The Kings are no longer undefeated in this young season. The pleasant period without having to reconcile a Kings loss is over as well. Before the Kings lost to the Utah Jazz last night, their last defeat in any format of the game was against, well, the Utah Jazz in the last game of the 2020-21 season. In a sense, last night was a “welcome back to reality”.
The loss was not riddled with negatives. Davion Mitchell on the defensive end is the real deal. Harrison Barnes played with the accountability of a leader. Buddy Hield was exceptional given his role, he even passed Peja Stojakovic for all time franchise leader in three point field goals made. He did, however, have a few poor turnovers, one of them perhaps being a death sentence in the game last night. Tyrese Haliburton played like his usual steady self and there was even a Marvin Bagley sighting and he looked happy to just be there. But the positives ended there.
The concerns buried under the success of the season opener reappeared in the home opener and cost the Kings the game. Much like their first outing, the Kings played good defense in the first half but much like that outing, the Kings defense was less impressive in the second half. The Jazz registered 64 points in the second half last night on the way to outscoring the Kings by 15 in the segment.
Perhaps more concerning was the continuation of the lack of offensive versatility we have seen the Kings display thus far in this season, albeit a young season. The Kings weathered the Blazers a few nights earlier by virtue of great performances from a few players. The highlight being Barnes having a career night. There was very little to show offensively apart from Barnes, Hield, Holmes and Fox though. Last night Richaun could not stay on the floor and De’Aaron could not get going. Apart from a little assistance from Haliburton, the rest of the Kings roster still did not show up offensively. The Kings didn’t allow Utah to score an unacceptable amount. The Kings simply did not score enough.
Harrison Barnes, 25 points, and Buddy Hield, 24 points, did what they could offensively. The two consistently provided scoring through the course of the night but the team became overly dependent on the two on that end and this ultimately led to their demise. Single best example was after Buddy Hield knocked down his sixth three point shot of the night with 10:07 to go in the fourth. He was replaced shortly after that by Haliburton and from that point until the 1:30 mark of the fourth quarter the Kings had three field goals, two of them by Harrison Barnes and a fast break dunk by Haliburton. Sacramento scored 7 points total in that stretch. If there was one thing to blame most for the loss last night, it was that stretch.
Statistically speaking, Sacramento did as well or better than Utah in most categories. Apart from one really. That was three point shooting. Utah hit twice as many three point field goals as Sacramento while shooting 38 percent compared to Sacramento’s 22 percent. Barnes and Hield again combined for all 8 that were made. The rest of the team went 0/15. If you are a Kings fan, that’s pretty unsettling. Sacramento did not help themselves with untimely turnovers either, often times a result of a pass made a second too late.
An argument could be made that if not for Barnes’ career night against Portland, the Kings would have lost. Similarly, an argument could be made that if not for Buddy and Harrison last night, the Kings would have been blown out. Barnes and Hield combined for 49 points last night while the rest of the team posted 51 for their part. If Sacramento hopes to win more games than they lose, they are going to need more players to contribute offensively.
Being outplayed marginally by the Jazz is not something to be too ashamed of. After all, they were the number 1 seed in the West last year. It’s not a dire concern either. What is a concern is that two players that were tradeable last season have 45 percent of the Kings points this year. The young core that the Kings are supposed to build around have to show up offensively soon because the games don’t get much easier for at least a few more weeks. It is the second game of an 82 game season with plenty of room to improve, but cognizance of the trends so far needs to be present.