SACRAMENTO KINGS

Kings lose to Pacers as skid hits season-long four games

Jan 18, 2024, 10:02 PM | Updated: 10:12 pm

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 18: T.J. McConnell #9 of the Indiana Pacers is guarded by Kevin Hu...

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The last time that the Sacramento Kings lost four consecutive games, it seemed as if the sky was falling for some.

Before the 2022-23 Kings started their ascension from a basement dweller to third seed in the Western Conference, Sacramento opened the season with four straight losses.

A lengthy losing streak can incite a wave of emotions for a sports fanbase and franchise. Following Thursday’s action at Golden 1 Center, there is certainly some tension building around the Kings fanbase as Sacramento continues to add to the loss column.

Even without All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton and the recently acquired Pascal Siakam, the Indiana Pacers took an early lead and never looked back during a 126-121 win over Sacramento in front of a restless crowd.

With the loss, the Kings (23-18) have dropped four consecutive games for the first time since the first four games of last season (October 19-27, 2022) as they continue to fall in the Western Conference standings.

Kings vs. Pacers Takeaways

Pummeled In The Paint

As we have seen countless times over the past couple of seasons, it doesn’t bode well for the Sacramento Kings when an opponent is playing shorthanded.

With Tyrese Haliburton (hamstring), Pascal Siakam (trade), Aaron Nesmith (leg), and Andrew Nembhard (spine) out of action, the Pacers took the floor without several key players on Thursday night.

For the NBA’s top-scoring offense, you would think that missing multiple starters and rotation players would throw a wrench into Indiana’s league-leading offensive rating and pace–but that wouldn’t be the case as the Pacers quickly proved that those absences wouldn’t slow their roll.

Entering play on Thursday, the Pacers led the NBA in paint scoring (56.8 points per game). At the end of the first half, Indiana had outscored Sacramento 38-24 in the paint while shooting 19-of-24 (79%) inside the key.

A sluggish Kings defense had no answer for a Pacers offense that shot 60 percent from the field and 41 percent from deep during the first half.

While Sacramento entered the break having shot 55 percent from the field and 46 percent from beyond the arc, the paint discrepancy was a glaring difference as the Kings stared a 70-57 deficit in the face heading to the third quarter.

Out With A Whimper

Sacramento needed to come out of the halftime break with a sense of urgency as they started its climb out of a 13-point hole.

Kevin Huerter and Keegan Murray brought the energy early in the third as the duo combined to score the Kings’ first 18 points of the quarter while bringing Sacramento within five points.

While Huerter (13 points in the quarter) and Murray (10 points) brought it on the offensive end, the Kings continued to act as a revolving door on the defensive end as Indiana scored 20 of its 29 third-quarter points in the paint.

With 12 minutes remaining, Sacramento would have to overcome a 10-point deficit to avoid its longest losing streak since the start of last season.

It took until the final four minutes for the Kings to mount their comeback attempt, but the damage had already been done at that point.

Sacramento went on an 18-5 run to trim a 16-point deficit to 124-121 with 32 seconds remaining, putting themselves in position to tie the game and send things into overtime. After picking up a stop on the defensive end, the Kings quickly pushed the ball up the floor as De’Aaron Fox got off a game-tying triple.

The shot was partially blocked, but Murray corralled the offensive board before Mike Brown called timeout with five seconds remaining.

Out of the timeout, Indiana immediately fouled to put Malik Monk at the free-throw line. Monk’s assuagement was to miss the first, then Brown would send in JaVale McGee and Alex Len in an attempt to control Monk’s intentional miss on the second attempt.

As has been the case this season, free throws bit the Kings in the end, as Monk missed the first before the second was controlled by the Pacers, who put the game away by knocking down two freebies on their end of the floor.

Ultimately, Indiana never stopped attacking the paint (62 points), while Sacramento’s free throw shooting loomed large when looking at the final score.

“Yesterday, we shot more free throws in a practice than ever while I’ve been here,” Brown said of his team’s struggles at the charity stripe. “Having two games in the 50’s, in one-possession games, is tough to swallow.”

Over the Kings’ past three games, the free-throw shooting has been a disaster for Sacramento, as all three defeats have been by five or fewer points–two games being one-possession losses:

Kings Free Throw Shooting

  • @ MIL: 15/20 (75%) – Lost by 1
  • @PHX: 7/12 (58%) – Lost by 2
  • vs. IND: 18/32 (56%) – Lost by 5

Sacramento has hit a wall. Call it a sophomore slump, call it what you want. The Kings, who are fully healthy at the moment, continue to lose to teams that are missing key members of their rotation.

During this current losing streak, the Philadelphia 76ers were without Joel Embiid. The Milwaukee Bucks were without Khris Middleton. And on Thursday, the Pacers played without Tyrese Haliburton.

Is it a matter of “playing down to the competition?” At this point, no. The Kings aren’t in a place to be considered as “playing down” to anyone. While Sacramento’s record of 23-18 places them in the exact same spot at this point in the season as they were one year ago, the West is much different.

The Kings are 23-18 and in the seventh spot in the West. At 23-18 last season, Sacramento held the fourth spot in the standings. Things are much different in 2023-24.

This version of the Kings doesn’t look like a team poised for an extended playoff run–and that’s a problem for general manager Monte McNair as we close in on the February 8th trade deadline.

Notes

  • Kevin Huerter has scored 10+ points in three straight games. The last time that Huerter did that this season was from November 6-15th (four games). Huerter finished the night with a career-high 31 points on 11/17 FG and 7/12 3PT.
  • Domantas Sabonis recorded his third consecutive triple-double during the loss. He is the third player in franchise history with three triple-doubles or more in a row, joining Oscar Robertson and Maurice Stokes. (21 PTS, 11 REB, 10 AST)

  • Pacers guard TJ McConnell scored 20 points during the win on 9/14 shooting (all in the paint).

  • Sacramento’s bench was outscored 34-16 during the loss.

When is the next Sacramento Kings game?

Sacramento will play its final home game in January before embarking on a seven-game road trip when they face the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night.

On December 29th, the Kings erased a 23-point lead en route to securing a 117-110 win over the Hawks at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. Sacramento outscored the Hawks 64-39 during the second half to erase the deficit.

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Hawks coverage, beginning at 5:30 PM PST on Game Night before a 7:00 PM PST tip-off from Golden 1 Center.

Upcoming Schedule

  • 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
  • Monday, January 29th – Sacramento Kings @ Memphis Grizzlies – 5:00 PM PST
  • Wednesday, January 31st – Sacramento Kings @ Miami Heat – 4:30 PM PST

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