SACRAMENTO, Calif. — It’s not often you can say it was a good night for both teams in an NBA basketball game, but both Utah and Sacramento went home happy Saturday night, even if the Kings would never admit it.
For the Jazz, they kept up with the pack in the race for the Western Division’s final playoff spot as they improved to 33-30 on the season with a 98-91 victory at the Golden One Center. For the Kings, they played hard and kept it close most of night, but dropped to 19-44 and stayed back with the worst teams in the NBA, who are bunched up at the bottom of the standings.
The Kings are now tied with Dallas and Atlanta for the third worst record and are just a half game ahead of Phoenix and a game ahead of Memphis.
Actually, the Kings aren’t trying to tank, as they showed two nights earlier when they fought to an overtime victory over Brooklyn, another bottom feeder. Before the game, coach Dave Joerger said he was happy with his young team and said they are better than a month ago and better than at the start of the season. And the Kings did show some life, never letting the Jazz pull away.
“They pushed back the whole game,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “That’s a young team, a competitive team, and I thought we played hard and got a couple of leads and gave it back to the them, frankly. We’ve just got to be able to maintain a certain level throughout the course of the game and stay at that level and be more consistent through the whole 48 minutes.”
Rudy Gobert, who had a brilliant 26-point, 16-rebound performance the night before in a home win over Minnesota, had another gem against the Kings. While his numbers weren’t as sparkling — 16 points, 12 rebounds — his presence underneath kept the Kings from trying many inside shots, a big reason why they only shot 38.2 percent from the field with only four points off second-chance baskets.
“That’s what we wanted,” Gobert said. “They are a very young and athletic team, and they were very aggressive to the rim, so we had to do a great job protecting the paint.”
Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz with 27 points, including 10 of 10 from the free throw line. Derrick Favors helped Gobert defensively and scored 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including a 3-pointer in the third quarter
“Tonight, we played good and communicated well," Snyder said. "We made them take tough contested shots and the transition defense was good. So I thought we played really well tonight.”
The Jazz were playing their first road game in three weeks since a 19-point win at Portland on Feb. 11. Since then, they have had six home games surrounding a nine-day All-Star break, making up for an steady diet of road games early in the season.
It didn’t take long for the Jazz to jump on top with eight straight points to take a 20-13 lead, which extended to 25-17 at the end of the quarter as Jae Crowder, who finished with 14 off the bench, hit a pair of threes from out front.
Crowder and Jonas Jerebko started the second quarter with threes, and the Jazz pushed the lead to 45-27 before the Kings showed some life for one of the few times all night with a 10-0 run that helped them eventually pull within 52-43 at halftime.
The Jazz pushed the lead back out to 16 in the third quarter, but, again, the Kings fought back and closed the gap to 75-66 after three.
Utah never got its lead above 13 in the final quarter, and the Kings hung around and closed the gap to eight on a Bogdan Bogdanovic 3-pointer with 2:18 left. Ricky Rubio, who struggled offensively, going just 4 for 16 from the field, came up with a big steal with two minutes left and Gobert added a big block in the final minute.
The Kings were led by rookie De’Aaron Fox with 17 points, Bogdanovic with 15 and Zach Randolph and Skal Labissiere with 12 apiece.