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What we learned as Kings' second-half comeback falls short vs. Knicks

What we learned as Kings' second-half comeback falls short vs. Knicks originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SACRAMENTO – Domantas Sabonis continued his dominance Saturday night at Golden 1 Center, but he received little to no help from his Kings teammates in a 98-91 loss to the New York Knicks.

Knicks All-Star point guard Jalen Brunson put on a show and received “MVP” chants in Sacramento, dropping 42 points in 36 minutes.

The Kings’ second-half rally fell just short against the Eastern Conference’s No. 4 seed following a sluggish first 24 minutes.

De’Aaron Fox contributed 20 points, Harrison Barnes had 16 and Kings Sixth Man Malik Monk added 18 off the bench for Sacramento (38-28).

Saturday was the first time these two teams met this season, with their second and final meeting set for April 4 at Madison Square Garden.

It wasn’t pretty from the start for either team, but in the end, it was the Knicks (40-27) who came out on top. After the loss, the Kings fell to No. 7 in the Western Conference and sit a half game behind the Phoenix Suns for the No. 6 seed.

Here are the takeaways from the Kings' loss:

A sleepy, sloppy start

The environment outside of Golden 1 Center was vibrant and lively Saturday as fans and local patrons enjoyed a warm and sunny day in downtown Sacramento.

Inside the arena, however, it was a different story.

It took a while for the Kings – and the Knicks, really -- to wake up.

Outside of Sabonis, the Kings played like they were half awake.

Sacramento scored 22 points in the first quarter. Sabonis made up 59 percent of them with 13 of his own.

In the second quarter, not much changed. And by halftime, Sabonis made up 23 percent of the Kings’ points with 21 of his own.

A tale of two halves

A second-quarter takeover by New York gave the team an early edge over Sacramento, carrying a 53-48 lead into the half.

The Kings turned the jets on after the midpoint break, however, and Sabonis finally received some help from his teammates.

Sacramento outscored New York 26-22 in the third quarter, with key contributions from Barnes, Fox and Monk.

But self-inflicted wounds and missed opportunities early on were too much to overcome for the Kings in the end, and after scoring just 17 points in the final frame, their final push toward a victory fell short.

Battle of the point guards

Saturday’s contest was a matchup between two of the NBA's most exciting young players in Brunson and Fox.

Brunson’s career-best season continued in Sacramento, and the All-Star point guard didn’t waste any time putting on a show for the many Knicks fans in attendance.

The 6-foot-2 guard had 21 first-half points on 9-of-12 shooting from the field and 3 of 4 from 3-point range.

He outscored and doubled the Kings’ top scorer, Sabonis (21), finishing the contest with a game-high 42 points on 17-of-28 shooting from the field and 5 of 10 from 3-point range.

Meanwhile, it took Fox a little while to get going.

After finishing the first quarter with three points and three turnovers, Fox had 11 by the half and 16 by the third quarter.

Fox entered the game averaging 27 points on 47.4-percent shooting, with 4.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists in 57 games this season. Saturday definitely wasn’t his best showing, but it remains evident that the team plays better when its star point guard is.

Like Fox, the rest of the Kings flipped the switch after halftime. Fox finished with 20 points on 5-of-19 shooting from the field and 2 of 7 from deep.