Pelicans 133, Kings 100: Home stand ends in a loss as poor effort dooms Sacramento



SACRAMENTO – At some point, enough has to become enough.

Sure, New Orleans is a bad matchup for the Kings, but minus Zion Williamson and Jose Alvarado, you would have thought this one might be, at least, competitive.

It was not.

From nearly the opening tip, Sacramento was outplayed in every facet of the game, losing the rebounding battle 15-4 after one quarter and 51-25 by the end of the game. The Pelicans, who were afforded wide-open looks due to a lackadaisical Kings’ defense that was a step slow – or more – on nearly every rotation, connected early and often, shooting 61% from the field and 54% from 3.

The fans were booing by the second quarter, and frankly, it was deserved. The Kings trailed by as many as 49 before ultimately losing 133-100 thanks to some good effort from the bench over the final quarter of play.

CJ McCollum went off for the short-handed Pels, scoring 30 points on 11-16 shooting. He connected on 7-10 three point attempts while adding seven rebounds and four assists. And all of that in just 27 minutes thanks to the blowout.

Meanwhile, the home team got little from their stars. De’Aaron Fox struggled in a way we haven’t seen often by the All Star, with just three points on 1-10 shooting. After hitting his first attempt of the game, a 3 pointer one minute into the first quarter, he missed his next nine attempts from the field, and played just eight minutes in the second half. Keegan Murray wasn’t much better, going 2-9 from the field and 1-6 from 3. Domantas Sabonis had another double-double, though most of his 17 points came in garbage time.

One bright spot was Sasha Vezenkov, who scored 11 off the bench in 21 minutes taking the injured Trey Lyles’ spot in the rotation. Kevin Huerter also flashed in the fourth, scoring 12 points to finish with 17.

To their credit, the bench played hard when their opportunity came, something that Keon Ellis doesn’t take for granted.

“I feel like we played hard,” Ellis said. “From the time I saw the game was getting out of hand, I was telling Colby ‘we know what we have to do. Play hard, play the right way, it doesn’t matter what the score is.’

“It’s big, not just from a sense of making the rotation, but as an opportunity, everyone knows you can be here today, gone tomorrow. So you have to make the most of every opportunity you get.”

Mike Brown complimented the finishing unit as well.

They tried” Brown said. “They cut, they moved, the kept the game simple with their passes. They tried to help one another. The group that ended the game, they were really good on both ends of the floor. Especially offensively, the way they played was the right way.”

But ultimately, Mike Brown should not be talking about the way role players finished the game on the wrong end of a blowout, and he knows it.

It’s going to be tough scoring when you have Keegan, Lik, and Fox going 5-29,” he said.

And when questioned about why his leadership council wasn’t at the podium ‘facing the music’, he deferred some, but did call out his All Stars.

Everybody should face the music because we are all a part of this,” Brown said. “We all have to speak on it, we all have to address it. It starts with Fox and Domas. They have to be accountable, they have to hold everyone else accountable. I do too. I am part of this ass-kicking today.”

Brown added that for the Kings to take that next step, it has to start from within.

I will be the first one to say I know I have to do a better job. I also firmly believe, in order to take that next step, there has to be a time and place where the guys hold each other accountable. I have never been around great teams where the coach is just constantly yelling. The teams that I have been a part of that are great, there comes a point and time where it comes from within. You can feel it. Everyone knows who’s going to step up on the floor and in the huddles. I will take the blame because obviously I have to do more with this team, but hopefully sooner or later we will get more from within.”

That didn’t happen Sunday. Keon Ellis told the media that “there was no message. I am pretty sure everyone knows what happened and what we have to get better at. There was nothing to be said.” But maybe it’s time for the leaders of this team to stop assuming and start challenging each other. It’s something Brown is clearly concerned by.

“When teams have it going, the lack of physicality and grit, I have never experienced having to go through it this many times,” he said. “You’re going to lose, there are teams you’re going to have matchup problems with, but the fight that was non-existent today and that hasn’t been there on a few occasions, that’s the tough part. I don’t see it in guys’ eyes, diving on the ground for loose balls, taking a charge, freaking hitting somebody… I don’t necessarily feel it.”

While the Kings remain in decent position as they near the mid point of the season, it’s obvious that they lack consistency and fair to question whether they lack toughness, as well. As the stands emptied early in the fourth quarter with the team trailing by 49, the murmur of “will they make a move?” rang loud.

Sunday’s result, though just one game, was the most recent in a pattern of this team losing big. As Deuce Mason tweeted, “it’s the 5th time they have been down 30+ in a game and the 3rd time they have been down 40+ this season.”

Of the team’s 14 losses, nine have been by double digits, and five of those have been by 20 or more points. It’s an ugly trend that can’t continue if this team wants to not just make the playoffs, but win once they get there.

Sacramento now sets out on a five game road trip, starting in Detroit against the Pistons Tuesday night.

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2024-01-08 02:06:19 , The Kings Herald

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