By Morris Phillips
If you’re the Sacramento Kings, now 15 seasons removed from a playoff appearance, a trip to Utah to face the Jazz, the reigning champions of the regular season, turned out to be a good place to start if postseason play is still the goal.
While the Kings fell short, and dropped to 3-4 on the season, they played well enough to disrupt a Jazz team that’s now won 58 of their previous 79 regular season games, easily the best mark in the NBA dating back to the beginning of the truncated ’19-’20 season.
The Kings came up empty in the game’s final five minutes, losing a back-and forth contest 119-113 in which neither team held a double-digit lead. The Kings effectively put the Jazz on their heels by limiting their trademark made threes, but ultimately couldn’t respond as the home team dominated the glass, and picked up their defensive intensity down the stretch.
Essentially, a 7-0 run by the Jazz decided it, after the Kings’ Richaun Holmes hit a short jumper to tie the game at 104. After a two-minute scoreless drought, the Kings trailed 111-104 with 2:27 remaining.
A key sequence in the deciding run was a foul on Utah’s Rudy Gobert that was challenged by the Jazz, and overturned upon video review. The ensuing jump ball saw Holmes whistled for a violation, which awarded the ball to the Jazz. Ten seconds later, Donovan Mitchell scored on a driving layup to put the home team up five. After a Holmes miss, Gobert capped the surge by the Jazz with a pair of made free throws.
Mitchell led the Jazz with 36 points, and Mike Conley contributed 30. The dynamic Utah backcourt combined for 25 made baskets including 11 threes. Bogdan Bogdanovich had 20 for Utah.
The Kings were led by Harrison Barnes with 23 points. Buddy Hield was next with 19 points off the bench, but he was hit with two technical fouls and ejected with less than a second remaining.
Davion Mitchell, the rookie, had 18 as seven of the eight Kings to see action scored in double figures. Still the initial NBA meeting of the D. Mitchells went to the veteran.
“He hit shots. He hit tough shots. You can’t really do anything about that,” said Davion Mitchell of Donovan Mitchell.
The Jazz enjoyed a 58-39 advantage on the glass. That disparity helped off set an unusually poor shooting night from distance for Utah, in which they missed 34 3-point attempts.
“I love the fight of our team,” Kings coach Bill Walton said. “It’s really fun coaching these guys. We’re learning these hard lessons. I hope we figure it out soon, but the details of the game is what’s costing us right now. Tonight, it was defensive rebounding.”
The Kings return home on Wednesday to face the New Orleans Pelicans, the start of a four-game home stand.