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Kings 108, Sixers 96: We’re talkin’ about defense

Fox, Murray, Mitchell, and team defense led the way to victory for the Kings.
By | 60 Comments | Mar 25, 2024

Mar 25, 2024; Sacramento, California, USA; Sacramento Kings forward Keegan Murray (13) dunks the ball against Philadelphia 76ers forward Nicolas Batum (40) during the first quarter at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday evening, the Kings did exactly what they’ve been asked to do all season: they beat an inferior, injury-riddled team at home with ease. With their defense leading the way, holding the Joel Embiid-less Sixers to just 96 points, Sacramento was in control for the majority of the evening, and they never trailed in the second half.

Domantas Sabonis ended the night with 11 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists, but far more importantly, he broke the post-merger NBA record for consecutive doubles at 54 games. Keegan Murray and De’Aaron Fox were the high-scorers for Sacramento, both pouring in 23 points, while Fox filled out the stat sheet elsewhere, finishing with 23 points, 8 boards, 5 assists, and 2 steals. For the Sixers, Tyrese Maxey put up 29 points, including 21 in the first quarter, but he was held scoreless for the entire third quarter and most of the fourth, only scoring when the game was well out of hand. Sacramento’s defense completely took Philly’s one ray of hope out for the entire second half.

The Good, The Better, & The Best

The Good:
  • No Three-ball, No Problem: For most of the season, the Kings have struggled mightily when they’ve failed to sink at least an average amount of three-pointers, but lately their defense and paint presence has sustained them in three-point droughts, and that was once again the case on Monday night. The Kings made just 10 of their 38 three-point attempts (26.3%), but they still managed to pull out an easy win over the Sixers.
  • Davion Mitchell: Davion Mitchell hasn’t exactly had the season he likely envisioned to start the year, but he’s stepped it up as of late, and he was one of Sacramento’s best players in their win over Philly. He was an excellent on-ball defender, especially after Keon Ellis’ foul trouble took him out of most of the contest, and Mitchell was also excellent on the offensive side of the court, scoring 18 points on just 9 field goal attempts. With Kevin Huerter likely out for an extended amount of time, Mitchell’s resurgence could be a key factor in Sacramento’s final playoff positioning and playoff success.
  • Giraffe Cattiness: Buddy Hield scored 7 points on 3/9 shooting.
The Better:
  • Bench Production: Another one of Sacramento’s Achilles heels this season has been their lack of bench production, but outside of a rough shooting night for Chris Duarte, Mike Brown’s backups were offered some fantastic two-way play. Davion Mitchell played some excellent defense and was a capable shooter after Keon Ellis’ foul trouble, and Alex Len was his usual low-key positive self. Monk, Mitchell, and Len combined to score 36 points on 13/23 shooting from the field.
  • Mike Brown: Challenger Extraordinaire: MIKE BROWN WON BOTH OF HIS CHALLENGES!
The Best:
  • Defense:  After an entire season of inconsistent defensive performances and effort, the Kings finally seem to be finding their identity on that end of the floor. In their 16 games since the All-Star break (not counting Monday’s game), the Kings rank 11th in the league in defensive rating at 111.6, a far cry from their pre-All-Star rating of 116.6, and the Kings held the Sixers to just 96 points on 41.5% shooting from the floor. It should come as no surprise that the Kings have now won 8 of their last 11 games with the rediscovery of their defensive identity.

The King of Kings

Anytime a player sets an NBA record, they win the prestigious, all-important, contract-impacting King of Kings award – congrats Domantas Sabonis! Despite being hit it the face approximately 74 times on Monday night, Sabonis still managed to post a casual triple-double on his way to the consecutive double-double streak.

Playoff Impact

After the Phoenix Suns disaster against the lowly San Antonio Spurs, and the Dallas Mavericks win over the Utah Jazz, the Kings are now tied with the Mavericks for the 6th and 7th slots in the race against the play-in. With fewer than a dozen games remaining, Sacramento’s two upcoming matches against Luka Doncic and the Mavericks may very well end up deciding the final team to avoid the play-in in the Western Conference.

Up Next

Tuesday, March 26th vs Dallas Mavericks – 7:00 P.M. (PT)

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Ellis5
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March 25, 2024 9:42 pm

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BuffaloDiaspora
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March 25, 2024 9:48 pm

It feels like the entire identity of this team has changed over the course of this season and especially this month.

Amonk81
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March 25, 2024 10:18 pm

Coincides with Ellis minutes over Huerter. Huerters injury has made the team better.

Teams were targeting Kev whenever they needed a bucket. . and now Keegan gets more touches on O.

Heurter showed who he was last playoffs but Monte too enamored with shooting (or didn’t get enough blah blah) to trade Heurter then. Or Brown let him/make him play a bench role.

In any case, it’s a huge difference in their D and team now. They figured it out at least, despite ignoring the obvious over the summer and deadline.

UpgradedToQuestionable
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March 25, 2024 9:48 pm

comment image&ct=g
Solid win!
And a special dance for Akis
comment image&ct=g

Klam
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March 25, 2024 9:51 pm

Good solid win. I’ve liked that the Kings have been playing better defensively lately, and hopefully this continues for the remaining regular season games/playoffs.

Also nice that we got another guaranteed winning season (42), along with home and away records (21 each).

Gotta be ready for Dallas tomorrow. Won’t be easy being the third game in four nights, but we gotta keep this momentum going.

SomedayKing
March 25, 2024 10:22 pm
Reply to  Klam

Even worse, it will be the 5th game in 7 nights! But at least the Mavericks are having to travel from SLC after their game tonight and the Kings can play at home again. It will be another tough test for the Beam Team, hoping they find a way to pass it!

BuffaloDiaspora
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March 25, 2024 9:51 pm

Pels next 5:

Thunder
Bucks
Celtics
Suns
Magic

All in NOLA, but that’s a rough sequence either way – they might actually be catchable

Klam
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March 25, 2024 9:59 pm

Clippers have kinda been struggling too. If we get momentum it’s certainly possible to move up further than the 6th seed.

UpgradedToQuestionable
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March 25, 2024 10:14 pm
Reply to  Klam

Mathematically that is true.

I think more likely is LAC and NOP battle over home court for their 4 v 5 matchup. They have the same record tonight, with Pels head-to-head advantaged and now at the 4th spot.

On the other end of the Western Conf. playoff picture, Houston Rockets are soaring with a 9 game win streak which puts them over .500 and a half game behind Golden State who are 4-6 their last 10 and starting tomorrow do an away back-to-back in The Sunshine State, with Miami then Orlando.

The end of the season squeezin’.

Klam
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March 25, 2024 10:21 pm

Nothing would make me happier than the Warriors missing the play-in.

deez
March 26, 2024 9:36 am
Reply to  Klam

Except the L*kers missing the play-in.

SomedayKing
March 25, 2024 10:28 pm

Considering the Kings have not matched up well against either NOP or LAC it seems it would benefit them to try to end up in the 6 slot, as they have played the top 3 teams much better, so no matter which of those ends up at #3 they would theoretically have a better chance in the 1st round.

9sac8
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March 26, 2024 7:10 am
Reply to  SomedayKing

This! I think they should stand pat at 6. We have way better odds of beating Minny and OKC. Sac vs Den in the first round would be a damn slugfest.

Let NOP and the Clips battle it out. Both are bad matchups for us.

RikSmits
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March 26, 2024 7:48 am
Reply to  9sac8

It’s likely to be a fight until the end, so I will be surprised if teams are in the position to pick and choose their spots much.

9sac8
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March 26, 2024 8:09 am
Reply to  RikSmits

Yo Rik. Agreed. Every game is a playoff game here on out. We may not be able to choose our spot, but man I DO NOT want any parts of NOP.

We have one more crack at them. That game will show a lot about the progress or lack thereof of the team.

RikSmits
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March 26, 2024 8:34 am
Reply to  9sac8

Yeah, that one’s gonna be interesting, for sure.

Klam
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March 26, 2024 7:24 am
Reply to  SomedayKing

I don’t think we’d be able to beat Denver in a first round series. I’d be way more comfortable playing OKC or Minnesota.

Klam
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March 25, 2024 10:22 pm

Remaining schedules for Sac, Phoenix, Dallas, New Orleans, & Clippers. At a glance Dallas definitely appears to have a much easier schedule than the others.

Last edited 24 days ago by Klam
BobbyFresh
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March 25, 2024 11:19 pm
Reply to  Klam

Which is why winning these next two against Dallas is so critical.

TheBaker
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March 26, 2024 4:30 am
Reply to  Klam

Thanks for posting this here Klam. Great visual.
The upcoming Dallas games are obviously huge; But I have a feeling final seedings will come down to the Apr 11th and 12th games vs NO and PHX.
The suspense is terrible… I hope it will last!

SuperShaka
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March 26, 2024 8:21 am
Reply to  Klam

It’s crazy that the Kings have the worst record of the Suns remaining schedule

Klam
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March 26, 2024 8:47 am
Reply to  SuperShaka

And they lost to the team with the worst record on their remaining schedule last night against the Spurs. It’s actually pretty wild that the Spurs beat the Suns this season 3-1.

RikSmits
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March 25, 2024 10:47 pm

Excellent win.

I hope Davion can keep this up. That was great.

And Domantas Sabonis. Wow. Give this man his flowers. And a new jaw.

Kfan
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March 26, 2024 8:27 am
Reply to  RikSmits

Live by the D… Don’t need the 3!

andy_sims
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March 26, 2024 11:18 am
Reply to  RikSmits

I defy anyone to name another player who is legitimately having an MVP-caliber season who is routinely permitted by referees to have the shit kicked out of him.

No respect from the press, no respect from the league. Imagine what his numbers would look like if he was officiated the way Jokic or Giannis are.

BeTheBall
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March 25, 2024 10:54 pm

I’m practically unable to recognize a Kings team that plays defense. This is overloading my synapses.

Mike120
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March 25, 2024 11:19 pm

What are we up to now with Keon starting? 9-1?

Amonk81
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March 25, 2024 11:28 pm
Reply to  Mike120

It’s such a different team w Ellis. Do we give Brown props for making adjustments?

RikSmits
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March 25, 2024 11:36 pm
Reply to  Amonk81

Yes, we do.
But at the same time we can also wonder why it took so long, and keep in mind that it took a Huerter injury for Brown to really commit to it.

Last edited 24 days ago by RikSmits
AmateurNerd
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March 26, 2024 9:35 am
Reply to  RikSmits

Benching Huerter earlier this season backfired. I’m not surprised Brown refused to do it again until he had to. The rotation instability earlier in the season (beyond just Huerter’s benching) clearly affected the team’s chemistry and individual players’ confidence. It’s telling the team is playing much better overall lately–the rotation has been the most stable it’s been all season. McGee is officially out, Huerter’s injury brought in Keon, which also gave Mitchell and Duarte more predictable roles while making Barnes the clear 4th option on offense, etc. It was addition by subtraction, and that’s no disrespect to Huerter, who’s been a good soldier. Just my viewpoint!

Hobby916
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March 26, 2024 9:44 am
Reply to  AmateurNerd

Good points. The roles were all over the place before the Huerter injury. Some guys would play for a week or so and then be benched, and then come in for a few spot minutes, all leading to some uncertainty. “Staying prepared” is a cool tag line and all, but consistency/defined roles is what some players need so they can thrive. That seems to be present now, and the structure of the minutes seems to be leading to some cohesiveness on the defensive end.

Amonk81
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March 26, 2024 11:34 am
Reply to  AmateurNerd

I don’t thin it backfired. Brown didn’t even give it a chance and, at the time he didn’t give Ellis a real shot.

Brown and McNair were too caught up in what they thought was their “team”. And shooting. They couldn’t see Forrest for trees. Should have but this injury has forced what we all knew needed to happen.

Amonk81
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March 26, 2024 11:31 am
Reply to  RikSmits

Absolutely agree. My comment was a bit tongue in cheek.

Huerter being an issue was obvious last playoffs and yet. I think McNair has some to do with this?

Now, if they make the playoffs we will find out if Brown can continue 1/2 court O adjustments and if Sabonis will shoot the mid range/figure out how to be successful when no DHO and vrs good D.

Playoffs require D/-1/2 court O and you can’t have a Defensive hole or non shooter hole in lineup to win.

TheBaker
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March 26, 2024 4:44 am
Reply to  Amonk81

The Keon Effect
The Ellis Algorithm
Ellis’ law of deterrence
Ellis Tirith
Steal curtain

scottymusprime
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March 26, 2024 10:50 am
Reply to  TheBaker

I loved the last two especially.

Also: Fun Fact.

The Kings are one of three teams in the last 10 games to allow less than 10ppg to opponents on fast breaks or 2nd chances. They’re the only team that is doing both. They are 3rd in the league in steals during that time and almost dead center for blocks per game. It’s not just rebounds. It’s not just being pests. It’s all of it.

Mike Brown may need to be in the conversation for greatest NBA coaches at some point.

Mike120
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March 26, 2024 12:16 pm
Reply to  Amonk81

I mean, sort of. He was way too late doing it. I think we’d have had 3-4 more wins in the 20 prior games if he’d made that switch earlier.

Adamsite
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March 26, 2024 8:14 am
Reply to  Mike120

He definitely is the change this squad needed. He’s altered the entire dynamic of the team on the defensive side of the floor.

Kfan
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March 26, 2024 8:29 am
Reply to  Adamsite

Gives us 3 plus defenders and 2 solid defenders in the starting lineup.

Amonk81
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March 26, 2024 11:36 am
Reply to  Kfan

And it gives Keegan more touches. Again, the idea of a defender at Huerters spot was the obvious move last playoffs.

Mike120
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March 25, 2024 11:23 pm

Last 8 games the most points the Kings give up is 111 and that was in OT.

Yakshi
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March 25, 2024 11:37 pm
TheBaker
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March 26, 2024 4:33 am
Reply to  Yakshi

Is this the same team?…

Hobby916
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March 26, 2024 5:00 am

I have a working theory/hypothesis/idea etc…has the defensive rating improved in March because the Kings have been playing at a slower pace?

Someone better at finding those stats, please test my theory above.

Yakshi
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March 26, 2024 5:10 am
Reply to  Hobby916

For the entire season, the Kings pace is 99.85, 12th in the league.

Teams Advanced | Stats | NBA.com

In the last ten games, the Kings pace is 97.83, 13th in the league.

Teams Advanced | Stats | NBA.com

So in the last ten games, the Kings pace has slowed by about two percent.

But there is some overlapping of data, because the entire season data includes data from the last ten games. I don’t know how to isolate data for the entire season minus the last ten games.

Jman1949
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March 26, 2024 5:59 am
Reply to  Yakshi

comment image&ct=g

BakerBaker19
March 26, 2024 6:34 am
Reply to  Yakshi

The Kings have some weird splits in their pace numbers. Offensively, their pace is very fast and the possessions don’t take long. On defense, the possessions take much longer. Check out Dunks and Threes for that data. I think currently they are 4th in offensive pace and 26th in defensive. Not sure why that happens, but it occurred last year as well.

AmateurNerd
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March 26, 2024 9:42 am
Reply to  BakerBaker19

Maybe teams are deliberately playing slow on offense to counteract the Kings’ offensive pace? Or, the other teams are being patient in the hopes the Kings’ defense breaks down late in possessions?

Last edited 24 days ago by AmateurNerd
TheBaker
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March 26, 2024 10:13 am
Reply to  BakerBaker19

Whoah!
I don’t know how to post a gif, but it would definitely be Spider-Man pointing at Spider-Man!

DutchKingsFanInUK
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March 26, 2024 5:18 am

Didn’t realise this until James Ham tweeted this: with this win, the Kings recorded their second +.500 season in a row, their tenth in Sacramento Kings history.

Major props to the front office, coaching staff, and players for achieving this. With all the talk about getting the sixth seed, I’m still just happy that the Kings are no longer a dumpster fire and are actually a stable, and pretty good team.

Klam
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March 26, 2024 7:29 am

Crazy that only two coaches have been able to get the Kings to .500 or better for a season.

9sac8
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March 26, 2024 7:06 am

It’s two people on here that were hating on the Kings “4th grade defense.” I need both of you to come out of hiding, especially if the Kings show up again tonight.

Great all around win. We look like we are prepping for a solid run.

AmateurNerd
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March 26, 2024 9:44 am
Reply to  9sac8

It was 4th grade defense until a few weeks ago.

Hobby916
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March 26, 2024 9:46 am
Reply to  AmateurNerd

The scheme did not play to the strengths of the players. The players did not understand the scheme and execute it well. Now the scheme and the players appear to be on the same page, and the results are going well so far.

9sac8
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March 26, 2024 10:00 am
Reply to  Hobby916

Thank you my fellow Kings fan. You see what I see. This scheme fits and the players understand it. They have bought in…finally.

Last edited 24 days ago by 9sac8
Hobby916
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March 26, 2024 10:22 am
Reply to  9sac8

They scheme changed from whatever the hell they were doing before March to now. Lots more jumping out on ball handlers and looking for deflections, more fighting through screens and sticking to your man.

Hippity_Hop_Barbershop
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March 26, 2024 7:41 am

I was at a metal concert last night but they had the game on at the bar so I caught a tiny bit and of course saw the beam when I got home. Great win! Saw a couple crazy layups by Davion which got me pumped. BIG TIME GAME TONIGHT!! LET’S GO KIIIIIINGGGS!!

eddie41
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March 26, 2024 10:49 am

yup. he also changed the game with his ability to guard Maxey.

Hobby916
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March 26, 2024 10:57 am
Reply to  eddie41

When they started doubling Maxey, denying him the ball and forcing him to give it up, things changed quickly. Davion/Keon/Fox/Murray did a good job in that regard.

eddie41
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March 26, 2024 1:49 pm
Reply to  Hobby916

the Kings mixed it up, sure. the Sixers also had to bring a screener to try to pick off Davion. They did not have to screen the others off.

Mike120
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March 26, 2024 12:13 pm

Most importantly, at least get a split with Dallas. Would be 3-1 against them in the head to head and tied but not down 2 full games.

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