Kings squander golden opportunity in deflating loss to Wizards

Kings squander golden opportunity in deflating loss to Wizards originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

In a season where the Kings have struggled to find consistency, one constant remains -- disappointing performances against undermanned or underperforming teams.

That trend continued in Sacramento's 109-102 loss to the Washington Wizards on Thursday at Capital One Arena. The Wizards (12-58) boast the NBA's worst record and snapped a five-game losing streak with their win over the Kings (40-29) on Thursday.

Sacramento's loss to Washington moved the Kings back into the No. 7 playoff seed in the Western Conference -- meaning the Kings would be in the NBA Play-In Tournament if the season ended today, wasting a golden opportunity to create some cushion in an air-tight race for the West's No. 6 seed.

"Tough loss, especially where we are right now in our race for that playoff spot," coach Mike Brown told reporters after the game.

Washington established the tone from the opening tip, leading by double digits in the second quarter before Sacramento stormed back with an 18-0 run to tie the game at 54 just before halftime.

In an all-too-familiar fashion, the Kings didn't allow an early deficit to deter a ferocious comeback attempt. The issue was that a lackluster third quarter created yet another double-digit deficit, which created an uphill battle that simply was too much to overcome during the 48 minutes of action.

After cutting the Wizards' lead to eight at the end of the third quarter, De'Aaron Fox dropped in 13 fourth-quarter points on 5-of-9 shooting, but it was not enough to vault the Kings past the Wizards in a game that Washington appeared to have a firm grasp on from start to finish.

After the loss, Fox pointed to the precarious position the Kings put themselves in, acknowledging that simply fighting back isn't enough to guarantee a victory.

"Obviously we have to take care of the ball a little better than that, but we can't get down 20 and then fight back and just expect to win just because we fought back," Fox told reporters at Capital One Arena.

Brown was quick to credit the Wizards for their efforts while addressing the media after a rather unexpected loss, which unfortunately for the Kings, has been a regular occurrence this season.

"You got to give the Wizards a lot of credit and their coaching staff a lot of credit … they basically took it to us," Brown explained.

Not even Keon Ellis -- who started in place of Kevin Huerter who is out for an unknown period of time with a shoulder injury -- could save the Kings from a distressing defeat in the nation's capital.

Prior to Thursday's loss, Sacramento was 7-0 in games that Ellis started this season, snapping one of the only streaks that offered any semblance of consistency from the Kings during this campaign.

Due to nine of Sacramento's 12 remaining games coming against teams with a winning record, blowing a chance to grab a win against the NBA's worst team undoubtedly will feel like a gut punch.

With just 1/2 game separating the Kings, Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks in the race for the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference, this was a game Sacramento had to have.