In a promising performance on both sides of the ball the Sacramento Kings defeated a very talented and experienced Denver Nuggets team 124-122 in overtime of Wednesday's season opener.
The Kings won it at the buzzer on a Buddy Hield tip in off a rebound. Hield led the team in scoring with 22 points, and he added 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal. De'Aaron Fox finished with 21 points, 7 assists 4 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block. Harrison Barnes added 21 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 block.
The Kings showed flashes of promise in the first half. They played decent defense and shared the ball well (14 assists) and took care of it (only 4 turnovers). Surprisingly, Cory Joseph led the team in scoring in the first half with 12 points off the bench (and he was the first player off the bench for Luke Walton). Not long after he entered the game, Tyrese Haliburton joined him, along with De'Aaron Fox and Hassan Whiteside. The three-guard lineup looked a little shaky, but kept the Kings in the game.
Haliburton shared the ball well and impressed with some of his passes. Both Fox and Hield struggled with their shots, going for a combined 4-17 from the field.
Even though the Kings put in a good effort on the defensive end, the Nuggets still put up 60 points in the first half on 51 percent from the field and 41 percent from three. No one had an answer for Nikola Jokic, who had 10 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists in the first half. The Nuggets were sending guys at Marvin Bagley and for the most part, guys were getting by him, but he held his own on some plays. Bagley did look promising on offense though and wasn't stagnating the offense, which is a good sign.
The Kings got to the free throw line 11 times in the first half and made 9 of those shots.
The Kings came out strong in the third quarter as Hield and Fox started to get their shots to fall and the defense really picked up. They took the lead at the 6:55 mark of the third quarter and Fox started to put his print on the game. On defense, everyone on the Kings was rotating and they switch it up on occasion with a zone that seemed to confuse the Nuggets as their field goal percentage began dropping. The defense was leading to offense and it was a good thing to see. By the start the fourth quarter the Kings had begun to take control, dictating the flow of the game and the Nuggets began to show their frustration. All this happening with Bagley on the floor, by the way.
The game remained close, however, and Jokic notched his first triple double of the season as his dominance continued.
In the final five minutes, things slowed down a little. Haliburton nailed a few threes showing his long-range distance. Jokic, being the monster he is, got both Holmes and Bagley to foul out. Whiteside came in though and made a key block and got an offensive foul called on Jamal Murray. (Though he missed two free throws at the other end of the floor a play later.)
With 29 seconds left, Jokic tied the game at 112 with two free throws. The Kings got a great look for Haliburton in the final seconds with an open three, but it didn't fall. Jokic was called for an offensive foul with 2 seconds left in the tied game. Hield lost control of the ball on the final shot of the fourth quarter and we went to overtime.
By the end of the second half, the Nuggets field goal percentage had dropped to 47 percent and 29 percent from three showing how the Kings defense improved as the game went on.
The Nuggets took the lead with 2:30 left in overtime. The Kings started to look a little fatigued and the shots stopped falling. Jokic is a very skilled basketball player and made shots. The Kings kept pulling within two points, but it seemed like the experience of the Nuggets was going to get them the win. Then a wild sequence in the final 30 seconds happened. Michael Porter Jr. blocked Cory Joseph on a three-point attempt and that was followed up by a tremendous block by Fox on Will Barton that led to a fast break bucket for Barnes that tied the game at 122 with 6.5 seconds left.
In the final play of the game, Jokic lost the ball and Barnes sprinted down the floor for a layup that missed and was tipped in by Hield at the buzzer.
Player(s) of the Game
It should probably be Hield, but you sort of have to share the game ball here with Hield, Fox and Barnes. Each of them played key roles in this victory down the stretch and it was a true team win.
- It was nice to see Haliburton still on the floor even with Joseph getting minutes. The rookie logged 30 minutes and tallied 12 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds and a block.
- Murray got his first basket from the field of the night with 8 minutes left in the fourth. That was his only field goal of the game.
- Bagley finished with 13 points, 9 rebounds and a block in 27 minutes.
- Richaun Holmes is continuing to have foul trouble issues, fouling out with 3 minutes left in the game, granted he was trying to guard Jokic.
- Fox showed poise late in the game and a willingness to take shots with the game on the line.
- Haliburton was in the game for the bulk of the fourth quarter, including crunch time.
- Jokic finished 29 points, 15 rebounds, 14 assists and 3 blocks.
The Kings will take on the Phoenix Suns on Saturday at 7 p.m.