Entering their first season opener with true expectations in over a decade and a half, the Sacramento Kings jumped off the 2023-24 campaign against the young Utah Jazz squad and lit the beam with a 130-114 victory in Salt Lake City. Sacramento’s offense ignited early and stayed lit throughout the game, knocking down 19 three pointers and dishing out 29 assists on their 47 made buckets. Harrison Barnes led the way with 33 points, Domantas Sabonis had 22 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 assists, and De’Aaron Fox finished with 18 points and 6 assists in the victory.
The Jazz were led by 24 points and 6 assists by veteran Jordan Clarkson, who repeatedly torched the Kings on the perimeter, and Lauri Markkanen had 19 and 10. While the Kings defense was pretty successful in the first half, holding the Jazz to 35% shooting, Utah took advantage in the second half and repeatedly blasted past Sacramento’s perimeter defenders on the way to layups. Utah finished the game with 64 points in the paint, and despite the victory, Mike Brown likely has a bunch of defensive tape to show his squad tomorrow.
The Kings got it going early and kept their foot on the gas for most of the game; Fox scored the first bucket of the season off a beautiful drive, followed up by a behind-the-back assist from Sabonis for a Barnes three and a driving layup by Domas against Walker Kessler that gave the Kings a 7-0 lead to begin the game. Barnes’ offense was key to the Kings hot start, as Harrison had 28 of his 33 points in the first half while shooting 10-11 from the field and hitting 5-5 from deep. It was great to see the Black Falcon get hot early and attack with confidence, especially after an inconsistent preseason. Keegan Murray had some strong moments, especially in the first half, and finished with 15 points and 8 boards.
- Malik Monk had a rough game, scoring 10 points on 4-12 shooting, but had the play of the night with a tomahawk dunk off a steal and feed from his buddy De’Aaron.
- Sasha Vezenkov had a strong start to his Sacramento career – he hit a lightning-quick three pointer on his first possession and had some strong defensive possessions in the first half. He finished with 8 points, 2 boards, and 2 steals in 16 minutes. It’s unclear if Sasha will get as many minutes once Trey Lyles (who missed the game with a left calf strain) returns, but it was a promising first game for Sasha considering all the hand-wringing over his inconsistent preseason performances.
- Kevin Huerter had an inconsistent night – 7 points in 24 minutes on 3-9 shooting, including 1-5 from deep. While he had some physical moments on the glass (5 boards), he and Monk were both victims against the Jazz’ determined drivers. Meanwhile, Chris Duarte had 9 points (all threes) in 15 minutes, and while Davion Mitchell didn’t score a bucket, he had 4 assists and did a strong job of keeping the Kings offense moving.
- The Jazz played zone defense for most of the night, and it took a while for them to deviate from it despite Sacramento’s offensive success.
The Kings fly back to Sacramento for a matchup with the Golden State Warriors (yes, again) at Golden 1 Center on Friday.