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What we learned as Kings' late rally falls short in loss to Heat

What we learned as Kings' late rally falls short in loss to Heat originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SACRAMENTO -- The Kings welcomed the Miami Heat to Golden 1 Center on Monday night fresh off what coach Mike Brown called their “most complete game” against the Los Angeles Clippers, but still suffered a 121-110 defeat.

Sacramento (33-24), which rose to the fifth seed in the West following Sunday’s big win in Los Angeles, hosted the Eastern Conference’s seventh seed for an opportunity to better establish itself in the wobbly West.

Miami (32-25) was without several key players, including its star Jimmy Butler, who was suspended one game after an altercation with the New Orleans Pelicans last Friday. Heat center Thomas Bryant was suspended three games for his part in the incident, and Heat forward Nikola Jović was suspended one game for leaving the bench area and entering the on-court scuffle.

But as the basketball world has come to learn this season, the Kings are notorious for not performing to their standard when facing a shorthanded team.

The Kings dug themselves into a hole in the third quarter that was too deep to come out of as their late rally in the fourth fell short.

Here are the takeaways from the Kings' loss:

Late rally falls short

The Kings were outscored -- to put it nicely -- 36-19 in the third quarter.

Miami entered the fourth quarter with a 101-81 lead as subtle boos poured into Golden 1 Center -- but the game was far from over.

Sacramento came alive again in the final frame.

Keegan Murray's 3-point shooting and De'Aaron Fox's clutch gene helped keep the Kings afloat, contributing 22 combined points in the fourth.

But Heat rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. and center Bam Adebayo did just enough to pull Miami away in the end. Even though Sacramento outscored Miami 29-20 in the final 12 minutes of action, its third-quarter disaster was too much to overcome.

Rising star watch 

Jaquez Jr. returned to his home state Monday and received a warm welcome from fans inside Golden 1 Center.

The 23-year-old, who was born and raised in Southern California and shined at UCLA, didn’t disappoint playing just 380 miles away from home.

Jaquez Jr. has been a bright spot for Miami in his short NBA career thus far, averaging 12.8 points on 48.8 percent shooting, with 3.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 29.4 minutes.

The young forward’s rookie efforts earned him a spot in the NBA’s Rising Stars event at All-Star Weekend earlier this month.

He finished Monday’s contest with 26 points on 12-of-17 shooting, with four rebounds, two assists and three steals in 37 minutes.

Sacramento has its own rising star, too, in Murray. The second-year forward also was selected to the annual event for the second time.

After an impressive rookie season with Sacramento, Murray is taking things a step further in his sophomore campaign as he works his way toward becoming a two-way star in the league.

While his emphasis has been on the defensive side of the ball, Murray's offense still is a crucial part of the team's success -- as evident in Monday's near-fourth quarter comeback.

The 24-year-old finished Monday's game with 28 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the field and 6 of 7 from 3-point range, with five rebounds, one assist and three steals in 36 minutes.

Battle of the big men

Monday's game had all eyes on the big-man matchup between Kings center Domantas Sabonis and Adebayo.

Sabonis recorded his 21st triple-double of the season, with 14 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists.

But the triple-double machine was outshined by the big man across the floor.

Adebayo was aggressive on both sides of the ball all night for Miami, finishing with 28 points on 11-of-18 shooting with 10 rebounds and seven assists in 36 minutes.

He was particularly impactful when it mattered most for the Heat, as he and Jaquez Jr. took Miami past the finish line.