This was a learning experience, one that Buddy Hield might not have received if the Kings had believed they were a high-powered offensive squad.
By several statistical measures, the Kings are one of the worst teams offensive teams in the NBA, but Hield nearly made that a moot point, with 16 of his team-high 27 points in the fourth quarter.
It wasn’t enough to overcome a wretched offensive display in the third quarter, and Hield missed a last-chance shot that was well defended as the Kings lost to the Los Angeles Clippers 97-95 on Saturday night at Golden 1 Center.
Blake Griffin’s baseline jumper with 3.2 seconds gave the Clippers the lead. Hield had a much tougher time getting a shot as time expired, thanks to Clippers All-Star center DeAndre Jordan.
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“I wish I could see what I could’ve done to get a better shot off, but it was a great defensive play,” Hield said.
Hield called being put in position to take the game-winning shot a learning experience. How the Kings got in that situation provides lessons, too.
The Kings (5-14) looked good on offense in the first half, but struggled in the second half, scoring just 34 points.
They matched season lows with four made field goals and just 10 points in the third quarter, showing how an 18-point lead can disappear when there’s no aggression on offense and relying on jump shots.
“The first four minutes of the third quarter, all we did was take jump shots,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “… So, we thought we were just going to, you know, it’s going to be easy, and you can run up and down and shoot jump shots, and that’s the path of least resistance.”
The Kings were uncharacteristically hot in the first half (58.5 percent), making seven of their first eight 3-pointers, but the Clippers also shot well (51.2 percent) even though they missed 13 of their first 14 3-pointers.
When the Kings cooled, the Clippers (7-11) turned up the intensity.
Then it was time for the Kings to learn again about the risk of loving the jump shot too much.
“There is a danger,” Kings guard Garrett Temple said. “It’s fool’s gold and you’re winning, you’re up by 10, 12, 14 and having a lead and guys tend to think you’re playing well when actually you’re not, we’re just making shots. Something to learn from.”
Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein said they needed a “gut check.”
“Those are also the times where we have to attack the paint, try to get fouled, get to the free-throw line and try to get a run going that way,” Cauley-Stein said.
Griffin led the Clippers with 33 points. Lou Williams finished with 18 points, including 14 in the second half.
Hield sparked the Kings in the fourth quarter, when he made four of his career-high seven 3-pointers, including one to tie it 95-95 with 14.8 seconds to play.
But he’d love to have that last shot back.
“I couldn’t get to my right hand and my shot, I feel like if I got to my right hand, (Jordan) would’ve blocked it,” Hield said. “I knew I had to get the shot up so I tried pushing my left hand but, like I said, those situations (I’m) learning, so now I know what to do in situations. Maybe (I’ve) got to do a crossover, step back, something to get the shot off, but I’ll learn.”