The Kings dug themselves a big hole on Friday, not just against the Spurs, but for their playoff hopes during the NBA restart. San Antonio led early and then clawed back late to beat Sacramento 129-120 in the first seeding game.
Early deficits have been a theme for the Kings in Orlando, and their first seeding game did not prove to be an exception. De’Aaron Fox came out ready to go, but the Kings still fell behind by 16 in the first quarter, at one point ceding a 19-0 run to the Spurs. Sacramento just couldn’t get any stops, and at one point allowed San Antonio to score on 10 consecutive possessions.
The defense proved to be the undoing at the end of the game, particularly defensive rebounding. Jakob Poeltl and DeMar DeRozan collected key offensive rebounds with the game tied, preventing the Kings from ever building an advantage. DeRozan was far too comfortable in the fourth quarter, scoring 17 points in the final frame after being a passer for most of the night.
The end result marred a stellar night from Fox, who was magnificent throughout. He ended with a career-high 39 points, besting his previous high of 34 set against the Clippers in February. The third-year guard scored 11 points in the firs quarter to almost single-handedly keep the Kings alive, as they still trailed by 13 at the end of the opening period. The Spurs were unable to keep Fox out of the lane, especially when Poeltl was out of the game and Rudy Gay was the nominal five. Fox added six assists, but the rest of the Kings, other than Bogdan Bogdanovic, struggled from the field.
Bogdanovic rained in six threes, scoring 24 points, and was the only Sacramento starter to have a positive plus-minus. Even he had a bad gaffe late in the fourth quarter that led to a shot-clock violation. Meanwhile, the non-Fox/Bogdanovic Kings combined to shoot 21-of-47 from the field, including 5-of-20 from 3-point range, an insufficient offensive output considering the team’s performance on the other end. Turnovers were also an issue, as 18 Kings giveaways led to 25 Spurs points.
The Kings will have to clean up their mistakes to turn around their fortunes in Orlando. Seven games remain.