Sacramento, Calif. • The Kings’ massive loss to the Jazz early in the week sparked an inquisition. Sacramento, which saw itself as a playoff team, couldn’t realistically make that claim after an 0-5 start that somehow looked even worse than that.
So what happened in their next matchup?
The exact opposite. Instead of a blowout win that was over even before the game really started, the Jazz trailed nearly the whole way, but in a tight contest throughout. Eventually, the Kings pulled it out in the end, 102-101.
How do you explain the turnaround?
“We’re in the same boat. we’ve added eight new guys, they’ve added quality veterans,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “It takes time for a team to come together.”
It was an uncharacteristic rebounding night for Utah. The Jazz came in to Friday’s game as the league’s best defensive rebounding team, but completely forgot how to do that against Sacramento. Several times, the Kings just snuck in for second chances they shouldn’t have gotten, second chances they usually converted. In the end, it was 11 offensive rebounds for 13 second-chance points for the Kings.
That included the defining play of the night: Harrison Barnes flew in to the glass off a Nemanja Bjelica miss, while the Jazz missed the box out. With three seconds left, his putback put the Kings up 1.
The beginning of the game was a mess, as the turnover bug again bit the Jazz. The team had seven turnovers early, including some sloppy dribbling and traveling calls. Notable was that the Jazz weren’t getting the turnovers on bad passes, because there wasn’t much passing going on. It was an uncharacteristic show of “my turn, your turn”, from Donovan Mitchell to Rudy Gobert on down the roster early.
But while they got down by as much as 12, the Jazz came back, led by perhaps the Jazz’s most talented lineup of Bojan Bogdanovic, Mike Conley, Mitchell, Gobert and Joe Ingles — a lineup some fans have started to call the BoCoDoGoJo Show, thanks to their somewhat assonant names. By halftime, the Kings’ lead was just 3.
The third quarter was back-and-forth, with the Kings getting an eight-point lead, then the Jazz came back. The highlight of the night may have been a lowlight; with a wide-open lane in front of him after some iffy Jazz perimeter defense, De’Aaron Fox missed a one handed dunk, sending the ball clattering hard off the rim all the way to backcourt. The Kings missed the ensuing shot, and then Conley went down on the other end and hit a three.
Or perhaps the highlight was a Snyder technical. After two calls he felt were missed in transition — and he was probably right — Snyder exploded, storming out onto the court and giving each official a hefty piece of his mind.
The fourth quarter looked at first like it was going to be a Kings runaway, but Sacramento’s offense stagnated to one-on-one play down the stretch. Thanks to their defense, the Jazz gave themselves a chance to win the game.
And they had the lead late: Mitchell hit a layup with 11 seconds to give the Jazz the lead. That’s when Barnes’ game-winning play turned the game on its head. Mitchell had one more look with three seconds left, but missed it short. Replays showed that Mitchell’s shot was late and wouldn’t have counted had it gone in.
The Jazz’s defensive streak of keeping teams to under 100 points also came to an end, and while Utah got stops down the stretch to give itself a chance, Barnes’ last play was enough for the Kings to maintain their lead.