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Rockets suffer heartbreaking loss at the buzzer to Kings

Nemanja Bjelica and the Kings send the Houston Rockets home with a heartbreaking loss at the buzzer. 

Sacramento Kings v Houston Rockets Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

In what could be his best game of the season so far, Russell Westbrook came one second away from recording his first game-winning basket as a Rocket. With the game tied at 118 apiece, Westbrook scored a layup to give the Houston Rockets a late two-point advantage with one second remaining in the fourth quarter.

Following a timeout by Sacramento, a defensive breakdown on the inbound pass proved to be enough for Nemanja Bjelica to scored a game-winning 3-point basket, as the Kings took a 119-118 victory over the Rockets, Monday night, inside the Toyota Center in Houston.

The game-winning basket by Bjelica dropped the Rockets to 15-8 on the young season, as Westbrook’s late-game heroics went completely unnoticed. The eight-time all-star ended the game with a season-high 34 points (13-17 FG, 2-4 3PT), eight assists and three rebounds in 34 minutes of action.

In the midst of the game winner, Bjelica’s 3-pointer was just the latest example of Houston’s defensive struggles for the entire 48 minutes. The Rockets allowed the Kings to shoot 44.4% from behind the arc, as they tied a franchise record of 20 made 3-point field goals in a game. Houston had no answer for Sacramento’s star guard, Buddy Hield, who knocked down six of the Kings’ 20 made 3-pointers, to go along with 26 points on the night.

After back-to-back made 3-point field goals by Westbrook and Ben McLemore, Hield proved he was worth all of the four-year $106 million contract extension for the Kings. With the Rockets up 116-113, Hield kept Sacramento alive with a late basket from behind the arc with 8.4 seconds remaining in the fourth.

Despite scoring 27 points in the loss, it was a sub-par performance for James Harden. He shot 3-for-10 from behind the arc and was responsible for eight of the Rockets 19 total turnovers. Sacramento converted 13 points off Houston’s turnovers, and outscored the Rockets 12-4 in fastbreak points.

The Kings took an early 32-28 lead in the first, but the Rockets found themselves ahead 64-59 at the half. Houston received an extra boost off the bench in their second-quarter surge, as Gary Clark scoring six of his 11 points in the period.

The one element the Rockets outplayed the Kings was their ability to rebound the basketball. Houston won the battle of the boards 51-37, as P.J. Tucker recorded a career-high 19 rebounds and 10 points in the loss. In addition to Tucker, Clint Capela recorded his 12th double-double in 13 games with 13 points and 17 rebounds against the Kings.

In the win, Bjelica finished with 17 points (6-14 FG, 3-7 3PT), while Harrison Barnes added in 19 points and eight rebounds for the Kings.

Following a heartbreaking loss, the Rockets will return to the court on Wednesday to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers, inside the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. Tip-off is slated for 6 P.M. CT.