Kings’ three-point shooting kills them in costly loss to Thunder

Apr 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2)
Apr 9, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) / Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Up almost 20 points at the half, the Kings had a chance to beat Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and his thriving Thunder squad. Sacramento needs every win it can get right now, and yesterday's game was a chance to separate themselves from the Lakers.

The Lakers and Suns both lost, so a win would have been valuable. LeBron James and his team are breathing down the Kings’ necks, and they desperately want to avoid the bottom half of the Play-In Tournament. 

Instead of using their big lead and securing the win, the Kings let it slip away and eventually lost 112-105. Again. Giving up sizable leads has been an unpleasant theme all season long for the Kings. The defense fell apart in the third quarter, allowing 39 points, but it was the offense that cost the Kings this game. 

The Kings relied too heavily on the three-point shot

With Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk sidelined, the Kings are missing a whole lot of offense. When Domantas Sabonis is struggling like he was last night, shooting 2-7 from the field on his way to eight points, that issue is exemplified even more. 

In the first half, it seemed like the Kings could survive all that, however. Keon Ellis and De’Aaron Fox were hot from long range, combining for 11 made threes in the first half. Both finished the game with big stat lines, but it was not enough to get the win. 

In the second half, the Kings went completely cold from three but still continued to shoot. As a team, they took 27 threes in the second half but only made six, finishing the game 20-58. This obsession with the three killed them. 

Instead of getting to work in the paint and putting some pressure on the Thunder’s defense, the Kings settled for threes. By now we all know that Mike Brown loves spray threes but if the threes aren’t falling, adjustments have to be made either by the coaches or by the players. 

Otherwise, it is way too easy for the defense. Teams know by now that daring Sacramento to shoot threes rather than get to the rim is the way to go. Last night, the Kings played right into the Thunder’s scheme, taking more than half of their field goal attempts from three. 

Relying that heavily on one shot is never a great game plan, especially if the threes aren’t falling. In theory, the spray threes are a good thing, but 58 three-point attempts are simply too many for a team that ranks 15th in three-point percentage for the season. 

The Kings’ offense has not looked pretty lately

When Huerter and Monk went down, it was clear that the Kings would struggle offensively. Since losing Monk in late March, the Kings have only scored more than 110 points once in a win over the Utah Jazz. 

If I had told you in October that the Kings would finally have a serviceable defense to finish the season but struggled immensely on the other end of the floor, most of you probably would have laughed in my face. Offense is what put the Kings back on the map, but lately, it hasn’t been up to the challenge. 

Sure, missing two offensive-minded key players will immediately hurt the offense but if they want to go to the playoffs, the Kings have to find ways to work around that. Chucking 58 threes is not the way to go. Neither is getting only 8 points from your All-Star center and 13 from the entire bench. Davion Mitchell was really the only reserve who made something happen offensively. 

The Kings still have crucial games left against the Pelicans and the Suns. If the offense is not functioning, it will be difficult to keep up with those two squads, and Sacramento cannot afford to lose any more games.