Question: what's the worst way imaginable to follow up a second loss in a row at home to the best team in the West, led by the reigning MVP, and with your own All-Star center sidelined with a thumb injury? Answer: immediately playing them again the next night. After losing a close battle with the Nuggets last night, the Kings got Domantas Sabonis back, but had to quickly lace them up again to face Michael Malone and his multi-threat offense. It's been seven days since we've last seen the beam, and this city and my heart are ready to bask in its purple warmth once again. All the Kings had to do was beat one of the best teams with one of the best players on the second night of back-to-back. No big deal, right? Let's see how they did:
Outcome: Kings win, 127-126
Sacramento Kings: 127 pts, 52.8% fg, 45.2% 3 pt, 76.0% ft, 32 ast, 34 reb, 12 to
Denver Nuggets: 126 pts, 57.6% fg, 44.4% 3 pt, 88.9% ft, 31 ast, 34 reb, 16 to
In what I can only imagine was the loudest environment that Golden 1 Center has experienced this year, the Kings overcame a 19-point deficit to extinguish the Nuggets' spirits and light the beautiful beam. After slowly chipping away through the first three quarters, the Kings finally made some headway into the Nuggets' comfortable lead during the 4th quarter by increasing their intensity on defense, getting out in transition, and having De'Aaron Fox go into full sicko mode. The final minutes teetered between a tie game and a 2-point lead for the Kings. In the Kings' final possession, with the game tied and 2.1 seconds on the clock, Jordi Fernandez and crew drew up an incredible play to get Malik Monk an open runway on the baseline to the rim. Denver was forced to foul Monk with 0.7 seconds left. In dramatic fashion, Monk missed the first free throw but drained the second. The game ended on a rare miss from Nikola Jokic and the Kings officially completed their biggest comeback of the season.
The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly
- Starting with Defense: The first three quarters were quite a lull. First, the Kings struggled to score, shooting just 3-10 from the 3-point line and only scoring 24 points to end the first quarter. The scoring picked up, but the defense did not. Every time the Kings found some rhythm in scoring, Nikola Jokic (40 points, 15-24 fg), Bones Hyland (20 points, 11 assists), and Michael Porter Jr. (19 points, 4-8 3-pt) all found ways to add to their own point totals to keep the Kings at a comfortable distance. It wasn't until the fourth quarter that the Kings finally started to gain traction, and it started on the defensive end. Davion Mitchell, KZ Okpala, and Trey Lyles provided some huge defensive plays for the Kings, which gave them the momentum and opportunity to score in transition. This increased the pace of the game, allowing the Kings to capitalize on some quick scoring. As bad as it was for a majority of the game, it was ultimately the Kings' defense that got them back and over the hump to victory.
- Fantastic Mr. Fox: De'Aaron Fox looked borderline unconscious tonight. After going scoreless in the 1st quarter, Fox found a good rhythm in the 2nd, finishing the half with 14 points. It was just enough to keep the Kings alive and prevent the Nuggets from burying Sacramento before the 2nd half. Then, after a quiet 3rd quarter, where he had four points, Fox engaged the jets and went full supernova in the 4th, scoring 13 of his 31 points. What was most impressive was the calm and collected nature of his demeanor while doing it all. None of us are surprised that he can do this, but it felt extra assassin-like that he barely bat an eye as middy after middy hit nothing but net. Fox also added 13 assists to complete a double double for the night. I, personally, love Assassin Fox.
- One Tough Thumb: Domantas Sabonis is one tough dude. MY chest hurts just from watching him take hit after hit while trying to defend the behemoth that is Nikola Jokic. Tonight being his first night back after suffering his fractured ligament injury in his thumb, Sabonis picked up right where he left off, finishing with 31 points and 10 rebounds. Sabonis is so tough that it makes me wonder how important thumb ligaments really are?
- Snooze Button: The Kings we know and love hit the snooze button too many times, overslept, and didn't show up until the 4th quarter.
- Turned Heads: In their worst sequences on defense, the Kings got lost in their focus on Nikola Jokic. Being one of the best passers in the league, Jokic took every small advantage of these defensive breakdowns by finding cutters for easy buckets. While the Kings had their heads turned toward him, Jokic racked up six easy assists.
The King(s) of Kings
I'm breaking the rules here because I originally made the rules here in this segment, so I can do what I want. I'm giving TWO crowns out tonight, one for each side of the ball.
For leading the team on offense with 33 points, 12 made field goals, four made 3-pointers, and a game-winning free throw, Malik Monk is tonight's first King of Kings. Monk's spark and consistent production off the bench not only kept the Kings in this game, but ultimately won it for them.
And for being an absolute menace on defense, Davion Mitchell is our next King of Kings. The defensive intensity started on the ball, and Mitchell gave Bones Hyland all-caps FITS whenever he had the ball in his hands. A crucial defensive stop in final possessions ended in a Nikola Jokic miss, but it started with Mitchell's ball pressure on Hyland. He forced Hyland to dribble for about 18 seconds before getting Jokic the ball, forcing Jokic to rush into a tough shot. And that was just one snapshot of all the dirty work Mitchell did tonight.
Friday, December 30th vs. Utah Jazz - 7:00 P.M. (PT)