CLEVELAND, Ohio — For the second time in less than two weeks, the Cleveland Cavaliers made a trade hours before tipoff, leaving them shorthanded.
By the time the final buzzer sounded, Cleveland’s tank was empty.
Just like the earlier matchup against Oklahoma City on Nov. 27 — the night Kyle Korver was traded to Utah — the Cavaliers wore down as the game progressed, losing 129-110 to the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.
It was Cleveland’s sixth loss in seven games.
The Cavs played the Kings even for one half, using a late second-quarter push to tie the game at 66 thanks to a Jordan Clarkson buzzer-beating triple. But the Kings, who play at the league’s second-fastest pace, sprinted away in the second half.
George Hill’s departure around 5:45 p.m. — a three-team deal agreed to in principle between the Cavs, Bucks and Wizards — forced head coach Larry Drew to shuffle his starting lineup, opting for the two-big group featuring Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance Jr.
That seemed to play a pivotal role in the Cavs’ sloppy start. After being outscored 7-2 in the first 90 seconds of the opening quarter, Drew called a quick timeout.
The Cavs were able to regroup. The slow start wasn’t the problem. It was once again their inability to find the energy needed to close.
Hill had started the previous three games alongside Collin Sexton and was averaging 30.0 minutes over the last two. Tough to remove him so close to the start. Rookie Sexton sizzled in the first half, scoring 18 points on 7-of-11 from the field. He finished with 23 points in 35 minutes, missing three of his five shots in the second half.
Clarkson seemed to run out of energy as well, cooling off after a 17-point first half. He tallied 26 points in 30 minutes.
Cedi Osman scored nine points in the first half, only to finish with 10.
Hill’s one-time protege, De’Aaron Fox, who spent half his rookie season with the veteran in Sacramento, scored a game-high 30 points on 12-of-16 from the field and 4-of-5 from 3-point range. He added 12 assists, leading the Kings who finished with 31 as a team.
That snappy ball movement led to Sacramento shooting 57.1 percent from the field and 44.8 percent from beyond the arc.
While the trade netted the Cavs Matthew Dellavedova, John Henson and a pair of draft picks, it also left Drew with essentially eight players for his rotation, including two-way player Jaron Blossomgame, who was completely overmatched in his 17 ineffective minutes, scoring his lone bucket in the final seconds.
Channing Frye, Jalen Jones and Ante Zizic popped off the bench when Drew raised the white flag, needing to keep his guys as fresh as possible for Saturday’s game against the Wizards.
The Cavs were outscored 63-44 in the second half, including 33-21 in the fourth quarter.
The front office has a job to do, needing to acquire assets for this lengthy rebuild. But the trade of Hill on Friday night — and the earlier one involving Korver — combined with the missing players already sidelined because of injury, certainly put the Cavs at a disadvantage.
That’s life in the NBA.
Rodney Hood leaves early
Hood suffered a right foot injury after playing 15 minutes in the first half. He did not return after the halftime break, replaced to start the second half by Alec Burks. Hood’s injury left the Cavs with just six regulars for the final 24 minutes.
NBA official Ben Taylor was unavailable Friday night because of an illness, leaving just two referees — Scott Foster and Haywoode Workman.
Tristan Thompson’s streak ends
Thompson had recorded a double-double in four straight games. That streak ended against the Kings. Thompson finished with four points and six rebounds in 29 minutes.
The Cavs will host the Washington Wizards in the second game of a back-to-back on Saturday night. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.