-of-14 from three-point range, Bam Adebayo (17 first-half points) and the Heat took advantage of Sacramento’s mishaps by scoring 13 points off nine Kings turnovers.

Fans with concerns regarding facing a depleted Miami roster had those thoughts confirmed early as the Heat took a 65-62 lead into the break. It seems like games are never easy for Sacramento, and it was evident at the half that this short-handed group wouldn’t roll over for a nearly fully healthy Kings team.

The pressure would continue to mount for Sacramento as play entered the second half, with Miami stretching its lead to double-digits as the Kings struggled to convert on the offensive end against a physical Heat defense.

Once the third-quarter buzzer sounded, Miami had taken a 101-81 lead after outscoring Sacramento 36-19 in the period–including 18-6 in the paint. The Kings’ success on offense didn’t carry over into the third as they shot just nine-of-21 (43%) in the quarter, while the Heat knocked down 61 percent of their attempts to take control of the game.

It felt like Sacramento was on the verge of making a big run all night long, and that final push came in the fourth as the Kings made one last charge at a comeback.

De’Aaron Fox continued his late-game heroics by scoring 11 points in the fourth, while Keegan Murray knocked down three-straight triples to pace a 23-7 run that trimmed the deficit to 108-104 with five minutes to go.

While the game appeared to be back within reach, Miami kept Sacramento from tying or taking the lead thanks to a strong closing effort from Bam Adebayo and Jaime Jaquez Jr as both players took turns knocking down tough looks down the final stretch.

The energy was there for the Kings, as was the late-game execution on offense (55% FG in the fourth), but too much damage was done in the third for Sacramento to overcome in crunch time.

“I feel like the first and third quarters are where we got beat,” Murray said of the loss. “We can’t dig ourselves in that hole. We’ve done that a lot this year. We need to play a complete four quarters.”

It was a story of four quarters indeed, as the Kings outplayed Miami in the first and fourth, while the Heat outscored Sacramento 69-48 during the middle periods.

As good as the Kings have looked on the defensive end over the past couple of weeks, they could not contain a Miami offense that was missing a ton of firepower. The Heat finished the night having shot 51 percent from the field and 37 percent from deep while outscoring Sacramento in the paint 60-50.

Bench scoring also went Miami’s way, as Kevin Love outscored the Kings’ entire second unit on his own (19-17).

Monday’s loss was the latest reminder that as good as this Sacramento group can look on one night–like Sunday’s win over the Clippers–they can turn around and deliver a head-scratching performance against a severely short-handed team without multiple starters.

With the NBA Playoffs quickly approaching, the margin for error for teams in the postseason mix is shrinking on a nightly basis. There’s a long way to go before we know which teams will be punching their tickets for a first-round series, but the Kings will have to brush away losses like Monday’s quickly before teams beneath them make things even more difficult.


Domantas Sabonis posted his 40th straight double-double, becoming the 11th player in NBA history to do so. The big man also posted his third-straight triple-double (NBA-leading 21st of the season) during the loss: 14 PTS | 14 REB | 10 AST | 4 TO

De’Aaron Fox posted his fifth-straight stat-line with 25+ points, 5+ rebounds, 5+ assists, and 2+ steals on Monday, becoming the first player in the NBA to do so this season: 27 PTS | 8 REB | 6 AST | 3 STL | 13/24 FG | 7 TO

Keegan Murray had his highest-scoring game since January 31st when he scored 33 points (also vs. Miami), as the forward finished the night with 26 points, five rebounds, and three steals on 10-of-14 shooting from the field (six-of-seven from deep).

When is the next Sacramento Kings game?

Sacramento will embark on a brief–but challenging–two-game road trip that will begin on Wednesday night in Denver, where they will face the reigning champion Nuggets for the final time this regular season.

The Kings will seek its first four-game season series sweep of Denver since the 2002-03 season after winning the first three matchups, most recently on February 14th when De’Aaron Fox’s 15-point fourth quarter completed a 102-98 comeback win at Ball Arena.

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Nuggets coverage, beginning at 4:30 PM PST on Game Night before a 6:00 PM PST tip-off from ‘The Mile High City.’

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Upcoming Schedule

  • Wednesday, February 28th – Sacramento Kings @ Denver Nuggets – 6:00 PM PST
  • Friday, March 1st – Sacramento Kings @ Minnesota Timberwolves – 5:00 PM PST
  • Monday, March 4th – Sacramento Kings vs. Chicago Bulls – 7:00 PM PST
  • Wednesday, March 6th – Sacramento Kings @ Los Angeles Lakers – 7:30 PM PST
  • Thursday, March 7th – Sacramento Kings vs. San Antonio Spurs – 7:00 PM PST

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