Thunder-struck: Kings surrender 20-point lead in loss to OKC

Apr 9, 2024, 7:53 PM

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA - APRIL 9: Keon Ellis #23 of the Sacramento Kings protects the ball from Sh...

(Photo by Joshua Gateley/Getty Images)

(Photo by Joshua Gateley/Getty Images)

If it seems like bad things happen every time the Sacramento Kings go up by 20 points or more, you aren’t crazy–bad things typically happen.

The Kings suffered another costly loss on Tuesday night as they allowed a 20-point lead to slip through their fingers during a tough 112-105 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Paycom Center.

Sacramento (45-34) squandered a golden opportunity to strengthen its place in the Western Conference standings as they entered the night just one game behind the sixth-seed Phoenix Suns.

With another loss added to their record and just three games remaining in the regular season, the Kings appear to be closing in on an appearance in the NBA Play-In Tournament. If Sacramento falls to the ninth or tenth seed, they will play in a single-elimination game.

Remaining at eighth or climbing to seventh would guarantee the Kings a double-elimination attempt to secure a Playoff berth, but Sacramento will have to take care of business at home against the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday and Phoenix on Friday.

Kings vs. Thunder Recap & Takeaways

Getting off to a strong start from three-point range has been an essential aspect of the Sacramento Kings’ winning efforts this season, and they used a hot opening period during Tuesday’s action in Oklahoma City.

De’Aaron Fox and Keon Ellis set fire to the nets before fans could even get settled into their seats, scoring 12 points each while combining to knock down eight of their first 11 attempts from deep during the first six minutes of the first quarter.

Fox was playing with some extra pep in his step, which usually acts as a sign that the high-scoring guard is on the verge of doing what he does best: Scoring the basketball.

Over the first 24 minutes of action, Fox scored 21 first-half points to lead a Sacramento offense that led by as many as 19 points before the break–and that wasn’t all for the Kings.

Ellis, who continues to impress in a starting role, established a new career-high for points scored during a single half (20) while knocking down six of his eight attempts from three-point land before play entered the third quarter.

The duo became the second pair of Kings teammates to score 20+ points during a single half this season (Fox and Domantas Sabonis on December 26th in Portland).

Behind a 14-of-31 (45%) start from beyond the arc, Sacramento completely took the energy out of the Paycom Center by taking a 64-45 lead into the second half as they looked to conclude its final road game of the season on a winning note.

Not even one week after blowing a 21-point lead against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, Sacramento allowed Oklahoma City to go on a 24-7 run to open the third period—a run that reduced the Kings’ 19-point lead to two with half of the quarter left on the clock.

The Thunder shook off a rough start from the field to shoot 15-of-21 (71%) during the third quarter, including five-of-ten from three-point range to outscore Sacramento 39-23 in the period.

A once-comfortable 19-point Kings lead was reduced to just three as both teams entered crunch time looking to secure the win–but Oklahoma City’s re-ignited offense would be too much for Sacramento to overcome.

Everything went wrong for the Kings during the second half. A red-hot start to the offense evaporated into thin air during the second half, as Sacramento went 13-for-51 (25%) from the field, including six-of-27 from deep (22%) over the final 24 minutes of action.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (quad) gave the Kings fit in his return from a four-game absence, scoring 40 points while shooting an incredible 20 free throws during the OKC win.

As SGA and the Thunder offense hit their stride during the second half (62% FG and 58% 3PT after the break), Sacramento’s offense hit a wall. Fox and Domantas Sabonis (8 points, 2/7 FG, 6 TO) were unable to pick up a stagnant, cold offense.

Sabonis’ 61-game double-double streak ended on Tuesday, and a career night from Keon Ellis went to waste as the Kings added another disappointing loss to a laundry list of forgettable defeats during the 2023-24 season.

Ellis was impactful on both ends of the floor, scoring a career-high 26 points on nine-of-17 shooting from the field (8/15 from 3PT) to go along with seven rebounds, five assists, three blocks, and one steal over 36 minutes.

Outside of Ellis and De’Aaron Fox (33 points, 7/17 3PT), no other member of the Sacramento offense scored over 15 points during the loss.

The Kings might miss Malik Monk (knee) and Kevin Huerter (shoulder), but they will have to figure out how to ignite their offense when they run into cold stretches (or halves) like Tuesday night.

If not, they will be shown the door quickly next week when they take the court in a single-or-double-elimination game that will determine the fate of their entire season.

Mr. 200

Three-point shooting has long been an Achilles heel in De’Aaron Fox’s game–but not anymore.

During Tuesday’s game, Fox became the sixth player in the Sacramento Kings’ franchise history to make 200+ three-point field goals in a single season.

Fox, who is shooting 36 percent from three-point range this season, joins an impressive list of marksmen who have made 200 or more three-point field goals for the Kings:

  • Buddy Hield (3x)
  • Mitch Richmond (2x)
  • Peja Stojakovic
  • Kevin Huerter
  • Keegan Murray
  • De’Aaron Fox

Injury Updates

Malik Monk (right knee) will be re-evaluated in three weeks after suffering a right knee MCL sprain.

Kevin Huerter (left dislocated shoulder and labral tear) will miss the remainder of the season after having surgery and is slated to be ready for the start of the 2024-25 season.

When is the next Sacramento Kings game?

Sacramento will return home for the final three games of the regular season, and they will be welcomed back with a back-to-back that could very well make or break its chase of the sixth-seed race in the West standings.

The Kings will face the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night in front of a national audience on TNT before meeting the Phoenix Suns 24 hours later on Friday.

If Sacramento wants to avoid the Play-In, they will likely need both wins against two teams that are also looking to secure an automatic playoff berth and avoid any single-elimination scenarios.

New Orleans has dominated the Kings this season, holding a 4-0 record while outscoring Sacramento by an average of 21.0 points during four matchups.

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

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Upcoming Schedule

  • 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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