Tuesday, February 20, 2024

NBA Preview: Sacramento Kings (27-18) at Miami Heat (24-23)

The Miami Heat, who made it to the NBA Finals last year, are stuck in a brutal slump.

Miami, which will host the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night, has lost seven straight games — the longest active streak in the NBA.

It is also the Heat’s longest losing streak since dropping 15 straight games from December 2007-January 2008.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, a two-time NBA champion, has never had a losing streak this long.

Spoelstra said extra determination will be needed to correct what has plagued the team.

The Heat, at least for the moment, can’t blame injuries, although rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. did miss the first five games of the streak. Their only issue is the health of forward Duncan Robinson, who is averaging 13.2 points while shooting 40.4 percent on 3-pointers.

Robinson missed the last three quarters of Monday’s 118-105 loss to Phoenix and is out Wednesday due to concussion protocol.

The schedule will get even tougher for the Heat, who have games against league powers such as the Los Angeles Clippers and Boston Celtics in the next two weeks. On Feb. 13, the Heat will embark on a six-game road trip that includes stops in Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Denver.

Heat forward Jimmy Butler, who had a game-high 26 points on Monday, said defense is to blame for Miami’s slump.

Offensively, the Heat have several capable scorers, including Tyler Herro (21.5 points per game), Butler (21.1), Bam Adebayo (20.7) and Jaquez (13.5). There’s also recently acquired Terry Rozier, who is averaging 21.9 points between Charlotte and Miami this season.

Meanwhile, the Kings enter Wednesday on a four-game win streak. They improved by 18 wins from 2021-22 to last season, making the playoffs and pushing the Golden State Warriors before losing in seven games in the first round.

That was Sacramento’s first playoff appearance since 2005-06.

The Kings are led in scoring by point guard De’Aaron Fox, who became a first-time All-Star last year when he averaged 25.0 points.

This season, Fox is on pace for career highs in points (27.5) and steals (1.6). He’s also averaging 5.6 assists and 4.1 rebounds.

The Kings returned all five starters from last season, including center Domantas Sabonis, who is averaging 19.9 points. A three-time All-Star, Sabonis leads the NBA in rebounds (13.0), and he tops the Kings in assists (7.9).

Sabonis, who is also shooting 44.0 percent on 3-pointers, is coming off a career-high 26-rebound effort in Sacramento’s most recent game, a 103-94 road win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night.

Memphis forward GG Jackson called Fox the “clutch player of the year” while adding that Sabonis does “Sabonis things.”

Huerter, Harrison Barnes and Keegan Murray rounds out Sacramento’s starting lineup. The Kings also have a highly capable bench, led by Malik Monk, who is averaging 14.4 points

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