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Kings 120, Suns 105: Starters dominate as Fox sets franchise record for assists

De'Aaron Fox passed Mike Bibby for the Sacramento-era assists record, Domantas Sabonis had another triple double, and Sacramento bounced back well from Wednesday's defeat with a wire to wire win Friday.
By | 27 Comments | Dec 22, 2023

Dec 22, 2023; Sacramento, California, USA; Sacramento Kings guard De'Aaron Fox (5) drives to the basket against Phoenix Suns guard Saben Lee (38) during the third quarter at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the Sacramento Kings death have been greatly exaggerated.

It’s hard to blame anyone who was doubting Sacramento after Wednesday’s performance against the Boston Celtics, a game that saw the home team get out-scored 70-53 in the second half on their way to a blowout loss to one of the league’s championship contenders. But they bounced back in a big way Friday against the Phoenix Suns, attacking the paint early and often on their way to a 120-105 win.

The Suns were without starting center Jusef Nurkic, and the Kings took advantage of the decreased paint presence early. Domantas Sabonis scored the first seven points for Sacramento, including back-to-back dunks, as the Kings focused on two of Mike Brown’s favorite things – paint touches and spraying the ball. Sabonis would finish with 28/12/11, his fourth triple-double of the season, as he continues his strong play in the month of December.

As good as Domas was – and he was excellent – Friday belonged to De’Aaron Fox, who became the Sacramento-era Kings’ all-time assists leader, dropping dime 2,581 in the third quarter. It was a game that had a little bit of everything, especially in the first half.

A clock error during a Malik Monk jump ball in the first quarter led to the officials taking 53 seconds off the clock, something rarely seen in an NBA game. It helped explained why the first quarter seemed to take forever; well, that and the 38 free throws the two teams shot between them in the opening stanza. It was a back and forth affair early, with the teams trading baskets, but the tone changed significantly with around seven minutes left before the halftime break.

A massive Malik Monk poster got the Golden 1 Center crowd fired up, though the Suns responded with a dunk of their own. That led to Kevin Durant getting a technical foul for coming on to the court to celebrate, and Devin Booker picked up a T of his own defending his teammate. Coach Frank Vogel would get a technical foul himself just a few minutes later, as Phoenix began to unravel. Sacramento took a 65-54 lead into the break and opened the third quarter on a 9-0 run to pull away.

“We just stayed aggressive,” Murray said of the team’s hot start in the third. “We just wanted to keep our foot on the gas in the third quarter and keep the pace up.”

Sacramento would lead by as many as 29 in the third and closed the frame with a 103-84 advantage.

The fourth quarter basically saw the two teams play out the string as Sacramento was able to stifle the few runs Phoenix made behind Durant and Booker, turning up the defensive intensity and relying on their stars to make shots when they needed an answer. And the stars delivered time and time again.

On a night where the bench didn’t give Mike Brown much, the starting unit did; in addition to Sabonis’ game-high 28, Fox had 23, Keegan Murray had 21, Harrison Barnes 19, and Kevin Huerter 13. The Kings are 18-1 when Murray scores 20+, and the second-year player is truly developing into a star right before our eyes. He also played solid defense on Devin Booker, making things difficult for the Suns’ star. It was a great game for Barnes as well, as he was effective defensively on Kevin Durant and connected on 4 of his 8 three point attempts. In fact, Sacramento’s defensive effort as a whole was markedly improved, and their physicality against Booker and Durant was a welcome change from Wednesday’s lack of effort against the Celtics.

Brown will likely be disappointed by how much he had to rely on his starting unit on the first night of a back to back; the first five scored 104 of the team’s 120 points. Only Huerter played less than 32 minutes on the night, and the starters were in until about 2:30 remained in the game despite the big lead.

Phoenix got 28 from Durant and 24 from Booker, but the Kings kept Eric Gordon in check (0 points after 19 the first time these two teams met this season) and kept the Suns as a whole cool from outside; after the Celtics shot 52% from 3 last game, Phoenix was just 5-25 from behind the arc and shot 44% overall. “A big part of that is just for us to fly around and try to limit them,” Murray said.

The Kings will now welcome in one of the best teams in the West in Minnesota, though the Timberwolves will be without Karl Anthony Towns Saturday night. Sacramento is winless this season on the second night of a back to back, but if they carry over their effort from tonight, that definitely can change.

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UpgradedToQuestionable
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December 22, 2023 10:08 pm

Kings Win!
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Do a Sun Dance! 🔦🟣👑

Jman1949
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December 22, 2023 10:20 pm

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RikSmits
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December 22, 2023 11:29 pm
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ZillersCat
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December 23, 2023 6:48 am
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ZillersCat
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December 23, 2023 6:31 am

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Kosta
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December 23, 2023 9:31 am
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deepshot22
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December 22, 2023 10:10 pm

The Suns have some pathetic body language out there.

Yakshi
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December 22, 2023 10:17 pm

After the foul-crazy time warp of the first quarter, the rest of the game was a lot of fun, punctuated by a dunk of the year nominee by Malik Monk and the general impression that the Kings enjoy playing with each other. Good vibes.

mdeedublu
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December 23, 2023 7:38 am
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I disagree with your assessment of Malik’s dunk, it was a 3.

Jman1949
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December 22, 2023 10:18 pm

Threw some shade at the Suns!

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rockbottom
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December 22, 2023 10:26 pm

Domas was dominant early and often . Easily the star of the game .

RPO
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December 23, 2023 12:55 am
Reply to  rockbottom

Dominantas

KingsSince85
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December 22, 2023 11:07 pm

Crazy ups and downs this season. Let’s stay steady and get home court advantage in the first round. Go Kings!!!

ForKingsandCountry
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December 22, 2023 11:19 pm

Man the Suns are a mess. Really nice bounce back after the Celtics game. Great Sabonis game and you love to see the continued growth from Keegan. Thrilled to see how good he’s going to be someday.

Hobby916
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December 23, 2023 5:18 am

They just haven’t been healthy all season, both starters and bench guys. Tough to assess what kind of team they will be come post All-Star game.

No Beal, Nurkic, Okogie. With those players healthy they could be greatly different.

ForKingsandCountry
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December 23, 2023 7:29 am
Reply to  Hobby916

I’m stunned a team with Beal, Nurkic, KD and Booker aren’t healthy. This was sort of the problem with their whole endeavor right? That’s a top-4 that’s rarely healthy. They might not even be in the play-in by the all star break if they don’t get it turned around.

Hobby916
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December 23, 2023 7:57 am

Big risk with those guys, and it’s now a reality.

UpgradedToQuestionable
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December 23, 2023 9:13 am

It is a “follow them” strategy by new owner Matt Ishiba – Steve Ballmer’s L.A. Clippers.

The healthy/playing LACs just finished themselves a 9 game win streak.

The statement for each of these squads is (IMO): it’s December 2023 let’s see what you look like in April 2024.

How come there are so many “We a Big 3” teams? Do we blame Larry/Kevin/Chief? Garnett/Pierce/Allen? The Heatles?
How about Tim/Tony & Manu? Klay/Dray/Steph?

The West is in a funny spot:
you have Dubs, Suns, LAC and a freak show specimen of health in Lebron with a seems fine healthy AD. The All-Star Traveling Show with fillers Style.

Then you have Teams: Jokic’s Nuggets, AntMan’s TWolves, Shai’s OKC, The Pels and Sacramento.

It’s a fun compare and contrast IMO.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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December 23, 2023 9:23 am

IMO, there is no better time for league expansion. Spread out the stars and hopefully bring some balance. The WNBA is doing it.

I feel there is a problem when you can have teams that may not crack 10 wins this season while another has 4 future hall of famers on it. The league also needs a harder salary cap with a stricter tax or it’s going to turn into MLB. There Is no reason there should be $100M gap in spending from the top top team to the bottom team when the cap itself is $135M

Jack
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December 23, 2023 7:13 am

How about now?

ForKingsandCountry
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December 23, 2023 7:27 am
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?

RikSmits
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December 23, 2023 8:01 am

I think he means how good Keegan is now.

ForKingsandCountry
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December 23, 2023 9:02 am
Reply to  RikSmits

Ahh that makes sense. Looking good bordering on great in December. I figured his shooting would come around so it’s really nice to see it all starting to click.

Last edited 2 months ago by ForKingsandCountry
RPO
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December 23, 2023 12:56 am

Defensive effort tonight was great. Stark departure from the last game. Gotta keep this up…

Last edited 2 months ago by RPO
DNP-CD
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December 23, 2023 6:15 am

Keegan hit the nail on the head. If the Kings want to succeed, this team MUST stay aggressive for 48 minutes of every game.

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Adamsite
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December 23, 2023 8:32 am

I loved seeing the Kings attack the paint more, but I’d chalk that one up to an absence of Nurkic. I don’t think there is a Sun they miss more when he sits. There is just no one to back him up. Good job on the Kings coaching staff and/or for recognizing the opportunity.

It will be interesting to see how the game plan changes for tonight with Gobert in the paint.

Jack
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December 23, 2023 11:40 am
Reply to  Adamsite

I understand Towns will be absent tonight.

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