Kings suffer epic collapse in stunning loss to Suns

Jan 16, 2024, 8:58 PM | Updated: 9:01 pm

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - JANUARY 16: De'Aaron Fox #5 of the Sacramento Kings attempts a shot ahead of Bra...

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

In a game that the Sacramento Kings had dominated from the opening tip, it seemed like a win was in the bag late in the fourth quarter of Tuesday night’s game in Phoenix.

Leading 109-87 with less than nine minutes remaining, the Kings appeared well on their way to brushing off Sunday’s heart-breaking buzzer-beating loss to Milwaukee.

Instead of celebrating a clean win and heading back to Sacramento with a 3-2 road trip to feel optimistic about, the Kings suffered a meltdown that had shades of old ‘Kangz’ teams of the past.

Behind a furious push from Grayson Allen, Kevin Durant, and Eric Gordon, the Suns caught fire during the final eight minutes to help Phoenix end the night on a 32-8 run, a finish that handed Sacramento a deflating 119-117 loss.

The defeat was costly for the Kings (23-17), as Sacramento has lost three-straight games and fallen into the seventh spot in the Western Conference standings.

Back-to-back devastating losses for the Sacramento Kings, who need to turn things around quickly if they want to avoid significant changes heading into the February 8th trade deadline.

Kings vs. Suns Takeaways

Coming In Hot

As was the case during Sunday’s hard-fought contest in Milwaukee, Sacramento burst out of the gates with energy in Arizona.

The Kings quickly applied pressure to the Suns in the first quarter behind a red-hot start from the field, as Sacramento went 17-of-28 (60%) from the field and five-of-nine (55%) from three-point land while handing out 15 assists (with just one turnover). The 15 assists marked the first time the Kings have handed out 15+ dimes in a single period since February 10, 2004.

Behind another strong start from Domantas Sabonis, Sacramento held a 39-27 lead through 12 minutes of play.

Sasha Vezenkov gave the Kings a solid boost during the first half, as the EuroLeague MVP scored 12 points on five-of-seven shooting over just nine minutes to help Sacramento build a 19-point lead during the second quarter.

While the Kings jumped out to an early lead, Suns guard Grayson Allen (20 first-half points on 6/8 3PT) helped Phoenix fight back to trim the deficit to 11 midway through the second. Instead of letting things snowball, Sacramento punched back to head into the locker room with a 68-51 lead.

The ball was moving all over the place during the first half as Sacramento handed out 23 assists (season-high for a single half) while turning the ball over three times. When you add in De’Aaron Fox’s 17 first-half points and another near-triple-double-half for Sabonis (11 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists), things were clicking for the Kings with 24 minutes to play.

Epic Collapse

As was the case during the end of the first half, the Suns chipped into Sacramento’s lead early in the third quarter. In a similar fashion to Phoenix’s previous push, the Kings answered back with ease.

Sacramento continued to deliver consistently on the offensive end as they maintained a comfortable lead for the entirety of the third, a quarter that they led by as many as 21 points before taking a 96-84 lead into the fourth period.

While the Kings did an admirable job of keeping the game out of the Suns’ reach, their solid performance evaporated into thin air during crunch time.

After building its largest lead of the night at 109-87 with 8:45 remaining in regulation, Sacramento’s sense of urgency and poise disappeared.

The Kings took bad shots, let down their guard on the defensive end, and turned the ball over six times in the fourth as Phoenix began to light it up from beyond the arc.

“We had some bad turnovers,” Kings head coach Mike Brown said of the late-game execution. “I thought we were really lazy a couple of times with the ball, instead of making sure we were passing on time, passing on target with two hands. And it was just a recipe for what happened. Hopefully, it will be something we can learn from.”

Once the Suns got the deficit within single digits, you could feel what was coming next.

Kevin Durant’s game-icing free throws put the finishing touches on a 32-8 run for Phoenix, a stretch that handed Sacramento its most frustrating loss of the season–and yes, there have been several games that belong in the running for that award.

The Kings didn’t make a single field goal from the 6:13 mark until there was 2:06 remaining on the game clock. During those four minutes and seven seconds, the Suns trimmed an 18-point deficit to six with plenty of time to go.

As was the case during Sunday’s heartbreaker against the Bucks, this wasn’t a matter of Sacramento playing poorly. The Kings finished the game having shot 50 percent from the field and 45 percent from deep with 34 assists.

Going back to Sunday’s one-point loss, Sacramento missed three of their final four free throw attempts. On Tuesday? The Kings went seven-of-12 (58%) from the foul line, including one-of-three in the fourth quarter.

For some teams, free throws aren’t everything. During Tuesday’s loss, free throws might not have been what cost Sacramento in the end, but for a team that is currently ranked dead last in the NBA when it comes to free throw shooting percentage, it’s a tough pill to swallow.

Losses like these make you take a hard look at teams like the Kings. With three weeks to go until the NBA’s February 8th trade deadline, it’s becoming clear that some changes could be needed in order to maximize the potential of this group.

It’s rare to see losses like Sacramento’s in Phoenix, and that’s a telling sign that it might be time for Kings GM Monte McNair to shake things up.

Domas Ties His Record

Domantas Sabonis is a double-double machine. In fact, Sabonis is so good at racking up double-doubles that he tied a Sacramento-era (1985-present) record–his own.

The talented center posted his 23rd consecutive double-double during the Kings’ loss to Phoenix, tying his record from last season.

Sabonis finished the night with 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists.

Fox Climbs The Leaderboard

Just four days removed from passing Kings franchise legend and Hall of Fame forward Chris Webber on Sacramento’s all-time scoring list, De’Aaron Fox passed up Webber in another category during Tuesday’s game.

Fox’s steal during the end of the second quarter gave him 568 for his career, lifting him over Webber for the fifth-most steals in the Sacramento era (1985-present).

‘Swipa’ entered play tied for fourth on the NBA’s steals per game leaderboard (1.6) and 10th in total steals (53).

Over 37 minutes of play, Fox scored 33 points and passed out six assists while shooting 12-of-24 from the field and six-of-10 from deep.

When is the next Sacramento Kings game?

Sacramento will return to Northern California for a brief two-game homestand before hitting the road for a seven-game trip.

The Kings will face a shorthanded Indiana Pacers team that will be without old friend and All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton (hamstring).

While Indiana will be without Haliburton, they still have the firepower to make life difficult for Sacramento thanks to an offense that leads the NBA in points per game and offensive rating.

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

Upcoming Schedule

  • 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
  • Monday, January 29th – Sacramento Kings @ Memphis Grizzlies – 5:00 PM PST

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