Kings Observations

What we learned as Kings collapse vs. Suns, drop to West's No. 9 seed

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SACRAMENTO – Domantas Sabonis notched another double-double but it wasn’t enough, as the Sacramento Kings suffered through a scoring drought in the final minutes and lost to the Phoenix Suns 108-107 at Golden 1 Center on Friday.

The loss prevented the Kings from clinching a spot in the 7-8 play-in game. They went into the night tied with the Lakers and Warriors for the No. 8 spot. The Lakers won and the Warriors lost, pushing the Kings a tie for the No. 9 spot.

The Kings (45-36) can avoid the single-elimination game by winning their regular-season finale on Sunday against Portland coupled with a loss by the Lakers. Just beating the Blazers would guarantee Sacramento of at least hosting the 9-10 game.

Sabonis had 25 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists for the Kings, who have lost five of six.

De’Aaron Fox and Keegan Murray each scored 23, while Keon Ellis added 17. Harrison Barnes has 12 points and six rebounds. Fox passed DeMarcus Cousins for second place on the Kings’ all-time scoring list (9,918 points) during the Sacramento era. Hall-of-Famer Mitch Richmond owns the career scoring mark 12,070.

The Kings led for most of the game before the Suns made a run at the end.

Sacramento led 105-99 with three-and-a-half minutes remaining but scored just once after that – on a put-back by Barnes with 2 minutes left.

Kevin Durant made two free throws with 52 seconds remaining then Jusuf Nurkic made one of two from the stripe with 8.7 seconds remaining.

The Kings got the ball back for one last shot but with a foul to give, the Suns fouled Fox to prevent him from driving. Sacramento then inbounded the ball but failed to get a shot off as the buzzer sounded.

Here are the takeaways from Friday’s game:

Swipa leads the defense

The Kings looked a lot better on defense than they were 24 hours earlier.

The Suns were held to 22 and 23 points in the first two quarters and made only 4 of 13 3-point tries in the first half. Phoenix overcame that and made things close in the fourth quarter before Sacramento held on for the win.

The Kings forced 19 turnovers that led to 22 points.

Sacramento forced a lot of the Suns’ mistakes, especially Fox.

The 26-year-old point guard finished with four of the Kings’ 12 steals, extending his streak of consecutive games with at least one to 27. Fox is second in the NBA this season with 23 multi-steal games.

Murray had three steals while Sabonis and Keon Ellis had two apiece.

Keegan steps up

Murray has been one of the Kings’ most consistent scorers over the past five weeks and he had another big night against the Suns.

After going scoreless in the first quarter, Murray heated up in the second quarter with 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting. Murray canned a pair of open 3s and aggressively attacked the paint to score in heavy traffic.

The Suns focused much of their defense around Sabonis and Fox, so it was up to the rest of the Kings’ roster to step up and make something happen. Murray, whose name is cheered loudly at G1C after every basket he makes, definitely did that.

Keeping it close

A day after suffering through a dreadful first quarter that created a hole that the Kings failed to get out of, Sacramento got off to another slow start in the first quarter before rallying at the end to take the lead.

The Kings missed their first five shots and had nine points midway through the quarter before finishing with a flourish. Sacramento connected in five of its final six shots. Sabonis and Barnes tossed in five points apiece over the last four minutes of the period to help swing momentum and give the Kings a five-point lead heading into the second quarter.

That was in stark contrast to a night earlier when Sacramento fell behind by 23 to the Pelicans, played better after that but could never fully catch up.

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