March 18, 2018, 12:13 am
Heading to Utah to face the red-hot Jazz for their second game in two nights created an incredibly tough situation for the Kings, but the team didn’t back down from the challenge. A 103-97 loss is always going to sting but given the circumstances, this was an incredible performance from the Kings.
Dave Joerger elected to go young to start out – a theme that was prevalent throughout the game. Being able to push the pace and keep up with the Jazz was a huge boost early, but getting away from the high-post offense seemed even more beneficial.
With plenty of players capable of driving from the perimeter, the team looked to attack the basket and kick the ball back out. Utah was still able to apply their usual pressure defensively, but the Kings’ shooting ability and motion offensively helped lead to easy looks.
Another thing that was obvious early was a quick whistle from the referees. Utah did a nice job adjusting as the game went on, but the Kings maintained their style of play throughout the game and racked up 30 fouls as a result.
Sacramento struggled in the second half of the opening quarter, but the bench was able to come in and settle the team down early in the second. Garrett Temple and Buddy Hield caused problems with their shooting, and the intensity of JaKarr Sampson kept the team competitive defensively.
Hield was particularly impressive, not just in the first half, but throughout the game. Hield is regularly one of the team’s most impactful scorers, but his rebounding and passing were big factors against the Jazz as well. Scoring has been a strength for him all season, but his play is much better when he’s contributing in other parts of the game.
Sacramento’s strong team play led to a 54-50 lead heading into the half, but Utah began to take over the game in the third quarter. The Jazz made it a goal to attack Justin Jackson defensively early on, and it led to plenty of open looks for Donovan Mitchell.
On the other end, De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic struggled to get good looks. Both of them tried to attach Ricky Rubio, but that strategy was quickly abandoned after some extremely ineffective offensive possessions.
Sacramento was able to make a run when Hield and Temple returned late in the third quarter, but the two of them probably could have been used earlier. The Jazz had already opened up a comfortable lead at that point, and their strong play would have helped prevent Utah from taking control.
Justin Jackson has done a good job defensively over the last few months, but he didn’t have the lateral quickness to stay in front of Donovan Mitchel, and his lack of strength was a problem against Joe Ingles. Jackson played just 19 minutes in the loss, and it’s clear that he wasn’t a great fit for this game.
The fourth quarter was a tough back-and-fourth battle between the two teams. One of the key players early in the quarter was JaKarr Sampson – his energy can get him in trouble at times, but with the team needing a spark, he brought them exactly what they needed.
The Kings were right there with the Jazz late, but an unnecessary foul from Bogdan Bogdanovic that sent Ricky Rubio to the free throw line put the Kings in a tough spot. The Jazz were able to execute at a higher level down the stretch, securing them the win at home.