This is Game #7 of 82 and the Sacramento Kings were already in great need of a get right game. After going 0-3 on their first road trip of the season, which included two very embarrassing performances in Houston, the Kings needed a serious vibe check tonight. De’Aaron Fox was still sidelined, recovering from an ankle injury, making this the Kings’ fourth game in a row without him. The Kings had yet to prove that they are capable of winning a basketball game without Fox. Tonight, against the Portland Trail Blazers, was another chance for them to do so and redeem the beam. Let’s see how they did:
Outcome: Kings win, 121-118
Sacramento Kings: 121 pts, 46.1% fg, 36.4% 3 pt, 73.7% ft, 32 ast, 50 reb, 21 to
Portland Trail Blazers: 118 pts, 50.6% fg, 29.7% 3 pt, 75.9% ft, 26 ast, 36 reb, 18 to
Before we get into this one, let’s all start by remembering: a win is a win. Despite missing three starters for the majority of the game, the Portland Trail Blazers answered every Kings’ run with their own to push this one into overtime. Jerami Grant led Portland in scoring with 38 points, and a man wearing a Rip City jersey named Skylar Mays introduced himself to the city of Sacramento by putting up 18 points and 11 assists. Luckily for the Kings, they got some big performances from usual suspects like Domantas Sabonis, who led Sacramento in scoring with 27 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists, and Malik Monk off the bench. Considering the shorthanded and rebuilding roster that Portland has, it felt like we were all just waiting for the Kings to finally pull away and put this one to bed. But that would be asking too much of our precious Kangz. It went down to final possessions of free basketball after a long and chaotic game. But remember – a win is a win.
The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly
- Defense to Offense: The Kings created their most successful offense from their defense. With his first career NBA start, Keon Ellis made his presence most known on the defensive end, putting constant pressure on the ball and earning 3 steals. Kessler Edwards was utilized for his defensive prowess, specifically on Jerami Grant, as he consistently scored at will throughout the night. But Edwards was able to use his length and athleticism to stop Grant on key possessions. As a group, the Kings were collectively active on defense and on the glass, causing 18 Portland turnovers. And many of these turnovers transitioned into fast break points for the Kings, generating their most successful runs and largest leads during the game.
- Malik Monk Playmaking: We got the full Malik Monk experience tonight as he led the bench with 23 points and a career high of 10 assists. As soon as he entered the game, he stepped right into the leadership role for this team and and started getting his teammates involved with quick two-man actions, rewarding Domantas Sabonis and Alex Len with easy looks at the rim. Monk came out with a composure and precision to his play that felt very mature – his moves were strong and decisive, and his passes were sharp and on target. It felt like he understood how much his team would need him tonight and he was ready for the challenge. Down the stretch, the extended ball handling responsibilities inevitably led to some mistakes and turnovers, but Monk ultimately won the game at the end by sinking two free throws in overtime to give the Kings their final 3-point lead. After missing an unusual four free throws in a row early on, Monk went a perfect 12/12 during the 4th quarter and overtime. Monk’s playmaking, both for himself and others, was integral to tonight’s win.
- Ice Cold Shooting: The Kings struggled all night long in their half court offense. The ball movement was there, but shots just didn’t go down. For many stretches during the game, it felt like they would never make another 3-pointer again. And then Davion Mitchell would hit a timely corner 3, or Kevin Huerter would finally sink one of his four made 3s of the night to break up the torture. But overall, the Kings shot just 11/37 from deep, something we’re not used to seeing from this record setting offense.
- Turnovers: One of the main reasons why this game doesn’t feel as satisfying as others is because of how the Kings got to their win. It was a rough shooting night. Skylar Mays kept finding weird and annoying ways to put the ball in the basket. Keegan Murray continued to struggle to find any ways to put the ball in the basket. But beyond all of those things, the most irksome part of the game was the turnovers committed by the Kings, all 21 of them. With the game being separated by only a few points for the majority of the night, each one felt like it came at the worst time. During the final two periods, things got chaotic by both teams, and the Kings surrendered to the chaos and committed 9 turnovers. Had the Kings played a more careful and cleaner game, this win may have felt a bit more satisfying.
The King of Kings
After much discussion about reasons and implications surrounding Davion Mitchell losing his starting spot in De’Aaron Fox’s absence to Keon Ellis tonight, Davion showed absolutely no interest in participating in any of it. Instead, he came to hoop. Off the bench, Davion looked more like himself and then some. He finished with 16 points, 4 assists, and shot 3/4 from the 3-point line. He also had an impressive defensive hustle play during overtime where he ran down Jerami Grant in transition, tipped the ball from his hands, and then tapped it back off of Grant before it went out of bounds to regain possession for the Kings. Amidst any noise or doubts, Davion showed up for his team in a big way tonight.
Friday, November 10th vs. Oklahoma City Thunder – 7:00 P.M. (Game #1 of In-Season Tournament Group Play)