SACRAMENTO KINGS

Free throws cost Kings as Lillard, Bucks deliver OT heartbreaker

Jan 14, 2024, 7:45 PM

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JANUARY 14: Damian Lillard #0 of the Milwaukee Bucks goes up for a shot on D...

(Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)

(Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)

With the Sacramento Kings on the verge of defeating the Milwaukee Bucks for the first time since 2016, Sunday’s game at Fiserv Forum had a chaotic ending that many fans saw coming.

Following missed free throws by Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox, the Bucks got the ball back in overtime down by two with five seconds remaining.

For Damian Lillard, five seconds might as well be an eternity.

Lillard broke Sacramento’s hearts by knocking down a buzzer-beating triple that handed Milwaukee a thrilling 143-142 win over the Kings, who led by four points with 16 seconds before letting the game go.

Sacramento (23-16) made a valiant effort to overcome a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit, but Lillard and the Bucks did enough to hold off a strong showing from a Kings team that finished the night shooting 52 percent from the field and 41 percent from three.

Unfortunately, this one wasn’t lost from two or three-point range–it was lost at the free-throw line.

Kings vs. Bucks Takeaways

Playing With Urgency

Sacramento brought a sense of urgency with them to Milwaukee.

After sleepwalking through Friday’s ugly loss in Philadelphia, the Kings looked like a completely different team during the opening quarter of Sunday’s action at Fiserv Forum.

One game removed from handing out a season-low 20 assists while shooting a season-worst 21 percent from three-point land, Sacramento’s offense was firing on all cylinders during the first quarter.

The Kings, who made eight triples against the 76ers, nearly matched that total during the first 12 minutes of play as Sacramento started the night seven-of-12 (58%) from deep while passing out 12 assists to take an early 37-32 lead.

Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox led the charge early, as Sabonis posted his 22nd-consecutive double-double before the halftime break while Fox led the Kings with 14 first-half points. Behind Sabonis’ ten first-half assists, Sacramento matched Friday’s assist output with 20 dimes during the first 24 minutes of play.

While the Kings looked like the best version of themselves, Milwaukee’s relentless offense didn’t skip a beat as the Bucks erased a nine-point deficit to take a 68-66 lead into the second half.

If Sacramento wanted to defeat the Bucks for the first time in eight years, they would have to slow a Milwaukee offense that shot 63 percent from the field and eight-of-14 (57%) from three-point land.

Chaos Ensues

The Kings continued to keep pace with the Bucks for most of Sunday’s game, but as has been the case in several other games this season, Sacramento failed to slow Milwaukee’s offense when it mattered most.

Behind Lillard (29 points), Giannis Antetokounmpo (27 points), and Malik Beasley (23 points), the Bucks got plenty of contribution from their starters as Milwaukee took a 12-point lead with less than eight minutes to go.

As we have seen from the Kings since the start of last season, Sacramento has proven that they can make things difficult on teams that are looking to deliver a knockout punch.

In his return from an ankle injury, Kevin Huerter had his strongest showing of the season as ‘Red Velvet’ scored 11 of his 26 points during the fourth quarter to help bring Sacramento back from the dead.

With Huerter, Malik Monk, and De’Aaron Fox all knocking down big shots, the Kings battled back and had a chance to tie things up with 8.1 seconds to go. Once Fox got the ball in his hands, it was clear that this game was going five extra minutes as the reigning Clutch Player of the Year went coast-to-coast for the game-tying bucket before the final horn sounded.

Overtime was more of the same for Sacramento, as the Kings’ three guards continued to come up big down the stretch.

Once Monk put the Bucks in a four-point hole with 33 seconds to go, it seemed as if Sacramento was finally going to do it–the Kings were going to defeat Milwaukee for the first time since February 1, 2016.

Instead, ‘Dame Time’ happened.

Monk, an 87 percent free throw shooter, missed both of his attempts at the line with 18 seconds left as Sacramento had a chance to put the game away for good. Following Monk’s misses, the Bucks strolled down to the other end, and Brook Lopez trimmed the deficit to one point with 11 seconds remaining.

No worry, though–Fox would surely knock down both to push the lead back to three, right? Wrong.

As great as Monk and Fox were down the final stretch, the Kentucky duo combined to go one-for-four from the charity stripe over the final 18 seconds. The Kings fell short on Sunday for plenty of reasons, but free-throw shooting is at the top of the list.

Fox made one of two, Lillard got the ball back with too much time, and that was that. A game that Sacramento had at its fingertips was hastily ripped away at the drop of a hat.

Sacramento entered play ranked dead-last in free-throw shooting percentage (73.3%), and if the Kings could have knocked down their freebies when they mattered most, they would likely be on their way to Phoenix, hoping to finish the road trip with a 4-1 record.

An Early Exit For Brown

It was a fiery night for Kings head coach Mike Brown, who could face a fine or suspension following a heated ejection during the second half.

Brown took issue with how officials called Sunday’s game, especially regarding the free-throw discrepancy, as Milwaukee finished the night with 32 attempts at the line.

The reigning NBA Coach of the Year didn’t stop there either.

Following Sunday’s loss, Brown brought a laptop with him to the podium and broke down a handful of plays that didn’t go Sacramento’s way.

“The consistency wasn’t here tonight,” Brown said of the officiating. “I’m getting told two different things [following foul calls]. That is really inconsistent.”

Brown’s ejection lit a fire under Sacramento, but too much damage was done early in the game as the Kings couldn’t slow a Bucks offense that finished the night 20-of-43 (46%) from three-point land.

Some of what transpired was on Sacramento (failure to get stops and free-throw shooting), but Brown made it clear that the officials also were to blame for the one-point defeat.

Sabonis Keeps Rolling

At this point, are you even surprised by what Domantas Sabonis is doing on a nightly basis?

The three-time All-Star posted his 22nd-consecutive double-double on Sunday night, but that’s not all. Sabonis also notched his tenth triple-double of the season midway through the third quarter, making him the second NBA player with ten or more triple-doubles (Nikola Jokic, 12).

Sabonis has posted eight triple-doubles over the past 15 games in what has been one of the veteran center’s best stretches of his NBA career.

Over 45 minutes of play, Sabonis finished the night with 21 points (9/10 FG), 13 rebounds, and 15 assists.

Only three centers in NBA history have racked up 10+ triple-doubles over a single season: Jokic, Wilt Chamberlain, and Sabonis. Not a bad list to be on.

Notes

  • Kevin Huerter finished the night with 26 points on 10/14 FG and 6/9 3PT in what was arguably the guard’s best showing of the season.
  • De’Aaron Fox scored 32 points on 12/26 shooting to go along with five assists and three steals during the loss.
  • Malik Monk added 28 points (4/9 3PT), seven rebounds, and seven assists off the bench.
  • The Kings suffered their first loss of the season in a game that they finished with 30+ assists (were 16-0).

Injury Update

Keegan Murray (right hip irritation) exited the game following the first half and did not return. Murray appeared to suffer the injury after falling onto his back-side following an attempt that was blocked at the rim during the second quarter.

Murray is considered day-to-day at this time.

When is the next Sacramento Kings game?

Sacramento’s five-game road trip will come to an end on Tuesday night when the Kings face the Phoenix Suns at the Footprint Center.

The Kings claimed the first two meetings of this Pacific Division showdown, although Sacramento has yet to face the Suns at full strength with its ‘Big 3’ of Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, and Devin Booker.

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Suns coverage, beginning at 4:30 PM PST on Game Night before a 6:00 PM PST tip-off from downtown Phoenix.

Upcoming Schedule

  • Tuesday, January 16th – Sacramento Kings @ Phoenix Suns – 6:00 PM PST
  • Thursday, January 18th – Sacramento Kings vs. Indiana Pacers – 7:00 PM PST
  • Monday, January 22nd – Sacramento Kings vs. Atlanta Hawks – 7:00 PM PST
  • Thursday, January 25th – Sacramento Kings @ Golden State Warriors – 7:00 PM PST
  • Saturday, January 27th – Sacramento Kings @ Dallas Mavericks – 6:00 PM PST

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