Four games in and the Sacramento Kings have yet to put together a complete game and as a result the Sacramento Kings are still winless. Seven Memphis Grizzlies finished in double digits, led by Desmond Bane’s 31 points, and the Kings fell 125 to 110.
Sacramento got off to a great start. Their new starting lineup featuring Keegan Murray was playing well on both ends of the court and got out to a 23-13 lead with 4:58 to go. However it got a little messier for Sacramento as both teams went to their bench. By the time the quarter was over, the Kings found themselves down by four and would never lead again.
Defense was supposed to be the team’s calling card this season but for the third time in four games, the Kings allowed their opponent to shoot over 50% from the field and 40% from three. While the effort seems to be there, the execution is sorely lacking for the most part. Memphis seemingly got whatever they wanted on offense, either in the paint where Sacramento’s lack of a rim protector has never seemed more glaring, or wide open from beyond the arc when a switch gets miscommunicated. To make matters worse, you have guys like Desmond Bane going 6-8 from three even when he was guarded closely. Sacramento’s lack of defense meant that every time they made a run or had a cool highlight like the back-to-back Kentucky connection, the Grizzlies were able to reset and reestablish their lead. They kept the Kings at arms length for the rest of the game.
Sacramento’s depth is also looking a lot shallower than it was in the preseason. The Kings bench had just 5 points at halftime and if you take away Malik Monk’s 15 points (who played much of the second half with the starting unit as Kevin Huerter dealt with a shoulder injury sustained in the end of the first half), they scored just 12 points compared to 35 for Memphis.
De’Aaron Fox had yet another good game overall, leading the team with 27 points, but he can’t do everything himself. The team needs more offense from Domantas Sabonis. Yes, he had a near triple-double with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists, but he took just 6 shots the entire game. That’s too few for your second best player. Still, Sabonis finished the game at a team-high +7 in 31 minutes. So much of the gameplan seems to revolve around his passing and setting up things that it’s tough when the team doesn’t really have anyone else that can replicate that.
Yes, the Kings have played probably the toughest schedule in the league so far. Yes, the officiating has felt very one sided at times during these games. But at some point the Kings have to stop making excuses and go out and win ballgames. Playoff teams can win these games. Playoff teams don’t let double-digit leads evaporate in two minutes.
Right now the Kings aren’t playing like a playoff team, and the schedule won’t do them any favors as they try to figure things out. Next up is a very good, veteran Miami Heat team that comes into town on Saturday night.
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- Mike Brown certainly wasn’t kidding when he said he was going to be experimenting with the rotation tonight. Almost every single available Sacramento King played tonight, with only Trey Lyles not seeing any action. Chimezie Metu, who has barely played this season at all, was the first sub off the bench. Chima Moneke saw his first real rotation minutes. KZ Okpala, who had been a starter, only came in during garbage time when the game was decided. The starting unit has been good, but Mike Brown hasn’t figured out what works from the bench yet, and that’s mostly because the bench has not been playing to expectations.
- One highlight was Malik Monk who scored 15 points to go with 7 assists in 22 minutes. He helped spark a mini-run in the second half that nearly got the Kings back in the game before Memphis once again put them at arms length in seemingly no time. If Monk can be a consistent sparkplug that would be huge.
- Davion Mitchell is in a funk and has not had a good start to his sophomore season. He scored 7 points in 12 minutes, but was a -13 and only had a single assist. The team needs him to do a better job of creating for both himself and others when he runs the second unit.
- Keegan Murray was exactly as expected in his first start. 18 points, 7 rebounds and was seemingly the only King who could hit a wide open three in the first half (he finished 3-8, although one of his two-point makes was a toe on the line three, and he had another three called back because of a moving screen from Sabonis). The Kings got a good one here. He is unflappable and consistent. He had some rookie mistakes too, but I’m not worried about him figuring things out at all. He’s already operating at a high level.
- Memphis just has a bunch of quality players. Desmond Bane was on another level tonight, hitting multiple daggers after the Kings would get the crowd going. Brandon Clarke is a phenomenal bench big and just supremely efficient. Tyus Jones is a steady hand as a backup point guard. Rookie Jake LaRavia had some nice moments as a stretch four. Ja Morant wasn’t even that great (he may have been dealing with an illness) and Memphis didn’t really need him. They didn’t buckle once whenever the Kings made a run. They’re young, but they play like a veteran team.