By Morris Phillips
Once the Heat established themselves on Monday, little space remained for the Kings to be who they are, or who they want to be for that matter.
“We got back to being who we are,” Miami’s Jimmy Butler said after he led the Heat to a 123-100 win over the Kings with his 27 points and seven assists. The Heat snapped a four-game slide with the win, and looked like the Eastern Conference leaders they’ve been in the latter stages of this season in the process.
Bam Adebayo also had a big night for Miami with 22 points, 15 rebounds and Tyler Herro added 20 in 29 minutes off the bench.
“Felt amazing to get back in the winning column,” Herro said.
The Kings (27-49) had their moment early, leading 6-0 briefly before the host’s grueling style wore down the visitors and their thinned rotation. Miami scored the next nine points and never looked back. Sacramento managed just 19 points in the first quarter, and they trailed by 12. The deficit grew to 16 at the half, and 25 points after three quarters. Most notably, the Kings improved defensive play took the night off as they surrendered 101 points with eight minutes left in the game.
Davion Mitchell play was once again an eye-opener for the Kings as he led them with 21 points and nine assists in 41 minutes on the floor. Drafted for his high-level, defensive intensity, the rookie continues to show polish in all facets of his performance.
“(It’s hard) playing him 40 minutes every night and guarding the best player,” coach Alvin Gentry said. “But he accepts that and goes out and does the very best he can. I think you can see the improvement, the improvement in his decision-making. The effort has always been there defensively, so we just have to continue to get better.”
Harrison Barnes added 17 points as the Kings played without the quartet of Domantas Sabonis, De’Aaron Fox, Terence Davis and Richaun Holmes for the fourth straight game. The Kings squandered an opportunity to win a third, consecutive road game and have lost 13 of 18.
The Kings conclude a five-game road swing with games at Houston on Wednesday and Friday. According to the Sacramento Bee’s Jason Anderson, an improbable 6-0 finish to the season–all against Western Conference opponents–could net the Kings the needed tie breakers to nab the 10th spot in the Western Conference. Possible, but highly unlikely as the Kings have yet to win four in a row this season.
The visit concluded Sacramento’s schedule against Eastern Conference teams. They finished 10-20 against the East, a major reason they likely will miss the playoffs for a 16th straight season.