Three losses that harmed the Sacramento Kings playoff seeding

Apr 9, 2024, 1:02 PM

Kyle Kuzma #33 of the Washington Wizards dribbles past Kessler Edwards #17 of the Sacramento Kings ...

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 21: Kyle Kuzma #33 of the Washington Wizards dribbles past Kessler Edwards #17 of the Sacramento Kings during the first half at Capital One Arena on March 21, 2024 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

With 82 games in an NBA season, every team experiences moments of encouraging underdog wins mixed in with disappointing losses that they ‘should have won.’ The 2023-24 Sacramento Kings fit that bill to a tee.

While their record (45-33) with four games remaining is nearly identical to last season’s, they currently sit at eight in the Western Conference standings and striving to reach higher to aid their postseason push. Of their 33 losses, a few significantly hurt to review in hindsight.

As of Tuesday morning, four teams in the NBA had yet to record 20 wins. They include one Western Conference team and three in the East: Detroit, Washington, Charlotte, and San Antonio.

Sacramento’s combined record against those opponents is 6-3, only going undefeated against the Spurs, whom they’ve played on three occasions. Ironically, the Kings simultaneously own a 7-3 record against the top-three-seeded Western Conference teams: Denver, Minnesota, and Oklahoma City.

That’s what has made this year’s team such a confusing evaluation as the postseason approaches. Yet, while the impressive wins can be more encouraging, it’s difficult not to look back at the baffling losses and the impact they could end up having on the postseason race.

Here are three of the most frustrating losses the Sacramento Kings have suffered this season. Not listed, but deserving on an honorable (or dishonorable?) mention, is the December 12th 17-point home loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.

January 2nd: 104-11 loss to the Charlotte Hornets

There are going to be a few unfortunate themes here. Often, the worst losses for the Sacramento Kings this season came at home while the opposing team was without a starter(s) and/or star(s).

LaMelo Ball and Brandon Miller were unavailable for Charlotte in this particular game, while Chris Duarte started over Kevin Huerter for the second consecutive game on Sacramento’s side.

With a few key players sidelined, Terry Rozier (34), Miles Bridges (27), and P.J. Washington (17) combined for 78 points on the night. Yet, the Kings mismanaged the offensive side of the ball.

Domantas Sabonis recorded a career-high 11 turnovers of his team’s 20, one of two instances where they recorded 20+ turnovers. After falling behind early, the Kings could not fully recover despite Sabonis (23) and Fox (30) combining for 53 points as they shot 43.5 percent from the field as a team on the night.

February 7th: 120-133 loss to the Detroit Pistons

Suffering a 28-game losing streak before the start of 2024, the Detroit Pistons came into Sacramento with a league-worst 6-43 record. They played in Golden 1 Center without Cade Cunningham or Bojan Bogdanovic, two of their leading scorers, but found a way to emerge with a win.

Jaden Ivey, who went one pick before Keegan Murray in the 2022 NBA Draft, recorded a career-high 37 points on 13/23 from the field, including 5/7 from three, while adding seven assists and six rebounds to his final tally.

It was an unexpected back-and-forth battle that ended with Sacramento recording just 21 points in the final frame compared to Detroit’s 21. It was one of the moments where the Kings’ defense was being significantly questioned, and for good reason.

The worst team in the league managed 133 points on the road against a fully healthy Sacramento squad. Fox (12) and Monk (23) combined to shoot 15/35 (42.9 percent) from the field, but as Mike Brown would say, 120 points is more than enough to win an NBA game — it was all about the defensive shortcomings after this one.

And, of course, the Kings played the defending champions Nuggets the next game and managed to walk away with a 135-106, what many regard as their best game of the season. That’s the 2023-24 Kings for you.

March 21st: 102-109 loss to the Washington Wizards

Since Detroit’s historic loss streak ended, the Wizards have owned the worst record in the association. This loss felt a bit different, at least when it comes to the points of emphasis made by the players and coaching staff after the fact.

By this point, Kevin Huerter (shoulder) had gone down for the season, and Keon Ellis had been starting in his place. Kyle Kuzma ended the night with 31 points on 13/22 shooting, but limiting the Wizards to 109 points feels like a relative win in today’s NBA.

For Sacramento’s caliber of offense, putting up 102 of their own wouldn’t cut it. Converting a mere 28.2 percent (11/39) from three certainly didn’t help — Sacramento are 6-11 when failing to reach 30 percent or higher from beyond the arc.

Brown mentioned I spray threes countless times postgame (as he often does), explaining how his team failed to hit the paint and create looks for their teammates from there, but he also mentioned some players passing up good looks, hesitating.

Ellis was guilty of this, but it was a learning moment for the inexperienced second-year guard, who was promoted during the season and is spending his first season on a standard NBA contract. But he was not the only one.

While the specifics of their struggles varied in this showing, it’s still the current Washington Wizards. With the Sacramento Kings fighting for a spot in the highly competitive Western Conference standings race, every win (and loss) matters.

When is the next Sacramento Kings game?

Sacramento will play its final road game of the regular season on Tuesday night when they face the third-seed Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Kings have secured two wins out of three matchups against OKC this season, although they dropped the most recent head-to-head meeting on February 11th as the Thunder coasted to a 127-111 win at the Paycom Center.

During three games against Oklahoma City this season, Domantas Sabonis holds averages of 18.7 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 11.3 assists on 55 percent shooting from the field.

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Thunder coverage, beginning at 3:30 PM PST on Game Night before a 5:00 PM PST tip-off from Oklahoma City.

Upcoming Schedule

  • Tuesday, April 9th – Sacramento Kings @ Oklahoma City Thunder – 5:00 PM PST
  • Thursday, April 11th – Sacramento Kings vs. New Orleans Pelicans – 7:00 PM PST
  • Friday, April 12th – Sacramento Kings vs. Phoenix Suns – 7:00 PM PST
  • Sunday, April 14th – Sacramento Kings vs. Portland Trail Blazers – 12:30 PM PST (End of regular season)

Postseason Schedule

  • Tuesday, April 16th-Friday, April 19th – NBA Play-In Tournament (Teams & matchups TBD)
  • Saturday, April 20th – NBA Playoffs begin

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