Domantas Sabonis

What we learned as third quarter dooms Kings in loss to Rockets

NBC Universal, Inc.

SACRAMENTO – Domantas Sabonis notched his NBA-leading 59th double-double of the 2023-24 season, but the Kings lost control of the game during a miserable third quarter before eventually losing to the Houston Rockets 112-104 on Sunday at Golden 1 Center.

Sabonis had 25 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists and two blocks despite the Kings not providing him much offensive help. De’Aaron Fox had 18 points and nine rebounds. Malik Monk added 20 points and five assists, while Keegan Murray scored 13.

The loss dropped the Kings (36-27) into seventh place in the Western Conference, a half game behind the idle Phoenix Suns.

It wasn’t a total surprise.

The Rockets (29-35) have won all three games against the Kings this season, including a pair of November blowouts in Houston.

This time around the game was closer, but the more athletic and physical Rockets had six players score in double figures to offset Sabonis’ big afternoon.

Sacramento, which had won three of its previous four, was hoping to ride its momentum and improve the team's status in the West, but never was able to find a consistent rhythm offensively.

The Kings trailed by 17 early in the fourth quarter and got within five points, 105-100, following Fox’s 18-foot jumper with 1:38 remaining before Jaylen Green’s 3-pointer helped Houston hold on for the tight victory.

Houston got a scare late in the game when leading scorer and rebounder Alperen Sengun went down with an apparent knee injury with 39 seconds left.

Sengun, who has put together a solid season, remained on the floor for several minutes while the game was paused before being helped into a wheelchair and taken into the locker room.

It won’t get any easier for Sacramento. The Kings host Milwaukee on Tuesday, hoping to end a 15-game losing streak to the Bucks.

Here are the takeaways from Sunday’s game:

Domas does a little bit of everything

Sabonis repeatedly flashed his skills that make him one of the best all-around big men in the NBA while securing his 45th consecutive double-double. It’s his fifth consecutive game with at least 15 rebounds.

Sabonis got the Kings off to a fast start when he piled up 12 points, eight rebounds, four assists and a steal in the first quarter. Domas made 10 of his 11 shots and had three steals, and he did, however, finish with nine turnovers.

He did all that while defending Houston’s leading scorer and rebounder in Sengun. Before getting hurt, Sengun scored 14 points, seven below his season average.

Sabonis’ spectacular streak is the NBA’s longest for consecutive double-double since Kevin Love put together a 53-game streak during the 2010-11 season. Jerry Lucas holds the Kings’ franchise record with a 55-game stretch.

Throwaway third quarter

The Kings lost momentum of the game in the third quarter when the Rockets flipped a five-point halftime deficit and turned it into a 13-point advantage.

Houston outscored Sacramento 32-14 in the quarter while taking advantage of the Kings’ no-rhythm offense.

A lot of the Kings’ problems in the third quarter were self-inflicted. They committed eight turnovers that led to 15 points, shot 25 percent (4 of 16) from the floor and whiffed on all six of their 3-point attempts. Many of their misses came on open looks, too.

The Rockets deserve some credit. They didn’t have much going in the way of offense until the third quarter. Houston shot better than 50 percent (20 of 39) coming out of halftime and also was much more physical on the defensive end.

Keying in on the key

Sacramento shot the ball well for most of the game, getting a majority of their points inside.

Sabonis obviously led the charge, but the Kings as a team did a lot of damage inside, outscoring the Rockets 56-46.

Houston entered the game as one of the better teams in the NBA defending the paint, allowing 47.4 points per game.

The Kings got the best of the Rockets inside but couldn’t find much consistency from mid-range and beyond the perimeter. Sacramento shot just 6 of 32 (18.8 percent) on 3-pointers.

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