Sacramento Kings

Why large leads (or deficits) have meant nothing in recent Kings games

Kings forward Justin Jackson, right, defends against Phoenix Suns forward Kelly Oubre Jr. on Tuesday in Phoenix.
Kings forward Justin Jackson, right, defends against Phoenix Suns forward Kelly Oubre Jr. on Tuesday in Phoenix. AP

The Kings are playing an exciting brand of basketball this season - and it’s not just because of their record.

They have stayed true to their preseason claims, using a fast, running style that has put them second in pace and fifth in scoring, improving from last in the NBA in both categories in 2017-18.

The speedy play has helped them overcome some large deficits, but it has also left the door open for opponents to stage big rallies.

On Tuesday, it was the latter.

A season high in turnovers by the Kings helped the Phoenix Suns come back from a 21-point deficit for a 115-111 victory at Talking Stick Resort Arena to snap a six-game losing streak.

The Kings (20-21) committed 10 of their 26 turnovers in the third period, allowing the Suns to tie the game with a 33-14 quarter. It came just 12 minutes after Sacramento put up a 40-18 frame that led to a 19-point halftime advantage.

“We were very casual coming out at halftime,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “Hats off to Phoenix. Their defense was better and we rested on the fact that we shot the heck out of it in the first half.”

The comeback by the Suns (10-32) was their largest of the season, fueled largely by reserve forward Kelly Oubre Jr., who led Phoenix with 26 points.

The Kings’ mistakes contributed to their fifth loss in the last six games.

“We gave up the ball too much and it’s what cost us the game,” said guard De’Aaron Fox, who led the Kings with 24 points but also committed eight turnovers. “When you have twenty-something turnovers, you can’t win like that.”

Tuesday’s scoring swing has been familiar in recent games. Over their last nine, the Kings have either recovered from large deficits or blown big leads in eight of those.

In three consecutive home victories last month, the Kings erased deficits in the teens, including a game-winning 3-pointer from Bogdan Bogdanovic against the Los Angeles Lakers on Dec. 27. Sacramento never led in the second half and trailed by as many as 15.

Before that, the Kings became the first team to dig out of a 19-point hole in consecutive games since the Indiana Pacers did so in 2010.

On the flip side, Sacramento has blown large late leads. Before Tuesday, three of the five games the Kings say they let get away included double-digit advantages. They also had nine-point leads in the second half of home losses to the Portland Trail Blazers on Jan. 1 and the Golden State Warriors four days later.

Tuesday’s loss included the largest lead the Kings failed to secure. The Suns ended the game on an 11-2 run over the final 2:23.

“We can’t let that become a trend, games that we’re up that we should win and end up losing,” Fox said.

Noel Harris: 916-321-1602, @SacBeeNoel
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