Armed with talent, Kings and Pelicans aim for new streak

NBA

The Sacramento Kings and the New Orleans Pelicans were both showing improvement.

Then they both lost Saturday night.

Now they’ll both try to bounce back when the Kings visit the Pelicans on Monday night.

The Kings saw a season-best, three-game winning streak end when Jimmy Butler returned from a 10-game COVID-related absence to lead the host Miami Heat to a last-minute 105-104 victory that ended their five-game losing streak.

“Absolutely love the energy and the fight after a hard back-to-back,” said Sacramento coach Luke Walton, whose team had beaten Toronto 126-124 in Tampa the night before. “The issues of turnovers and points off turnovers (27 points allowed) killed us. That’s a tough game to win.”

The Kings, who started their streak with wins at home against the Knicks (103-94) and at the Magic (121-107), were in position to win after De’Aaron Fox scored 17 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter.

He helped them battle back from a 11-point fourth-quarter deficit, Sacramento’s first double-digit deficit in four games.

But Butler scored a basket inside with 42 seconds remaining to reach 30 points for the game and put Miami on top.

Fox was doubled-teamed on the final possession and passed to Richaun Holmes, whose shot was tipped by Bam Adebayo and fell short.

Marvin Bagley III continued his improved play for the Kings by scoring 17 points, Buddy Hield scored 18 and Harrison Barnes 11.

Walton lamented the fact that the Kings, who rank fifth in the league in free-throw attempts, took just 11 and made five free throws.

“We live in the paint,” Walton said.

The Kings hosted New Orleans on Jan. 17 when Fox scored a career-high 43 points and added 13 assists, but it wasn’t enough as the Pelicans prevailed 128-123.

Zion Williamson scored 31 points and made 13 of 15 field-goal attempts, despite spending much of the fourth quarter on the bench in foul trouble, to lead the Pelicans.

He had 26 points to lead New Orleans on Saturday, but that wasn’t enough in 126-112 loss to Houston. The Rockets took control of the game by scoring 48 points in the second quarter, one night after the Pelicans won despite Milwaukee scoring 44 points in the third quarter.

“We’ve been on a pretty steady defensive decline since the sixth or seventh game of the season,” Pelicans first-year coach Stan Van Gundy said. “It’s frustrating to me because the way I looked at this job coming in is a big part of my job was to try to get us to improve at the defensive end of the floor. I thought we came out of camp guarding at a pretty high level, especially for early in the season, and the level we are guarding at now, it’s not acceptable.”

Steven Adams, who missed most of the second half against the Rockets because of soreness in his calf, isn’t available.

“Honestly it’s one thing if a team is hitting shots,” Williamson said, “(but) when they’re playing harder than us and hitting shots, we’re not even giving ourselves a chance. Simple as that.”

–Field Level Media

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