The Kings played meaningful games into August after the season was postponed nearly four months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
They went to the NBA bubble with an opportunity to end the league's longest active postseason drought after 13 consecutive losing seasons, but it will feel like any other March or April in Sacramento now that the Kings have been eliminated from playoff contention for the 14th year in a row.
Austin Rivers scored a career-high 41 points to lead the Houston Rockets to a 129-112 victory over the Kings on Sunday at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando. James Harden had 32 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the Rockets (44-25).
De'Aaron Fox had 26 points and nine assists for the Kings (29-41), who have lost five of their first six games in the bubble. Buddy Hield scored 16 points. DaQuan Jeffries had 13 and Harrison Barnes posted a double-double, finishing with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
The Kings led 36-23 after playing a nearly flawless first quarter. They made 15 of 23 (.652) from the field and 5 of 9 (.556) from 3-point range while racking up 11 assists with just three turnovers. Hield came off the bench to score 11 points in three minutes, going 4 of 4 from the field and 3 of 3 from 3-point range.
Some of the Kings' offense was created by their defense as Fox, Hield and Jeffries came up with steals that led to transition baskets. Gambling on defense gets the Kings in trouble, but they were not overly aggressive.
They were poised, patient and in good position. For the most part, they answered coach Luke Walton's call to defend without fouling. The Rockets missed 11 of their first 12 shots and finished the first quarter shooting 33.3% with six turnovers.
Then the second quarter began. The Kings reverted to their old ways and Houston got hot, staging a 14-0 run to take a 55-50 lead. The Rockets made 13 of 22 from the field and 7 of 14 from 3-point range in the second quarter. They led 61-56 at the break, stretched the lead to double digits early in the third quarter and eventually went up by as many as 24 points.
The Kings and New Orleans Pelicans were eliminated from playoff contention when the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 124-121, a game that ended as the Kings and Rockets were nearing halftime.
The Memphis Grizzlies are clinging to the eighth spot in the Western Conference, but their lead over the Blazers is down to a half-game. The Phoenix Suns are one game behind the Blazers and a half-game ahead of the San Antonio Spurs after winning their first five games in the bubble.
The teams that finish eighth and ninth will face-off under the play-in scenario. The ninth-place team must beat the eighth-place team twice on consecutive days to earn the No. 8 seed. The eighth-place team only needs to win one of those two games to advance to the playoffs.
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