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The Kings were not mathematically eliminated from postseason contention with Friday’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs, but they knew they had suffered a huge blow to their playoff hopes.
DeMar DeRozan scored 25 points to lead the Spurs to a 113-104 victory over the Kings at Golden 1 Center. The win gave the Spurs a 3 ½-game lead over Sacramento for the final play-in spot in the Western Conference and left the Kings teetering on the brink of elimination.
“This definitely was a big game for us,” Kings guard Terence Davis said. “Hate that we didn’t get it done tonight. Still got a fighting chance, but everyone knew this was a big game.”
The Spurs padded their lead over the Kings and won the season series to gain the tiebreaker advantage. They have the NBA’s most difficult remaining schedule with games against the Portland Trail Blazers, Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns (2), but any combination of two San Antonio wins or Sacramento losses will eliminate the Kings.
Dejounte Murray had 22 points, seven assists and five rebounds for the Spurs (32-34), who desperately needed a win after losing five in a row. San Antonio also got big baskets from Keldon Johnson and Lonnie Walker IV, who scored 16 points apiece, and Rudy Gay, who finished with 14.
Davis came off the bench to score a team-high 24 points for the Kings (29-38), who had won four in a row to get within 2 ½ games of the Spurs. Davis made 10 of 16 from the field and 4 of 8 from 3-point range.
Delon Wright had 17 points, nine assists and seven rebounds for Sacramento. Buddy Hield had 17 points, six assists and five rebounds despite being hobbled by an ankle injury.
“Tough loss,” Kings coach Luke Walton said. “Absolutely love the way our guys fought. Really I thought we gave everything we had again. Buddy’s out there running around on one leg and begging not to come off the court, and that’s what you want.”
The Kings were outscored 13-3 on second-chance points and allowed 20 points off 16 turnovers.
“I feel like this playoff-type-atmosphere game, guys jockeying for position, us trying to make our way in the race, every moment is intense,” Kings center Richaun Holmes said. “Every possession is intense. You have to value each possession, value the ball, and each possession just takes on that much more magnitude. It’s something we have to continue to learn and continue to get better at.”
The Kings were outscored 7-0 to start the game and trailed by 10 in the opening period. They got within one on a 3-pointer by Davis with 8:36 remaining in the second quarter but didn’t take their first lead of the game until Hield hit his first 3-pointer with 1:37 to play in the half.
San Antonio carried a 52-49 advantage into the break. Hield made a 3-pointer to tie the game early in the second half and another to give the Kings a 68-67 lead midway through the third quarter. Sacramento went up by eight later in the third, but San Antonio came back to reclaim the lead early in the fourth.
Murray made a series of big baskets to help the Spurs go up 100-89 with 5:49 remaining. Sacramento stormed back to cut the deficit to one when Hield made his fifth 3-pointer of the game with 2:37 to play, but the Kings came up empty on their next five possessions while the Spurs got clutch buckets from Murray and Walker.
“We knew these guys were going to come in and fight tonight,” Davis said. “… We knew we were going to be in a dogfight. Just came up a little short tonight.”
De’Aaron Fox rejoins team
Fox has missed the past eight games. He was on the bench Friday night but is still working through the final steps in that process as he progresses toward a potential return to the court.
Walton said he couldn’t discuss steps for Fox’s possible return to the lineup. When asked about the possibility of bringing Fox back over the final five games or holding him out for the rest of the regular season, Walton said: “Everything’s an available option.”
Fox, who came out of Kentucky as the No. 5 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, is averaging a career-high 25.2 points and 7.2 assists per game in his fourth season with the Kings.
The Kings will stay in Sacramento to host a two-game set against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday and Tuesday at Golden 1 Center.
The Thunder (21-46) has lost five in a row and 19 of 20, including a 103-99 loss to the Kings on Tuesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. The Thunder will visit the Golden State Warriors on Saturday before coming to Sacramento on the second night of a back-to-back Sunday.
Oklahoma City scoring leader Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been out since March 12 due to plantar fasciitis and is unlikely to return this season. Earlier this week, Thunder coach Mark Daigneault revealed Gilgeous-Alexander suffered a “significant tear” of the plantar fascia.
Spurs: OUT — Trey Lyles (ankle); Derrick White (ankle).
Kings: OUT — Harrison Barnes (adductor); De’Aaron Fox (health and safety protocols); Tyrese Haliburton (knee); Robert Woodard II (back).
May 9 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, 7 p.m.
May 11 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, 7 p.m.
May 13 at Memphis Grizzlies, 5 p.m.
May 14 at Memphis Grizzlies, 6 p.m.
May 16 vs. Utah Jazz, TBD