Not this time.
With 0.8 seconds remaining and the Kings trailing by two, Nemanja Bjelica inbounded the ball to Buddy Hield in the left corner. Hield, who had tied the game moments earlier, spun to get free and lined up a 3-pointer for the win.
It looked like it had a chance coming off his hand, but the shot caught iron and skipped off, ending the Kings dreams of knocking off the Nuggets.
“It was a good look, but I just didn’t like how I turned,” Hield told reporters in Denver after the loss.
When asked if he thought it had a chance when it left his hand, the third-year guard answered quickly.
“I’ve always got a chance when God’s on my side,” Hield said.
Hield finished with a team-high 25 points on the evening. He struggled with his 3-point shot early though, and finished just 2-of-7 from behind the arc.
It shouldn’t have been that close. Sacramento led by as many as 17 in the first half.
But in the third quarter, the Kings absolutely collapsed.
Led by Malik Beasley and Isaiah Thomas, the Nuggets outscored the Kings 35-22 in the period to take a 93-91 lead into the fourth.
“I thought we fought, but our third quarter was too much to overcome,” coach Dave Joerger said.
Thomas, a former King, scored all eight of his points in the third. It was the first game of the season for the pint-sized point after hip surgery last March forced him out of action.
Harrison Barnes had his best game in Kings uniform, finishing the night with 19 points and 11 rebounds in 42 minutes. De’Aaron Fox chipped in 15 points and 10 assists, and Bogdan Bogdanovic added 16 points off Sacramento’s bench.
The loss dropped Sacramento to 30-27 on the season, and likely cost the Kings a chance at heading into the All-Star break in the eighth spot in the Western Conference standings.
“We’re happy with where we are,” Joerger said about his team that was only predicted to win 25.5 games this season. “We know the schedule we have coming up with Milwaukee, Oklahoma City and Golden State. I’m very proud of how much our guys have developed. We’re competing, we like each other, we get along great.”
Hield, along with Fox, Bogdanovic and rookie big man Marvin Bagley are all headed to the NBA All-Star weekend in Charlotte. Hield is set to participate in the 3-point contest. Fox will compete in the Skills Challenge, as well as suit up for the Rising Stars game with Bogdanovic and Bagley.
The team is not allowed to practice until after the league’s showcase event. They’ll reconvene on Tuesday, and begin preparing for a tough three-game road trip with stops against the Golden State Warriors, Milwaukee Bucks and Oklahoma City Thunder.
“It’s kind of time to take a breath, get your feet up a little bit, get some mental rest, get back into the gym on Tuesday,” Joerger said. “We’re going to have to knock off some of these teams if we want to get where we want to go and that’s the playoffs.”
Following the road trip, the Kings return home to host the Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers. It’s an extremely difficult stretch, but the team has time to recover in March when their schedule lightens up.