Kings' bad loss in season finale is a microcosm of final 25-game slide


PORTLAND, Ore. -- Defense took the final game of the season off Wednesday night at Moda Center.

In a wild display of running and gunning, the Sacramento Kings put on a show ... and then vanished without a trace in a 136-131 loss to the playoff-bound Portland Trail Blazers.

In one of the craziest games in recent memory, the Kings scored 87 first-half points on 66.7 percent shooting from the field and set a team record with 13 makes from long range in the opening 24 minutes. The points outburst was two points off the franchise record of 89, set on March 12, 1970, in the then-Cincinnati Royals’ 165-151 win over the San Diego Rockets.

The Kings didn’t match the 165 mark. In fact, they did the unthinkable.

After leading by 28 in the first half, Kings coach Dave Joerger made the decision to sit his starters coming out of intermission, and the game completely spun out of control.

“The NBA’s a crazy game, certainly a tale of two halves,” Joerger said in his brief postgame comments. “Tip your hat to those guys, they played their tails off and, you know, their six guys played very, very well tonight.”

The key point to Joerger’s comments is “six guys.” That's the total number of players who stepped on the court for Portland, a nd many of them had barely played this season.

All five regular Portland starters sat out the game, leaving a ragtag group of fill-ins to play 40 minutes or more, including a full 48 from three of the makeshift starters.

Former King Skal Labissiere dropped in 29 points and 15 rebounds in 41 minutes. He dominated Sacramento inside and even knocked down two 3-pointers. Rookie Anfernee Simons played all 48 minutes, finishing with a career-best 37 points on 13-of-21 shooting from the field.

Riding a noisy home crowd, the Blazers dropped a 74-point second half on Sacramento to come away with the stunning victory.

As Joerger said, it certainly was a tale of two halves. The Kings shared the ball in the first 24 minutes, dishing out 18 assists to go with two turnovers. The assist-to-turnover ratio dipped to 7-to-8 with the starters on the sidelines in the second half and the Trail Blazers running a zone.

“We were playing together, moving the ball ... shots were falling ... I mean, we’re playing,” Kings rookie Marvin Bagley said of the first half. “They came out and made shots in the second half, and we let another one slip away, so that’s what that was.”

Blowing big leads has become a common occurrence for the Kings since the All-Star break. They go home disappointed in the effort against Portland and with a clear need to improve on closing out games.

“Hell no, it ain’t hard to move on from a game like this,” Kings point guard De'Aaron Fox said. “It’s over. We wanted to finish the season strong, we didn’t do that. We come back, have our exit meetings and talk about what we need to work on, and that’s it.”

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Sacramento finished the season 39-43, but the team went 6-11 over its final 17 games as postseason hopes slipped away and then disappeared.

For Portland, it was a good way to finish another strong regular season. With the victory, the Trail Blazers finished the season at 53-29 and moved into the third seed in the Western Conference playoffs, which start Saturday.

This isn’t the way the Kings wanted to finish out their season. It should be an interesting few days in Sacramento as the team digests not only a bad loss but a poor finish to an otherwise exciting campaign.

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