Sacramento’s weekend back-to-back was indeed a tough one as the Golden State Warriors handed the Kings their third loss of the season, 125-130, after a game mixed with both good and absolutely putrid stretches of basketball.
For much of it, it looked like it could have been a really ugly loss, but it became less so when the Kings finished the final seven minutes or so of the game on a 18-5 run, playing some adequate defense for once, but finding themselves on the losing end.
It was the second game in a row where the Kings finished the game on a run, but to no avail. In the previous contest against the Clippers, Sac finished the game on a 20-10 run only to fall to LA by 2 points.
“We know we’re in every single game,” Domantas Sabonis expressed after the loss. “We’re fighting. Every single game we’ve had a chance. That’s not going to break us down, we’re all good.”
Overall, Sacramento put up some solid offense despite a 25.6% shooting night from three as a team and a combined 2 of 14 from deep for the starting backcourt of De’Aaron Fox and Kevin Huerter. They stayed with the Warriors, who were led by Steph Curry’s 33 points.
De’Aaron Fox continued getting to his spots, securing a double-double, and finishing with 26 points and 10 assists. The rookie Keegan Murray had an efficient 16 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 steals. And Sabonis posted 19 points, 14 rebounds, and 4 assists, but had the team-worst plus/minus of -25 as the center on the floor during much of the 50-point second quarter and on the bench for the fourth quarter’s near comeback (more on Domas in a moment).
It was their often perforated defense that provided such lousy moments. They surrendered 39 points in the first quarter before giving up the aforementioned 50 in the second. It was the third most points scored in a half, and it was the Kings defense swinging open like saloon doors whenever the Warriors wanted to get some points.
Sacramento started the third quarter with Keegan Murray, but still managed to find themselves down 19 starting the fourth, only hitting 2 out of 11 of their three-pointers in that quarter.
It was just after the seven minute marker in the fourth, following a Jordan Poole three, that the Kings embarked upon that 18-5 run that forced Curry and other starters back on the floor. But Sacramento finished the final two minutes just 1 of 5 before Murray hit a last second three-pointer that merely caused them to lose by 5 instead of 8.
Oddly enough, the offense began to waddle at the end there while the defense held Golden State to 1 of 13 from the field in the final seven or so minutes. The Warriors were also giving their opponent a chance by failing to convert at the free throw line, hitting just 3 of 6 attempts in the final stretch.
However, they managed to maintain their home win over the Kings, who have some good and a lot of bad to take away from this second of a back-to-back.
The early-season Sabonis conundrum
After the Clippers game, some slack was given to Sabonis in this space. But this game was not good for him despite the fact his stat line looked pretty solid.
If looking at his stat line, scan all the way to the right. Yup, he posted a team-worst -25.
Of course, it was a bit of an improvement for the offense as a whole. Things have run a little more smoothly with each game.
But the defense is another story, hence the -25.
Again, Sabonis didn’t play at all in the fourth quarter when the Kings nearly came back. And in that stretch of the last 6 or 7 minutes, Golden State went 1 of 13 from the field. The Kings were getting some stops, albeit a few of them came on some uncharacteristic misses for the Warriors. Even as they came up short, they cut that lead up and made it close without the guy that’s supposed to be their best player.
Now think of the second quarter. Just past the eight minute mark, Domas returned to the game with his team down 51-54. They were on a mini 6-2 run. However, from there, with Sabonis in at center, the Warriors surged ahead on a 35-20 run to finish with 50 points in the period.
It’s clear that Sabonis is not a great defender. Coming into the year, it was evident that Sabonis, at the very least, has nice hands and a knack for putting himself in the right position despite the fact he is neither a burly bruiser nor a long, athletic big.
Nobody is taking away the fact that guys like Steph Curry are a tough assignment for a team, nor is anyone ignoring the 7 turnovers committed in the quarter, but Sabonis’ physical shortcomings surfaced.
At one point, Sabonis failed to establish position on Kevon Looney, who grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back for a bucket.
But aside from that failure to secure the possession, he got caught in no man’s land too many times.
He was not quick enough to contest Steph’s shot while also somehow getting caught in the middle to presumably try and play the passing lane, and simply couldn’t do anything. Curry could either shoot it or find Looney, Sabonis was a goner at that point.
Later in the quarter, he almost tried to trap Curry along with Fox up top, but clearly overplays and is forced to try to chase down his man which forces Barnes to slide into the paint, leaving his man in the corner. With Sabonis running in a big circle, the Warriors utilized good ball movement to exploit the giant hole and get a great look.
And at another point in that period, he again overplayed, getting caught in the middle when he thought about contesting what looked like was going to be a Klay Thompson three-point attempt, but all the while he left Looney alone to cut and get an easy dunk.
Maybe help defense was needed in some of these instances, but Sabonis can’t lean on help every time if this team is to take the next step defensively.
By contrast, in the fourth quarter, Chimezie Metu got a good chunk of time at center—perhaps due to his range and the fact Brown is still ironing out what group’s work together and when—and came up with 4 rebounds, a steal, and a notable block in over ten minutes of play. The block was notable because it was the one piece of rim protection the Kings saw all night.
“We are more than capable of being an average, if not above average defensive team,” head coach Mike Brown said postgame.
There’s little doubt that Sabonis will eventually find a groove where he is making the overall impact he needs to make, but the defensive adjustments need to come quick from Brown.
Sabonis’ shortcomings on that end seemed to be taken advantage of this season with ease.
Sure bet: Murray will start on Thursday
KZ Okpala played just over three minutes in the first quarter before an early sub was made to bring Keegan Murray into the game.
Again, Murray continues to show why he’s one of the best players on this team and thus should be starting.
While Brown likely has remaining trust in Okpala, he’s not doing what it takes to stay in that defensive-guru starting role. And Murray himself only helps his cause when he displays moments of good defense.
Against the Warriors, Murray found himself guarding anyone from Draymond Green to Donte DiVincenzo to Steph Curry. The rookie also has great defensive versatility and has proven it translates to the NBA fairly well.
Okpala still has all the makings to be a great defender, but Murray is good on that end while also being one of the best offensive players on the team.
Of course, one can’t rule out the idea that Barnes could be moved to the bench. He hasn’t looked like himself, making bonehead mistakes while appearing to have regressed even further when guarding talented wing players.
While an adjustment where HB comes off the bench can’t be ruled out, the order of operations seems to dictate that Okpala will be the one to lose the starting job.
Better game for guys in second unit
So with Murray presumably getting the starting nod—which takes a huge bulk of scoring out of the second unit—guys in the bench unit need to step it up.
After two games, Davion Mitchell, Malik Monk, and Richaun Holmes were more or less non-factors.
Mitchell, of course, played his defense and had some moments as the secondary floor general, but his three ball was hitting a lot of rim. Monk was off on his shot while making a few silly mistakes here and there. And for the most part, Holmes practically looked like he’d never played in the NBA before.
Against the Warriors, it’s safe to say all three were better.
Mitchell got into some foul trouble, but he went 3 of 5 from the field, including 1 of 2 from three, for 7 points in addition to 3 assists. While it wasn’t a great game, it was nice to see a three go in for him after starting 0 of 7. This team needs him to be a consistent threat from that range.
After starting 2 of 7 from three in the first two games, Monk hit 4 of his 10 looks from beyond the arc, finishing with 16 points. Monk also looked much better as a ball handler, dishing out 8 assists. Plus, he grabbed 4 rebounds and looked pretty good on the defensive end, both as a helper and in one-on-one situations.
It wasn’t exceptional by any means, but Holmes was much better, scoring 15 points and grabbing 5 rebounds, 3 of which were offensive. His push shot finally went down, hopefully indicating he’s back in form. He also held down the fort in a few instances, such as making good use of his hands in the paint.
Though, Holmes himself was getting caught in no man’s land as well, so he still may need the most work of the three.
Really, more work is needed all the way around—Mitchell needs to get that three ball going, Monk needs to remain consistent, and Holmes needs a better comfort level—but it was a decent step in the right direction for them on Sunday night.
But Holmes could have competition with Metu, who, as noted, provided some nice minutes.
“I thought (Metu) was a big part in our comeback,” Mike Brown noted. “He gave us the ability to switch one through five and he brought a lot of energy to the table. His presence was definitely felt tonight.”
Again, the second unit is imperative, especially regarding offensive production when Fox is resting.
Free throws fell, fouls were up
Silver linings don’t possess much charm after a loss, but at least Sac made a discernible improvement from one game to the next on a back-to-back.
The Kings bounced back in this game after shooting below 60% Saturday night. Against the Warriors they hit 20 out of 25 of their free throw attempts, good for 80%.
Sacramento will have to keep that trend going.
But it must have been nice to see the struggles from the stripe effect the Warriors and not their team.
Though, at the same time, they committed 29 personal fouls. Mitchell got in early foul trouble, amassing 4 in just under five minutes on the floor, and the ever aggressive Terence Davis fouled out. Golden State had 36 attempts from the line.
Defending without fouling still needs ample improvement.
The Kings take on the Memphis Grizzlies at home on Thursday in the third contest of a tough four game stretch (Clippers, Warriors, Grizzlies, and Heat).
As Sacramento seeks out it’s first win of the season, it’s clear nothing is handed out for free. After three tough losses, it will be interesting to see if they can tie some things together and offer a solid performance from start to finish.
Mike Brown has some adjustments to make first, particularly defensively. But he and his team have three days until Memphis comes to town.
Ja Morant is averaging over 34 points a game on some efficient shooting percentages (54.8% from the field, 57.1% from three) in his first three games of the year. He and his squad play the Nets tonight.
It will be another difficult challenge, but also another one worth watching for any basketball fan.
The Kings will look to get into the win column then.
[…] this season, serving essentially two prolonged stints. The first came shortly after his performance against the Warriors in October where he played the entire fourth quarter as the Kings nearly made a comeback. Mike Brown said he […]
[…] Sacramento made an improbable comeback against the Warriors at the end of October, it was Metu playing the center position. They still lost at the Chase Center, but it was […]
[…] [ October 24, 2022 ] Some Decent Highs, but Plenty of Low Lows for Kings in their Loss in SF … […]
Awesome man, really detailed analysis & breakdown. Appreciate it, and keep it up! Also, any way you could make a black or white hoodie, with that Fox nike logo!? I’d buy that for sure! lol
Sure thing! Which color would you like and I will make it.
[…] [ October 24, 2022 ] Some Decent Highs, but Plenty of Low Lows for Kings in their Loss in SF … […]