Failure to Launch: Rockets shut down Kings during second half

Mar 10, 2024, 5:59 PM | Updated: 6:33 pm

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

Living and dying by the three-ball has been a trend for the Sacramento Kings this season.

Entering play on Sunday, the Kings held a 28-9 record when shooting 35 percent or better from three-point land this season. On the other side of things, Sacramento is 8-17 when falling under 35 percent in games.

During a two-point while facing the Western Conference-worst San Antonio Spurs on Thursday, the Kings were able to come out on top despite a 10-of-32 (31%) showing from deep.

Unfortunately for Sacramento, they were not facing the Spurs’ defense on Sunday.

The Houston Rockets used their top-ten defense to shut down the Kings’ offense, holding Sacramento to a season-low 18 percent shooting shooting from three-point range en route to a 112-104 win at Golden 1 Center.

Each loss at this point in the season is costly for the Kings (36-27), especially when you consider how many sub-.500 opponents Sacramento has left on its schedule. Instead of picking up a win against the 28-35 Rockets, the Kings fell flat and dropped out of the top six spots in the Western Conference standings.

Sacramento now holds a 17-12 record at home–the worst among the top nine teams in the West.

Kings vs. Rockets Recap & Takeaways

While Sacramento entered play on Sunday holding a two-game winning streak, the Kings were searching for more of a balanced scoring attack from its starting unit.

De’Aaron Fox has been a force for Sacramento as of late–especially in late-game situations–and Domantas Sabonis continues to rack up double-doubles and triple-doubles, but Sacramento has needed more from Keegan Murray, who has gone through a few cold stretches on offense this season.

Murray, who scored just three points during the Kings’ win over San Antonio on Thursday, got involved in the offense early against Houston, scoring eight points during the first quarter to help Sacramento push its lead to double-digits before play entered the second.

While the Kings’ three-point struggles continued during the first half of Sunday’s action (four-of-16), Sacramento found success in the paint against a Houston defense that entered play holding opponents to 47.4 points in the paint per game this season (7th in the NBA).

Thanks to a dominant start from Domantas Sabonis (14 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists during the first half), the Kings outscored the Rockets 34-20 in the paint to help set the tone early. Sacramento held a 13-point lead during the second quarter, but Houston’s three-point shooting (44% during the first half) trimmed the Kings’ lead to 59-54 at the break.

Even through a rough start from beyond the arc, Sacramento carved out an offensive path in the paint during the first half. Once the page turned to the second half, that path was taken away by Houston’s defense.

The Rockets ramped up their intensity on the defensive end to begin the second half, as Houston kept the Kings in check from three-point range while sealing off the paint to build a run and take the lead.

Sacramento’s big lead became a distant memory as the Rockets held Sacramento to just 14 points on four-of-16 shooting (25%) from the field during the third quarter en route to taking an 86-73 lead into the fourth. Turnovers plagued the Kings in the third, as Sacramento turned the ball over eight times in the period to hand Houston the game on a silver platter.

Malik Monk’s late-game offensive burst (15 points in the fourth quarter) injected life into Golden 1 Center as Sacramento trimmed the deficit to five points with just under two minutes to go, but too much damage had been done in this one.

“We know we have to be better,” Fox said postgame of his team’s latest loss to a sub-.500 opponent. “We have to be a more consistent team.”

De’Aaron Fox scored 14 points during the first half, but the star guard was not a factor once play entered the third quarter. With Houston sealing off the paint and Fox struggling from three (2/9), the guard scored just four points on one-of-nine shooting from the field.

The Kings’ poor three-point defense reared its ugly head on Sunday, with the Rockets finishing the afternoon 12-of-20 (41%) from downtown, but that wasn’t the primary reason Sacramento was handed their latest home defeat.

Three-point shooting continues to be a primary indicator of the Kings’ success. If the shots are falling, Sacramento is tough to beat. If the shooting isn’t there, wins are hard to come by. This has been a model that the Kings have followed going back to last season and last April’s playoff series loss to Golden State.

Three players made more than one triple on Sunday, but not at an efficient rate. Fox went two-for-nine (22%) and Monk converted two of his eight attempts (25%), while Davion Mitchell’s two-for-five (40%) showing was a bright spot off the bench.

After starting the game off active, Keegan Murray finished the night three-of-11 from the field while missing all five of his attempts from beyond the arc. Kevin Huerter saw the floor more on Sunday than he had in his previous two games, but the sharpshooter missed all three of his attempts from three.

Once the paint was taken away and the Rockets forced Sacramento to beat them in a different way, the game went off the rails.

Sacramento outscored Houston 34-20 in the paint during the first half while shooting 17-of-25 (68%) inside the key. The second half was a different story, as the Kings were held to 22 points in the paint while shooting 38 percent from the floor.

Sunday’s game had a scary ending as talented Rockets center Alperen Sengun had to be removed from the game in a wheelchair after appearing to suffer a lower-body injury with less than a minute remaining.

Sengun looked devastated as he was removed from the court, holding his hands over his face as fans in attendance gave the third-year center an ovation on his way to the Houston locker room.


Domantas Sabonis extended his double-double streak to 46 games on Sunday afternoon, tying Jerry Lucas (46, 1/2-3/20/68) for the longest single-season double-double streak in franchise history.

When is the next Sacramento Kings game?

Sacramento will continue its six-game homestand on Tuesday night when they face off against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Kings nearly defeated the Bucks on their home floor during an overtime thriller on January 14th that ended with Damian Lillard’s heart-breaking triple at the buzzer. Sacramento held a four-point lead with less than 20 seconds to go, but couldn’t hold off a late charge by Milwaukee.

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Bucks coverage, beginning at 5:30 PM PST on Game Night before a 7:00 PM PST tip-off from downtown Sacramento.

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Upcoming Schedule

  • Tuesday, March 12th – Sacramento Kings vs. Milwaukee Bucks – 7:00 PM PST
  • Wednesday, March 13th – Sacramento Kings vs. Los Angeles Lakers – 7:00 PM PST
  • Saturday, March 16th – Sacramento Kings vs. New York Knicks – 7:00 PM PST
  • Monday, March 18th – Sacramento Kings vs. Memphis Grizzlies – 7:00 PM PST
  • Wednesday, March 20th – Sacramento Kings @ Toronto Raptors – 4:00 PM PST

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