The Kings make it rain in Portland to get a big 123-111 win on Saturday night

Photo: Richaun Holmes returned to the Kings lineup on Saturday night @NBCS

by Charlie O. Mallonee

Where were you on December 8, 2012? The Sacramento Kings were in Portland and that was the last time they won a basketball game in “Rip City” until Saturday night. After suffering 12 consecutive losses over seven-plus years in Portland, the Sacramento Kings broke the curse and beat the Trail Blazers on their homecourt 123-111.

Playoff implications

The Trail Blazers (28-37) and Kings (28-35) are both fighting to jump into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. That slot is currently held by the Memphis Grizzlies who have not been able to distance themselves from the Kings, Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Spurs and even the Suns who have a real chance to qualify for the playoffs.

This was the final meeting of the season between the Kings and the Blazers. The teams split the series 2-2.

The Kings started fast

The Kings started the game like a “Top Fuel” dragster. Harrison Barnes led the way scoring 11 points in the first quarter that saw Sacramento outscore Portland 40-24.

The Kings shot 55.2-percent (16-for-29) overall in the period and went 5-for-9 (55.6%) from behind the 3-point line. They dished out 11 assists in the first 12 minutes while making five steals. SAC was simply overwhelming.

The train kept rolling in the second quarter

The Kings did not cool off in the second period. Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic decided it was time “to make it rain” 3-pointers. The two shooting guards combined to hit 7-of-8 shots from downtown. As a team, Sacramento shot 9-for-12 (75%) from behind the arc.

The Kings outscored the Blazers 37-30 in the quarter.

Hield put up 14 points while Bogdanovic added 11.

At halftime, Sacramento held a 77-54 lead over Portland.

The Trail Blazers did just roll over and quit

When you have CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard on your team, you are never out of contention as long as there is time on the clock. Portland did not get hot, but they did play better than the Kings in the third quarter.

Sacramento cooled off in the third stanza as might have been expected. They shot 6-for-21 (28.6%) from the field; however, five of those baskets came from 3-point land.

Portland won the quarter 26-23, but the Kings still held a 100-80 lead after 36 minutes of play.

Wave the white flag

The Kings opened the final quarter by going on an 8-2 run that broke the Trail Blazers back. Portland tried to get back into the game, but it was too late.

Terry Stotts emptied his bench and the reserves played with vigor, but it was a futile effort.

The Kings won the game 123-111.

Top Performers

Leading scorers

  • Bogdan Bogdanovic was the game’s leading scorer with 27 points
  • Hassan Whiteside and CJ McCollum led the Blazers with 19 points each

Glass cleaners

  • Whiteside was the top rebounder with 11 grabs to give him a double-double
  • Richaun Holmes – who supplied some much-needed energy to the Kings – hauled in eight rebounds

Dropping dimes

  • De’Aaron Fox made it a double-double game by dishing out 11 assists in the contest
  • Lillard and McCollum led Portland with six assists each

Up next

The Kings jumped on their plane and flew back to Sacramento where they will host the defending NBA Toronto Raptors on Sunday night.

Portland will be off until Tuesday when they will host the Phoenix Suns.

 

 

 

Disaster Avoided: Kings survive awful, third quarter, beat Wizards, 133-126

By Morris Phillips

SACRAMENTO–Maintaining relevance as the NBA’s 17th best team with a record seven games below .500 with just 20 games left in a 82-game season isn’t easily attained, especially for the forgotten Kings, who haven’t been on the postseason landscape since 2006.

But the Kings’ stretch of 12 wins in 17 games has turned heads, not to mention stolen attention from Zion Williamson and the Pelicans, who are fashioning themselves as the NBA’s most intriguing, non-playoff team. So how do the Kings keep the buzz down the stretch?

Don’t take games–or quarters within games– off. Beating the Wizards on Tuesday pointed to what a disciplined feat that would be.

“Offensively we had ball movement, body movement, we played unselfishly. We came too soft in the third quarter, we lost the momentum, but we also have to be proud of the guys … to fight back, get momentum back and find a way to win,” said assistant coach Igor Kokoskov, who assumed head coaching duties when Luke Walton was ejected for the first time as Sacramento’s coach.

The Kings hovered above the clouds in a 76-point, first half that had the Wizards reeling. Then the Kings’ momentum and 27-point lead evaporates as Bradley Beal and the Wiz caught fire. Walton was dispatched after growing irate over a missed foul call on Cory Joseph. And the fourth quarter commenced with the Kings in need of an immediate response.

“We did a pretty good job of closing the game,” said De’Aaron Fox, who paced Sacramento with 31 points. “The third quarter was just bad for us all around. The other three quarters I think we played pretty well.”

In the good stretches, the Kings shared the ball, and attacked the basket as Kokosov noted. Seven Kings finished in double figures in scoring, and the team shot 56 percent from the floor. But NBA games are relentlessly competitive, and Washington–in keeping with their own playoff aspirations–made a run.

“In the second half, the coach lit a fire up under us and we came out to be the team we should have been the whole game,” said Beal, who scored 35 points, the 19th consecutive game he’s scored at least 25. “I think we got the message for sure.”

 

Kings win 104-101 in Memphis to stay alive in the playoff race

SacMem
Kings win in Memphis @NBC CA

by Charlie O. Mallonee @Espn1320

The Sacramento Kings were written off for dead just weeks ago. Marvin Bagley III has been sidelined with a midfoot sprain, and there is no timetable for his return. Richaun Holmes – who had been playing at a high level filling in for Bagley – has been out due to a shoulder injury, and there is no estimate for his return to the lineup.

Luke Walton felt he had to shake up his starting lineup in order to generate more offense. Buddy Hield was sent to the bench to become the sixth man and Bogdan Bogdanovic became a starter. To everyone’s amazement, that move worked and has paid big dividends.

The Kings also unloaded two expensive players that were not producing the way they had hoped. Trevor Ariza plus two other players were sent to Portland in exchange for Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver. Bazemore had played for Luke Walton in Los Angeles and the coach had high hopes for him. Bazemore has been a productive addition coming off the bench for Sacramento.

Dewayne Dedmon – who had requested a trade – was shipped out to Atlanta for Jabri Parker and Alex Len. Parker is still working his way back from injury, but Len is starting to have an impact in the middle for SAC.

Just when it looked like the Kings had gone into a “wait until next year mode” – the team has surprised everyone by becoming a contender for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

A Big Win on Friday night

Nine days ago, the Kings beat the Memphis Grizzlies 129-125 in Sacramento. That win made everyone who covers the Kings feel like there was a glimmer of hope for Sacramento in the playoff picture. Everyone was afraid to say anything because the Kings have let the fans down so many times in the past.

Sacramento began a four-game road trip after that victory over the Grizzlies. The Kings won games in LA against the Clippers. They beat the Warriors in San Francisco. SAC came close to beating OKC on their homecourt.

The game on Friday night was the back end of a back-to-back set on the road – the toughest game for a road team to win. Memphis is desperately trying to hold on to the eighth and final playoff slot in the West. The odds were definitely against the Kings.

Game flow

The Grizzlies came out of the chute strong, and it looked like the Kings were in real trouble as they trailed 30-21 at the end of the first quarter.

Sacramento was able to shake off the cobwebs in the second period and began to dominate the game. They outscored Memphis 29-17 in the second. As the teams went to the locker rooms at halftime, the Kings held a 50-47 lead over the Grizzlies.

The Kings played well in the third quarter outscoring the Grizzlies 31-28 to take an 81-75 lead into the final 12 minutes.

Luke Walton always talks about how NBA games get close in the final six minutes of the game. Friday night was no different. The Grizzlies cut the Kings lead to just one point with 10.9 seconds to go in the game. Buddy Hield hit two key free throws to give Sacramento a three-point lead and the 104-101 win.

The Playoff Race get tighter

The Grizzlies have now lost five consecutive games and now have four teams breathing down their necks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The Kings record is now 25-34, and they are just three games out of the eighth and final playoff slot.

Kings top performers

De’Aaron Fox – who sat out the game in OKC with an abdominal strain – led the Kings scoring attack with 25 points and he added five assists.

Nemanja Bjelica was Sacramento’s top rebounder with 11 and made it a double-double game by scoring 13 points.

Harry Giles III had a huge game putting up 16 points and grabbing five rebounds.

Up next

The Kings return home to host the Detroit Pistons on Sunday at 3 PM.

 

Kings Engaged: Season may be slipping away, but 129-125 win over the Grizzlies sends the right messages

By Morris Phillips

SACRAMENTO–The Kings might not be in position to catch the Grizzlies for the coveted, franchise-changing eighth spot in the Western Conference playoffs.

Along similar lines–and relevant to Thursday night’s post-All Star intro–rookie of the year candidate Ja Morant might not be ready to surpass Kings’ third-year guard De’Aaron Fox either.

The head-to-head matchup of future All-Star point guards went to decisively to Fox, who put up 26 points, four assists in leading the Kings to a 129-125 win over Memphis that turned into a nail biter in the final minutes. The reason for the late rush and the close finish? Morant had his hands on that with 15 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter, but ultimately Fox’s defense and Morant’s turnovers (5) swung the outcome for Sacramento.

“Every game is a must-win and (we) have to play each game like our back is against the wall if we want to make things interesting, and we can,” Buddy Hield said.

The win pulled the Kings within six games of Memphis with 27 contests remaining in the regular season. Complicating matters, and increasing the odds of a Kings’ resurgence is the presence of the Blazers, Spurs and Pelicans with records slightly better than the Kings. But when you’ve missed the playoffs for 14 years and running, you scratch and claw until your time runs out.

The Kings overcame a huge, size disparity against the Grizzlies with superior shooting and fewer mistakes. Sacramento was outrebounded 51-27 as they again were without Marvin Bagley and Richaun Holmes, as well as Dewayne Dedmon, who was traded to Atlanta. Harrison Barnes aided in the process with 32 points, including seven made 3-pointers, as well as Kent Bazemore, who contributed 18 points, but only needed 10 shots to get there.

With Barnes and Bazemore giving the Kings an early advantage, their defensive strategy to fall back into the paint and challenge Memphis’ shooters to make shots played out perfectly as starting guards Morant and Dillon Brooks missed all seven of their shots from distance, allowing the Kings to grab a 37-35 advantage after one quarter, which they built on by scoring the first nine points of the second.

But in a game of runs and swings, the Grizzlies got back into behind reserve guards De’Anthony Melton (24 points), Tyus Jones and Josh Jackson. Hield spearheaded Sacramento’s bench with 20 points, but the Kings were hampered by Jabari Parker’s debut, in which he appeared out of shape, no doubt a product of the former Duke player having played in just one game since Christmas.

The Kings are expected to give Parker and Alex Len–players acquired in the deadline deals–a look, but won’t hesitate to move on from either player. Len was unavailable Thursday, but could play as early as Saturday in Los Angeles against the Clippers.

The Kings run out of gas in the fourth quarter and lose in Milwaukee 123-111

by Charlie O. Mallonee

The Kings entered the game on Monday night in Milwaukee with high hopes. The Bucks superstar – Giannis Antetokounmpo – was ruled out the game because he wanted to be with his new-born son (who we all expect to be the number one overall draft selection in 2038). Without “the freak” on the floor, the Kings knew they had at least a fighting chance versus the powerful Bucks.

The Kings (21-32) fell behind early, and it looked like it might be a walkover game for Milwaukee (46-7) even without Giannis. At the end of the first quarter, the Bucks held 38-24 lead.

Sacramento rebounded in the second quarter. The Kings outscored the Bucks 34-19 in the second period behind the 13 point barrage by Harrison Barnes. Barnes went 4-for-4 from the floor with all three of his 3-point attempts finding their mark. He also converted both of his free throw attempts. The Kings went to the locker room at halftime with a 58-57 lead.

The two teams went into an epic battle in the third quarter and went toe to toe. The Kings outscored the Bucks 32-31 in the quarter and held a 90-88 advantage at the end of 36 minutes.

The Bucks started the final quarter with a 13-0 run and never looked back. Milwaukee went on to outscore the Kings 35-21 in the fourth quarter as they fell 12 points short when the final buzzer sounded.

Top scorers

  • Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe were the leading scorers in the game scoring 28 points each
  • Harrison Barnes was the Kings top scorer with 23 points

The Glass Cleaners

  • Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton made it a double-double game by pulling down 11 rebounds
  • De’Aaron Fox and Nemanja Bjelica grabbed eight rebounds each for the Kings

Dropping Dimes

  • De’Aaron Fox was the game’s assist leader with 11 which gave him a double-double game
  • Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe dropped eight dimes each for the Bucks

Up next

The Kings will be back in action on Wednesday night in Dallas.

The Bucks will travel to Indianapolis to play the Pacers on Wednesday night.

Kings outwork the Wolves, then survive the fourth quarter in 113-109 win

SACRAMENTO–The NBA trade deadline can hatch some absurd scenarios and head-scratching juxtapositions, a couple of which found their way into Golden 1 Center on Monday night.

The lottery-bound Kings and Timberwolves are unlikely to stand still come Thursday afternoon, but you have to wonder what it is either club will come up with to swing a deal, let alone significantly affect their futures.

As an aside, the Kings enjoyed a rare winner on the hardwood, lapping Minnesota early only to hold on late in a 113-109 win, sending the visitors to a telling, 12th consecutive loss. Minnesota’s centerpiece big man, Karl Anthony-Towns picked this depth of losing before the game to express his displeasure with All-Star voters who bypassed Towns in the game’s final vote tallies, prompting him to say, “It’s unfortunate this year’s All-Star Game won’t have the 24 best players in the NBA.”

“It’s about being in the NBA finals, being in the playoffs, winning games,” Towns said in trying to rationalize his thought process at this particular moment. “That’s how you build a legacy. All-Star is cool and stuff for the fans, but I’m here for the people in this locker room.”

Towns who has drawn interest from the Warriors and Celtics as a finishing piece to their title aspirations might not be sending championship signals with his play. Minnesota is 0-16 in the last 16 games Towns has been available, and the team’s defensive rating plummets with the big man on the floor.

Regardless, the Wolves would prefer to hold on to their biggest asset which is how forward Robert Covington’s name is heard most frequently in trade talks. But reportedly, the Wolves are demanding two first rounders in exchange for their 6’8″ defensive whiz.

And how’s that discourse going? Well, on Monday, Covington looked distracted, missing seven of his first eight shots, including three air balls as Minnesota fell behind by 18 points before the half.

For the Kings, Dewayne Dedmon returned from two days away from the team with an illness to turn in his most inspired performance as King: 12 rebounds, five blocks (including a big one on Andrew Wiggins with 20 seconds remaining and the Kings nursing a five-point lead) four assists, four points. Dedmon’s previous trade demands have relented, and now with Marvin Bagley Jr. and Richaun Holmes still unavailable, the journeyman center seems to have a place in the Sacramento rotation.

“He did a lot for us today, altering shots, saving possessions,” said De’Aaron Fox of Dedmon.

Fox led the Kings with 31 points, 5 assists. The Kings shot 51 percent from the floor for the game, including 14 of 27 from three. Towns led Minnesota with 22 points.

“We just got to keep pounding the rock,” said coach Ryan Saunders, who hasn’t endured any speculation about his job status despite 26 losses in the Wolves’ last 31 games. “Eventually it breaks. You just keep pounding the rock and that’s not an empty line because if you just keep staying with it, keep being diligent in your preparation and do things the right way, eventually good things will come.”

Bogdan Bogdanovich contributed a super efficient game for the Kings with 23 points on just seven shot attempts along with three assists and just one turnover in 31 minutes. Could he be the missing piece in Laker land? Maybe, but why would the Kings deal one of their prized assets at the moment he’s establishing himself as a starting NBA combo guard, or be so helpful to the rival Lakers even if a trade yields Kyle Kuzma?

The Kings have won four of six, after a six-game losing skid, and have three days of preparation–and two days of trade deadline anticipation–before hosting the Miami Heat on Friday.

 

 

Kings come back to earth on return to Sacramento in 120-100 loss to the Thunder

By Morris Phillips

SACRAMENTO–Two segments of basketball–one exhilarating, one dreadful–separated only by the Kings’ successful, five-minute overtime on Monday in Minneapolis, go along way to explaining the lost 2019-2020 season for Sacramento.

In the final 5:42 of regulation on Monday, the Kings scored 33 points, making shots from everywhere, in belief they could overcome an insurmountable deficit against the Timberwolves. They did, tying the game in regulation, and winning it in overtime, 133-129.

The comeback would mark the first time in the previous 24 seasons that a team had overcome a 17-point deficit with less than three minutes remaining in regulation or overtime and won. Simply, on Monday the Kings accomplished what 8,000 plus teams over a quarter century could not: the comeback of comebacks.

Then on Wednesday back at Golden 1 Center–and after a stirring tribute to Kobe Bryant before the opening tip–the Kings reverted, scoring just 16 points in the first quarter on the way to a 20-point loss to the Thunder. The Kings were in it, tied at 14 with 3:58 remaining, then finished the quarter with only two more points, on their way to trailing for the game’s final 40 minutes in a sleepy loss tied closely to a substandard defensive effort that saw the Thunder guards feast on their Sacramento counterparts.

“They were more physical than us, they hit us, they outrebounded us, got the shots they wanted, and that can’t be acceptable for how we’re going to play the game of basketball.”

In Monday’s finish, the Kings hit seven 3-pointers, and got stops–a bunch of them. On Wednesday, the Kings were 1 of 9 from three in the first quarter and watched the visitors–especially from the guard’s standpoint–operate as if they were a basketball ballet troop.

Chris Paul, a close friend of Kobe Bryant, returned to action after missing the Thunder’s previous game to decompress and grieve. The break brought to light what a great season the veteran guard is having in Oklahoma City after his unceremonious dismissal from Houston. Paul’s absence was his first time he hasn’t played and started for the Thunder, a streak of 47 games. On Wednesday, with a heavy heart, it was back to work and the veteran was on top of his game, dissecting the Kings like a surgeon.

“He never really got into a flow from the standpoint of his own, personal offense, but he really managed to manipulate that game in the third quarter. He was finding guys, he was making the right decisions. He got guys open shots,” coach Billy Donovan said of Paul.

All four Thunder guards that saw significant minutes put up good numbers facing a Sacramento defense that didn’t fight through screens and wasn’t the least bit disruptive. Paul finished with nine points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. Luguentz Dort, the undrafted rookie playing in place of the injured Terrance Ferguson, put up a career-best 23 points with five 3-pointers. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the key, off-season acquisition with Russell Westbrook and Paul George departing, had 17 points, seven assists and seven rebounds. Dennis Schroeder came off the bench to add 24 points and nine assists.

Worried about the viability of the Kings’ core of Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovich and De’Aaron Fox going forward with all three likely to earn big deals to stay in Sacramento?

You should be. Defensively, the trio is nowhere near where they need to be. Picture a youthful Steve Nash getting beat at the point of attack and multiply by three. Not pretty especially with the Kings getting a look at Bogdanovich starting along Fox with Hield’s demotion. Again, all three put up decent offensive numbers on Wednesday, but their double-digit minus, plus/minus numbers said it all.

The Kings get a rough, back-to-back with the Clippers up next Thursday night at Staples Center, the first game at Staples Center since Bryant’s death.

 

 

 

The Kings play defense and beat the Bulls 98-81 on Friday in Chicago

By Charlie O. Mallonee @Charlieo1320

The long national nightmare is over for “Sacramento Proud” as their team’s six-game losing streak has come to an end in Chicago. The Kings (16-29) downed the Bulls 98-81 on Friday night at the United Center.

The last time the Kings won a basketball game was on January 7th in Phoenix. Those 16 days between wins seemed like an eternity for Sacramento fans.

A major change to the starting lineup

Sometimes a coach must shake things up to in order to get his team’s attention. In this case, Kings head coach – Luke Walton – made a change to his starting lineup. Guard Buddy Hield has been in a shooting slump, so Walton took Hield out of the starting rotation and replaced him with Bogdan Bogdanovic who has been the Kings sixth man all season.

Moving a starter to the bench is always dangerous because a coach never knows how the player will react. In this case, the lineup moves worked.

Hield took the change in stride

In reality, Hield did more than take things in stride – he thrived. Hield led the Kings in scoring by putting up 21 points in the game. He shot 7-for-12 overall and hit 5 of 9 from behind the 3-point line. Hield also grabbed eight rebounds.

After the game, Kings head coach Luke Walton was full of praise for Hield for his play and his reaction to his change in the rotation.

The key to the win was defense

This was the second game this season that the Kings held their opponent to under 90 points. The Kings are 2-0 in those games.

Sacramento held Chicago to just 39.2% (31-for-79) shooting overall and the Bulls hit only 8 of 37 (21.6%) from 3-point range.

The Kings caused the Bulls (17-30) to turn the ball over 21 times which resulted in 16 Sacramento points.

The Bulls largest lead of the game was three points.

Top performers

Leading scorers

  • Buddy Hield was the Kings leading scorer with 21 points
  • Zach LaVine led the Bulls scoring attack with 21 points

The Glass cleaners

  • Cristiano Felicio of the Bulls was the game’s leading rebounder with nine
  • Buddy Hield led the Kings with eight rebounds

Dropping dimes

  • De’Aaron Fox was the game’s assist leader with seven dimes
  • Kris Dunn led the Bulls with six assists

Up next

The Kings travel to the Twin Cities where they will play the Timberwolves on Monday night.

The Bulls will play in Cleveland on Saturday night.

 

 

 

Royalty Flushed: Kings drop sixth straight in Detroit,127-106

By Morris Phillips

Losing streaks are hard enough to digest, and the individual moments within those streaks even more so.

For the Kings, losing at the middling Pistons, the ninth-ranked team in the Eastern Conference, for their sixth straight loss while allowing Detroit 19 points more than their season average may rank as the nadir for fading Sacramento.

It certainly felt like it in the third quarter when the Pistons turned a 57-50 advantage at the half into a rout.

“Basketball is a simple game: Defend without fouling, make the right play and knock down shots early,” coach Bill Walton said. “I feel like we didn’t do any of those things.”

The Kings certainly didn’t defend. The Pistons were without Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin, along with taking the occassion to send a message regarding punctuality to rookie Sekou Doumbouya, who didn’t start for the first time in 10 games. Despite the absences, the Pistons got way too comfortable shooting the basketball at 53 percent for the game, and at an even higher clip than that in their 36-point, third quarter that put the game away.

Meanwhile, the Kings certainly didn’t have a coherent plan to match the high-scoring Pistons. Missing 25 of their 35 3-point shot attempts kept Sacramento’s offense disjointed and unable to make up the deficit, which grew and grew.

“There are times where we are out there playing good basketball and there are times when we’re not,” De’Aaron Fox said. “I said it before, you just try to play the best basketball you can for the most amount of time. I don’t think we’re doing that right now.”

With the recent trade of Trevor Ariza to Portland, and the Pistons’ lineup changes, the game became a battle of new faces. One stood out: Reggie Jackson, playing in his first game after missing 42 due to a back injury, led the Pistons with 22 points and four assists.

“When you alternate (Jackson with Derrick Rose, who also scored 22 points), you have stability at the point guard position, and that’s what this league is all about, guys that can create and run the floor,” coach Dwayne Casey said of his team’s offense.

Rose, the NBA’s renaissance man, and the guy most frequently mentioned to upgrade a playoff contender’s outlook down the stretch of this season, scored better than 20 points for the 10th straight game, matching his career-best stretch from his MVP season in 2011.

Christian Wood added 23 points to give Detroit three scorers with 20 or more, and Svi Mykhailiuk added 13. The Pistons poured it on in a 70-point, second half that far too much resembled a basketball clinic for the Kings’ liking.

“It’s about where we’re going and I’m a very patient person,” Walton said. “I believe in our group, but we need to do a lot of things including starting games with a much more competitive, engaged mindset. So, I still have all the belief in the world in our team. It’s still surreal to be coaching this team, but there are some things that we need to improve on and improve on quickly because it’s too late in the season to be having these same types of mistakes so frequently.”

The Kings continue their road swing on Friday in Chicago. The Kings and Bulls will be meeting for the second time this season after the Chicago held on for a 113-106 win at Golden 1 Center on December 2.

 

 

 

 

 

Empty Sac: Kings battle back only to come up short, lose to Magic 114-112

By Morris Phillips

SACRAMENTO–Slow starts, heartbreaking finishes, the Kings have seen enough of those this season.

But the reality is that’s what the Kings are about, and Monday’s heartbreaking 114-112 loss to the Magic–decided on Aaron Gordon’s three-point play with 1.1 seconds remaining–was another painful reminder.

“You don’t want to come down to these one-point games because crazy things happen,” coach Luke Walton said. “You have to take care of business before that.”

The Magic came in as the NBA’s lowest-scoring team, averaging just above 103 points per game. But the Kings immediately made the visitors feel comfortable by allowing them 33 first quarter points, which matched their best output in the opening quarter this season. Orlando didn’t have to up the tempo, they just took what the Kings gave them: 26 shot attempts, ample second chance opportunities, four made threes and five made free throws. Down 33-25 after a period, the Kings were already trending negatively.

With the threes falling, and the free throw opportunities swinging dramatically in Orlando’s favor, the Magic took their biggest lead of the night, 65-48 with a minute remaining before halftime. At that point the Kings not named Nemanja Bjelica started to play, constructing a 15-2 run ending the second quarter and starting the third that got them back into it.

Bjelica was keeping the Kings afloat at that point, scoring 25 of the team’s first 63 points. Bjelica would go on to put up 34 points and eight 3-pointers, both career bests, but his super efficient output wasn’t what consumed his thoughts after the game.

“We lost the game earlier, and we need to stop that,” Bjelica said. “We need to start the game like we finished the last five minutes.”

In the game’s final five minutes, Kings’ guard De’Aaron Fox turned on the jets and helped his club wipe out a 100-93 deficit. As the capper to his 31-point, 10-rebound, 8-assist night, the speedy guard got into the lane and converted a three-point play that gave the Kings a 112-111 lead with 15 seconds remaining. As a small consolation, Fox thoroughly outplayed Markelle Fultz in matchup of guards taken in the first five picks of the 2017 NBA Draft. Fultz finished with 16 points and two assists.

On the Magic’s final possession, Evan Fournier patiently dribbled down Fox, but didn’t gain much advantage, and seemed content to settle for an off-balance jump shot at the free throw line extended. Instead Fournier got the ball to Gordon in the lane, who flipped the ball in the basket as Cory Joseph fouled him for the three-point opportunity. The resulting free throw put the Magic up 114-112 with little time remaining.

The Kings felt a foul should have been called on the game’s final play in which a pass in bounds gave Harrison Barnes a four-foot shot opportunity that fell short. But whistles weren’t blowing in Sacramento’s direction on Monday: the Magic converted 25 of 30 free throw attempts to the home team’s 10 of 11.

The Kings fell to 15-25 with the loss, and it was eighth time this season they’ve lost by three points or less.

Marvin Bagley Jr. returned to the lineup after missing the previous ten games and had a strong game with 18 points, six rebounds and two blocks in 23 minutes. Buddy Hield added 16, but Barnes and Trevor Ariza combined to miss 11 of their 14 shots.

The Kings continue their homestand on Wednesday when the Dallas Mavericks come to town looking to break a four-game losing streak to Sacramento that dates back to last season.