Burned in the Valley of the Sun. The Sacramento Kings completely blew their opportunity to move over the .500 mark at the midway point of the season Tuesday night at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
After sharing the ball and finding the open man early, Sacramento overdribbled, forced shots and played hero ball in the third quarter to squander a 21-point lead.
Sacramento turned the ball over 10 times in the third, while shooting just 4-of-16 from field. Orlando outscored the Kings 33-14 to force a tie going to the fourth and stole the momentum of the game.
"Lot of mistakes, a lot of turnovers, we were very casual coming out of halftime," coach Dave Joerger told the media following the game. "We turned it over too much in the first half and we certainly turned it over too much in the second half."
The loose handles continued into the final quarter, where the Kings gave the ball away seven more times, including multiple gaffs in the final minutes with the game on the line.
Overall, Sacramento turned the ball over a total of 26 times as a team, including a game-high eight for point guard De'Aaron Fox.
"We gave the ball up too much, that's what cost us the game," Fox said following the 115-111 loss.
Despite the obscene amount of mistakes, the Kings still had a shot in the closing moments, but they failed to box out on two crucial rebounds and the Suns made them pay. De'Anthony Melton got inside to tip in a ball with just over a minute remaining.
Moments later with the Kings trailing by one with just over ten seconds remaining, Phoenix missed a shot, but no one put a body on Kelly Oubre. The newly acquired forward flew in with a left handed jam to push the lead to three and help seal the win for the Suns.
"A lot of the past ones we've had slipped away," Fox said. "We can't let it become a trend. Games that we're up and should win and end up losing - we can't make that a trend for ourselves."
Sacramento has lost five of their last six games, but they've been in each game down to the wire. They are struggling to find a way to get over the hump and close out teams late.
This was just the 10th win of the season for Phoenix. They came into the night on a six game losing streak and they were without their leading scorer in Devin Booker.
With the loss, the Kings move into the second half of the season at 20-21. It's a surprising start for the team, but for a team with larger aspirations, this one stings.