Kings blow another big lead after deviating from game plan vs. Bulls

Kings blow another big lead after deviating from game plan vs. Bulls originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SACRAMENTO – Three days after pulling off a stunning win over the Minnesota Timberwolves without De’Aaron Fox, the Kings got their point guard back and appeared headed for a comfortable win Monday before laying an egg over the final two minutes.

Against a Chicago Bulls team that has been mediocre at best for most of the 2023-24 NBA season, the Kings wilted down the stretch at Golden 1 Center in a 113-109 defeat.

Sacramento blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter, committed a trio of costly turnovers in the final minutes and were outscored 13-1 over the final four minutes.

“In our business, teams can go on a run or the script can flip like that, and before you know it, you’re in trouble,” Kings coach Mike Brown said after the loss. “I’m not sure if our guys took their foot off the gas, per se. I feel like we didn’t do what we we should have done, and that was from the beginning of the game.

“Even though we had gotten a couple of leads, we were still not doing a good job of moving the basketball and they were turning us over. That eventually caught up with us.”

The loss prevented the Kings (34-26) from holding ground in the Western Conference. A win would have pushed Sacramento within percentage points of the No. 5-seeded New Orleans Pelicans. Instead, they fell a half game behind the Phoenix Suns for No. 6, with No. 8 Dallas one-half game back.

This epic collapse definitely stung.

Sacramento was outscored 36-18 in the fourth quarter when DeMar DeRozan poured in 19 of his 33 points to fuel the Bulls' comeback.

But as both Brown and Fox noted, the Kings took themselves out of the game when they ignored the plan going in.

Chicago owns the NBA’s top interior defense, allowing an average of just 44.4 points in the paint. Brown and his staff tried to prepare the Kings for that type of defense, with the idea of kicking the ball out to the perimeter rather than driving inside.

The Bulls have been middle-of-the-pack in terms of defending 3-pointers, with opponents knocking down nearly 37 percent of their shots from the outside.

“We told our guys before the game that you got to spray [shots], because when you catch in the paint or you drive in the paint, you have two, three [defenders],” Brown said. “We even showed a clip where it was four guys in the paint.”

Yet Sacramento didn’t follow that guideline enough. The Kings made 11 of the 32 3-pointers that they took overall but were 0 for 6 from behind the arc in the fourth quarter.

This isn’t the first time the Kings have blown a big lead this season, either.

They wasted a 15-point advantage and lost to the New Orleans Pelicans on Dec. 4. They squandered a 22-point lead in the final eight minutes of a 119-117 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Jan. 16.

Sacramento also nearly let a 30-point lead slip away against the Bulls when the two teams played in Chicago on Feb. 3, before the Kings held on for a 123-115 win.

“Most of it was our mistakes, just getting too deep in the lane,” Fox said. “This is a team that doesn’t necessarily guard the 3-ball well, but they do guard the paint well. They got their hands on a lot of balls.

“We have to be better executing when we do have a lead.”

It didn’t help that the Kings committed 18 turnovers that led to 24 points. Brown said he thought that was where the game was lost.

Still, had the Kings done a better job of sticking to the game plan, the turnover issue might not have mattered as much.

“I felt if we would have done a better job of taking care of the basketball and sprayed the ball when we hit that paint, the game would have been a lot easier for us offensively,” Brown said. “We would have had rhythm; we would have flowed a little bit better offensively. And I think eventually, guys would have ended up making shots.

“They were really good in the area that we thought they’d be good in. We felt like we let this one slip through our fingers. It’s tough for anybody to swallow this one.”