Kings eliminated from IST after losing to Pelicans in quarterfinals

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NBC Sports Bay Area

The Kings won’t be packing their bags for Las Vegas any time soon.

For the third time of the 2023-24 NBA season, Sacramento fell to the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday night at Golden 1 Center and was eliminated from the NBA In-Season Tournament.

The Kings got off to a scorching hot start in the quarterfinal matchup, leading by as many as 15 points in the opening quarter. But it didn’t take long for the Pelicans to respond.

While Sacramento did a good job limiting Zion Williamson to just 10 points, they seemingly had no answer for Brandon Ingram. The All-Star forward finished with 30 points on 50 percent shooting from the field, adding eight rebounds, six assists and one steal in 40 minutes.

The rest of the Pelicans’ starters had efficient shooting nights, too. Herbert Jones had 23 points on 61.5 percent shooting, Jonas Valanciunas contributed 18 on 63.6 percent shooting and CJ McCollum finished with 17 on 50 percent shooting. Additionally, Pelicans guard Trey Murphy added 16 points on 46.1 percent shooting off the bench.

Meanwhile, the Kings struggled at times to get shots to fall. De’Aaron Fox, who’s shooting 48.6 percent from the field and 37 percent from 3-point range this season, shot 40 percent from the field and made just one of his seven attempts from deep (14.2 percent) in the loss. Still, Fox finished with a team-high 30 points, with five rebounds and four assists, but had a season-worst six turnovers.

“You got to give them a lot of credit,” Kings coach Mike Brown said after the 127-117 loss. “That’s three games in a row they kind of did the same thing and were the more physical team. Their length, their athleticism bothered us. Obviously, B.I. had a heck of a game, soring 30 on 50 percent shooting. He did what he’s supposed to do.

“So give those guys a ton of credit because they came in here and they earned the win.”

Monday was the third time the two teams have met within a two-week span. New Orleans has come out on top every time.

The first game against the Pelicans this season was a miserable 129-93 loss in New Orleans, followed by a 117-112 loss two days later.

Monday’s loss was the most impactful for Sacramento, though, as it prevented the team from advancing to the In-Season Tournament Semifinals in Las Vegas. But perhaps even more concerning for the Kings is that they have to face this Pelicans team two more times this season.

They will have a few weeks to hopefully figure it out before their Jan. 7 meeting, but surely if they don’t get it together by April for their final regular-season matchup of the season, they better hope a playoff series doesn’t include those pesty birds.

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