SACRAMENTO -- Trouble with the third.
After playing a highly competitive first half in the first two games of the 2019-20 season, the Sacramento Kings have come out in the third quarter and laid eggs. It's an issue that needs immediate attention or the team is going to quickly dig themselves a huge hole.
"The third quarter, we've just been bad, we've been horrible in the third quarter, so that's something we have to figure out," De'Aaron Fox told NBC Sports California.
Sacramento went into the half tied with the Portland Trail Blazers at 57-57 Friday evening in their home opener at Golden 1 Center. The Kings allowed the Blazers to hit them with a 12-0 run to begin the third, which completely changed the momentum of the game.
"We just weren't getting into anything offensively, we had a couple of turnovers and then when we were on defense, they were getting whatever they wanted," Fox said.
The Kings recovered to pull within one at 75-74, but the Blazers hit them again to push their lead to 94-84 heading to the fourth.
Whether it's the newness of the system or trying to build chemistry after an offseason of turnover, the Kings look out of sorts. They have moments where they look solid, but other times when they take bad shots and handle the ball like a game of hot potato.
"There's room for improvement," Harrison Barnes told NBC Sports. "Offensively, I think our quality of shots versus the opponents the last couple of games, they've gotten cleaner looks. We're taking a little bit more difficult shots and we've just got to do a better job of finding that great one every possession, especially when things get a little stagnant."
The Kings were outscored 37-27 in the 12 minutes following the intermission and outshot 54.2 percent to 40 percent in the period. Fox tried to keep his team in the game during the third by attacking the rim, but the Trail Blazers came at the Kings in waves.
Anfernee Simons was an issue in the first half and Damian Lillard proved difficult to cover throughout. But it was big man Hassan Whiteside that did most of the damage in the third.
The former second-round selection of the Kings destroyed Sacramento's frontline for 16 of his 22 points in the quarter on a perfect 6-of-6 from the field. He bullied his way to the basket and created second chance opportunities for his teammates.
"We've got to have more toughness to this team, we've got to want it more," Buddy Hield told reporters. "This is the NBA, what do you expect? It's hard to win and you've got to really want to win if you want to be elite in this league."
The locker room wasn't doom and gloom following the loss, but there is clearly concern. At 0-2 with a back-to-back in Utah on Saturday, the Kings are in a tough position.
Patience is needed as the team searches for chemistry on the court. At the same time, the team is in danger of already starting a negative trend. It's on everyone involved to figure out how to come out with more energy in the third quarter and be the aggressors.
"It's going to be a process," Barnes said. "We have the talent, I think everyone in this room knows that. But it's figuring out how to get everyone's best, when it's needed, at the same time and everyone has it going."
Despite the loss, the Kings looked better in game two than their did in the season opener. They'll be tested again on Saturday against a very tough Jazz team that took a 96-86 loss Friday night in Los Angeles to the Lakers.