All good things must come to an end and tonight saw the end of Sacramento’s four game winning streak at the hands of Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat. The Heat ended a seven-game skid of their own by beating the Kings 115 to 106 behind 31 points from Jimmy Butler and a season-high 24 points from Josh Richardson.
Keegan Murray led the way for the Kings with a game-high 33 points, including 7 of 11 from three, and Domantas Sabonis notched another triple-double with 19 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists.
Everyone knew coming into this game that the Heat would be extremely poised and focused to try to end their losing streak and that certainly was the case tonight. Miami played like a cohesive unit throughout the game on both ends of the floor. On offense, the Heat swung the ball to get the best look possible and finished with a whopping 38 assists (ties an opponent season-high) on 42 made shots. Defensively, the Heat spent a lot of time in a Zone Defense that stymied the Kings and took away the paint. The Kings tried to respond by taking the three pointers that were given to them as a result but only Keegan Murray found any success; the rest of the team shot just 5 of 29 from distance (17.2%).
Bench play was another big factor in this game, as Miami’s bench outscored Sacramento’s 47 to 18. Thomas Bryant, who played only 2:41 seconds, was the only Heat bench player to not have at least seven points. On the Kings bench, Malik Monk led the way with a paltry six points to continue his January slump. Monk looked out of sorts for much of the night, shooting just 3-8 from the field and 0-4 from three. More shockingly, he finished without a single assist but did have three turnovers.
The Kings started the game off decently enough, leading 18-17 after a Kevin Huerter three with four minutes to go in the 1st quarter. The Heat proceeded to finish the quarter on an 11-5 run and lead 28-22 whereupon Josh Richardson took it upon himself to turn into Shiva, destroyer of worlds. After the King started the second quarter by cutting the lead to 28-26, Richardson made 3 three-pointers and also assisted on Miami’s only other basket in what was a personal 11-0 run to give Miami a 13 point lead. From there it only seemed to get worse as the Heat ended up building an 18 point lead after a Caleb Martin layup with 6:02 left in the half. It was looking like it was going to be one of those nights again for the Kings, but then Domantas Sabonis woke up from whatever slumber he had been in and had a dominant end to the half. Up until this point, Sabonis had yet to score. Sabonis proceeded to score or assist the Kings next four baskets and the Kings went on a 21-6 run to cut Miami’s lead to three. By the end of the half, the Kings had actually ended up outscoring the Heat in the 2nd quarter by two and trailed 59-55.
The start of the 3rd quarter saw the Kings and Heat trade blows and leads for a while until the Kings took a 70-67 lead on a Domantas Sabonis three pointer. That would end up being the last lead the Kings held in the entire game. Tyler Herro tied the game up with his own three shortly after, and then Jimmy Butler scored 9 straight points to give Miami a 79-75 lead with 5:22 left. The Kings still managed to keep the game within reach though, with De’Aaron Fox hitting a jumper with two seconds left to cut Miami’s lead to six heading into the final frame.
The Kings went cold as ice to start the fourth, with their only field goal in the first few minutes being a JaVale McGee putback. Despite only scoring 10 points as a team midway through the quarter, the game was still in reach, and the Kings cut it to a six point game off a Domantas Sabonis And-1 with 5:41 left. Jimmy Butler and Jason Richardson responded with some huge shots however, together combining for a 7-0 run over the next minute while the Kings missed some more open three point attempts. The Kings wouldn’t make another field goal (They made a few free throws) until Keegan Murray hit a three pointer with 2:12 left after Miami had rebuilt the lead back up to 15. But by then it was too little, and Miami ended up closing the game out to end their losing streak and give the Kings their first loss of this road trip.
The Kings continue their road trip on Friday in Indiana where they’ll get their first look at Pascal Siakam as a Pacer.
- This was a very disappointing game for De’Aaron Fox who finished with just 13 points on 4-16 from the field. He made his 120th three of the season tonight, which is already a career-high for makes in a season, but he did so on just 1-8 shooting from the field. Fox’s growth as a three point shooter is to be commended, but it feels at times this season that he has too often resorted to settling for these threes instead of seeking his more traditional shots in the paint or the midrange. The Kings need Fox to assert himself and take over games when it matters.
- Harrison had another rough shooting night, going 0-6 from three. A couple of those threes I don’t necessarily blame him on because they were passes to him at the end of shot clocks but the rest were absolutely wide open. It’s fair to have some regression with Harrison after those three huge games but it’s the inconsistency in what we get from him that can be so frustrating. There has to be some sort of middle ground between shooting 30% and 80%.
- Keegan Murray was tremendous, especially in the first half where he scored 21 points. It was surprising to me that the Kings didn’t opt to try to get him going in the second half as much after how well he had been playing in the first. He was the only Kings shooter with a hot hand. He should have been featured a bit more down the stretch.
- Kevin Huerter continues his excellent play on both ends of the court. I’ve been impressed with his defense of late, especially in terms of getting deflections and contesting. He also chipped in 14 points and had several nice takes to the rim, which I like to see as someone who thinks the Kings too often settle for threes when the paint is open.
- Domantas Sabonis is just so consistent. It took him a while to get going in this one but there he is again with yet another triple-double. At one point it looked like he wasn’t even going to get a double-double and then 10 minutes later he had a triple-double. Sabonis also hit his only three attempt of the game, making him 10-14 from three for the month of January. He’s now up to 45.1% from three for the season. But he only shoots one a game, and only when he doesn’t have anyone within five feet of him. He needs to up these percentages to at least a couple a game, if not three. I’m not asking for a ton here but if you’re going to be knocking down nearly half your long range attempts, you gotta let it fly more my man.
- One of my biggest requests for Monte McNair at the trade deadline (aside from the oft-requested 3&D wing) is a steady backup PG. Davion Mitchell is not great at doing the things a Point Guard should do, and Malik Monk is too wild at times to reliably run an offense. The Kings need a veteran, steady hand who can get the Kings into their offense and knock down the occasional shot or two. Someone like a Tyus Jones or Malcolm Brogdon would be great, but even just someone like Ish Smith would be fine. The Kings need some reliability off the bench.
- Jaime Jaquez Jr. is like the ultimate Miami Heat player. He’s only a rookie but he looks like he’s been playing with the team for years already. He didn’t put up any ultra gaudy stats or anything (8 points, 4 rebounds and 1 assist) but I was impressed with how often he seemed to make the right read, whether it was a cut or pass.
- Kevin Love caught Trey Lyles with a pump fake in the second quarter and got to the line as a result. Trey, you don’t need to bite on Kevin Love pump fakes, he can’t jump anymore.