Costly late mistakes doom Kings in crushing loss to Hornets


SACRAMENTO -- All losses hurt, but some feel worse than others.

The Kings melted down Sunday night at Golden 1 Center, losing 127-126 to the Charlotte Hornets after leading by eight points with 1:13 remaining.

“We made some mistakes,” coach Luke Walton said in a postgame video conference. “That’s a painful loss, I feel for our guys, they really left it all out there tonight, other than being able to close out the game.”

It all started innocently enough. Harrison Barnes ripped through three Hornets and threw down a ferocious dunk to give the Kings a 123-115 lead.

From this moment on, everything went wrong for Sacramento.

De’Aaron Fox bricked a pair of free throws that would have put the Kings up 10 with just over a minute remaining. Marvin Bagley missed a pair of freebies moments later.

“It hurts, we had the game where we needed and it came down to us getting to the free throw line,” Fox said. “We missed and they made some big plays.”

With the Kings up 123-118 with 33.9 seconds remaining, Barnes fouled Terry Rozier on a 3-pointer. The veteran guard knocked down all three to move the Hornets within two.

Fox hit a floater to push the Kings lead back to four points with 23.9 seconds remaining, but P.J. Washington, who scored a career-high 42 points, drilled a 3 to make it a one-point game with 17 seconds remaining.

Buddy Hield returned to the court after rolling his right ankle, but missed one out of two free throws with 10.7 seconds remaining to give Sacramento a 126-124 lead.

Charlotte inbounded the ball and it ended up in the hands of Malik Monk. The former Kentucky star took Cory Joseph to the rack, hit the layup and was fouled by Richaun Holmes with 1.4 seconds remaining. Unlike the Kings’ players, Monk hit the free throw to give the Hornets the lead.

“It’s painful and it should be,” Walton said. “We played a pretty good game most of the night tonight. You’ve got to be able to close it out and we did a very poor job of that in the final minute tonight.”

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Fox. Bagley. Barnes. Hield. Holmes. All five starters, four of whom had scored 20 or more points in the game, made critical errors in the final 1:09 of a one-point loss.

“We should have won that game,” Bagley said. “ ... I don’t think there’s much to say. We had the game until that point, and we missed free throws and allowed those things to happen. I don’t know what else to really say about it.”

Losses happen. The Kings know that very well in their latest stretch of games where they’ve lost 10 out of 11. But this one stings.

The Kings were looking to build some momentum after picking up a win over the Detroit Pistons on Friday, but Sacramento came on the wrong side of its margin of error Sunday.

“We saw [in Detroit] how razor thin the line is between winning and losing and walking out of that game with a win and then coming out of this game with a loss -- it’s tough,” Barnes said.

There can’t be finger pointing following a game like this. Or maybe there could be five or six guys pointing at each other at the same time. The team has no choice but to turn the page and start preparing for the Los Angeles Lakers, who roll into Sacramento Wednesday night.

This is another disappointing loss in a season of disappointing losses. If nothing else, a close game like this can provide a road map forward, unlike so many of the lopsided defeats in the first half of the season.

The effort was there. The Kings played with force. In the end, they didn’t execute down the stretch and everyone is to blame for another tough loss.

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