Choke Job: Kings Blow Late Lead In Loss To Spurs

Sacramento Kings (Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images)
Sacramento Kings (Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images) /

A struggling Sacramento Kings team had a victory wrapped up with two minutes to go against the San Antonio Spurs. And then they didn’t.

The Sacramento Kings came into Friday night’s game against the Spurs having lost five of their last seven games and floundering in the Western Conference standings. Needing a victory to simply keep their heads above water, the Kings received relieving news minutes before the game that both Bogdan Bogdanovic and Cory Joseph would be available despite each combatting injuries.

They battled with the Spurs throughout the game, and began the fourth quarter with a 72-69 lead after being down 10 at halftime. With just under two minutes left in regulation, Joseph hit a 3 from the top of the arc that capped a 9-0 run by the Kings and solidified their lead at 98-89.

And then the wheels fell off.

On the Kings’ next possession, an ill-advised pass from Joseph to Barnes was poked away by Dejounte Murray, leading to an easy dunk on the other end.

98-93 Kings, 1:27 to play.

Just seconds later, as the Kings were setting up their offense, Joseph began to back Murray down on the perimeter. Patty Mills, who was manning Buddy Hield on the wing, smelled blood and left Hield to pick the pocket of a very unsuspecting Joseph. Mills finished a fast break layup, and the Spurs had made it a one-possession game.

98-95 Kings, 1:13 to play

After two empty possessions and clinging to a 98-97 lead, the Kings were in a jump ball situation with 15 seconds left, which resulted in possession for the Kings and a trip to the free-throw line for Harrison Barnes. The veteran would knock down both.

100-97 Kings, 14.3 seconds to play

On the final play of regulation, Marco Belinelli drained a game-tying three with three seconds on the clock, completing the comeback for the Spurs. The ensuring half-court heave from Hield was not close, and the game headed into overtime. The Kings had squandered a nine-point lead in under two minutes.

Things did not get much better for Sacramento in the extra period. They scored just four points on two baskets by Hield, and would ultimately lose the game 105 to 104.

The final possession was a thrilling failure. Hield missed a midrange pull up, got his own rebound, and found the outlet that led to an open look by Trevor Ariza from the perimeter wing. Airball.

A great save by Hield led to yet another open look from Ariza, which clanked off of the iron. The third offensive rebound of the possession for the Kings led to the fourth and final shot attempt, a turnaround fallaway along the baseline by Hield that hit the front of the rim as time expired.

Not only was the execution poor on the final play, but the lineup that coach Luke Walton had in the game was also questionable. While one can argue that Ariza provides more quality on the defensive end, the clutch shotmaking ability of Bogdanovic was badly missed.

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Give two open looks like Ariza received as the clock ticked down to Bogdanovic, and he makes at least one of them. Plus, it was Ariza’s man who made the go-ahead and eventual game-winning basket for the Spurs with 30 seconds remaining.

Things won’t get any easier for Sacramento. They will travel to Dallas to play the red hot Mavericks on Sunday, followed by a game against James Harden and the Rockets to wrap up the road trip.