Welcome back, Kings fans! The day has come once again – Day 1 of another Sacramento Kings basketball season. And once again, you are here, because of course you are, you goddamn hero. Why we keep doing this is inexplicable, but together we embark on another hopeful journey with the fate of our purple bleeding hearts, gushing from 16 consecutive stab wounds, resting solely in the hands of the Sacramento Kings – a bad habit, or just pure insanity? Either way, we started today with the slate cleaner and a canvas more bare than the row of bald heads that glisten from the Kings’ front coaching bench. And tonight’s home opener matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers painted the first stroke of what will hopefully materialize into a masterpiece of a season, or at least something worth hanging up on the refrigerator. It’s game 1 of 82, baby. Let’s see how they did:
Outcome: Kings lose, 108-115
Sacramento Kings: 108 pts, 45.9% fg, 38.6% 3pt, 68.4% ft, 27 ast, 41 reb, 16 to
Portland Trail Blazers: 115 pts, 44.3% fg, 39.3% 3 pt, 78.8% ft, 20 ast, 44 reb, 11 to
Despite escaping Dame Time and holding Damian Lillard to a relatively quiet 20 points, the Kings suffered double-digit contributions from four other Trail Blazers. While the Kings got big stat lines from De’Aaron Fox and Kevin Huerter, Portland scored 64 of their points in the second half to disappoint the sold out crowd in Golden 1 Center. A loss is a loss, so it’s not the beautiful start we wanted. And the first stroke on the season’s canvas may turn out to be what the late and great Bob Ross would describe as a “happy accident”. It ain’t pretty, but there’s still a lot of canvas to work with. This piece is still salvageable.
The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly
- Small Ball: The game began with an electric start from the Kings, beginning with a smooth 3-point jumper from De’Aaron Fox on the very first possession. It felt like a good omen. But just as quickly as my superstitions arose, we were thrust right back into the haunts of Kangz basketball. Suddenly, the defense became deflated and the ball stopped moving on offense, a style we are all too familiar with to stomach for another year. Portland jumped out to a 9-point lead to end the first quarter after shooting 14 free throws. In response, Coach Mike Brown gave us the first look at a small ball lineup, which included Fox, Davion Mitchell, Terence Davis, Kevin Huerter, and Domantas Sabonis. The four guard lineup sparked the Kings’ offense and gave them the speed, ball movement, and extra passes they needed to find easier offense. Despite being undersized, the Kings got scrappy on defense and won a handful of loose balls. This Kings lineup completed a 16-1 run to cover the ground they had lost early on and gave them a 3-point lead to end the half. This adjustment saved the Kings from falling down early and gave them the chance to battle things out on even ground for the remaining two quarters.
- Hurt ‘Em, Huerter: I love the Kevin Huerter experience. Over the past few years, I had almost forgotten what it was like to have a shooting guard who can not only shoot the hell out of the ball, but also play some defense and make good basketball decisions. Huerter hit big shot after big shot, finishing with six made 3-pointers on nine attempts. He also demonstrated court awareness and the ability to make plays outside of settling for a 3-point look. A favorite of mine came in the third quarter when he gave up what could have been a quick release 3-pointer in transition and instead pump faked his way into the midrange for a dump off to a rolling Sabonis. I look forward to rooting for you, Red Velvet.
- Fouls & Turnovers: So, let’s all just get this off our chest: NBA REFS ARE BUTT. Bad calls, no calls, what the hell calls – they were all over the place for the whole game and at what felt like the worst times. But, alas, time has not changed the fact that there is not a damn thing we can do about bad officiating. So with that being said, let’s focus on where the Kings’ blame lies. During that first quarter nightmare, the Kings committed nine fouls and four turnovers. Some of this could be chalked up to nervous energy for the first game of the season, but some of it could also be pinpointed as handsy defense and careless management of the ball. KZ Okpala found himself in early foul trouble, picking up three in the first quarter. Assigned to Damian Lillard, this took him off the floor and his size advantage against Lillard with him. De’Aaron Fox committed a total of eight turnovers tonight, a handful of which were just silly and uncharacteristic. In total, the Kings finished with 25 fouls and 16 turnovers. In a game decided by single digits, each these becomes crucial.
- Missing Murray: How is it possible to miss something you’ve barely had? Out tonight after just barely clearing health & safety protocols, Keegan Murray will be making his official debut for the Kings in their next game. Multiple times during the game, I couldn’t help but think about how helpful Murray could have been in plugging some of the gaps on the floor. In the rebounding game, the Blazers bested the Kings 44-41, with the Kings only securing four offensive rebounds to the Blazers’ 11. During some of the offensive slog minutes with the Kings’ second unit, the Kings needed another offensive creator on the floor while De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis got their rest. For both of these struggles, I imagine that Murray will be able to provide support for this team to help bridge those gaps.
- Finishing Business: The final minutes of this game were pretty atrocious. The game was tied at 104 with just under three minutes to go. The Kings had been battling well on defense, forcing Portland into tough outside shots that luckily weren’t part of any Dame Time highlights. And at the 2:18 mark, Terence Davis threw down a put back dunk that I can only assume caused a few people to burst an ear drum in Golden 1. This was unfortunately immediately followed by a lame technical foul call by the ref on Davis for his celebration, thus making it a 1-point game. And that’s when things really got ugly. The next two Kings possessions resulted in turnovers, while the next two Trail Blazers possessions ended in and ones from Jerami Grant (23 points) and Josh Hart (19 points). Those four possessions were the four nails in the coffin. When it mattered most, the Kings did not take care of business.
The King of Kings
As always, I like to highlight a Kings player every game because we deserve some good vibes.
Despite the loss, turnovers, and Damian Lillard being on the floor, De’Aaron Fox was the best player on the court tonight. Finishing with 33 points on 5-9 (!!!) from the 3-point line, to go along with seven assists, Fox is ready to put the league on notice. One of my favorite plays of the night came from one of his many drives to the paint where he jump stopped, pump faked, and dump passed to Holmes for an easy slam. Fundamentals are beautiful. He looked like a superstar tonight, and I hope with all my heart that he continues this dominance so that the rest of the league can finally appreciate him as much as we do.
Operation: MCNAIR – Season 2 Watch
Our valiant leader, Will Griffith, is continuing the wonderful mission he started last season with Operation: MCNAIR – Season 2. Tonight’s charity is the Food Literacy Center, a non-profit that teaches kids about nutrition and healthy lifestyles. Donate here and be sure to let Will know via Twitter (@WillofThaPeople) or e-mail ([email protected]) so he can track donation totals.
Saturday, October 22nd vs. Los Angeles Clippers – 7:00 P.M. (PT)