On the road, the Sacramento Kings overcame both the loss of De’Aaron Fox to a “knee bruise” and a horrible first half performance to come back and seal up their victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Halloween, 115-108.
With their star point guard down, Davion Mitchell really stepped up, setting a new career high in both points (23) and three’s made (5). Kevin Huerter also followed his previous 27-point performance with an awesome 26-point night (he’s really, really good).
Moreover, the Kings were able to fend off P.J. Washington (28 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks) and the Hornets because they got much needed contributions from Trey Lyles and Matthew Dellavedova off the bench. Lyles was an impactful presence on both ends of the floor, and Dellavedova—in a sort of emergency appearance—was sound, knocking down the three in the third quarter that gave the Kings the first lead of the night.
In the first half, not only did Fox go down after having his knee banged into while attempting to take a charge that resulted in his injury, but Sacramento struggled to both get off to a good start offensively and defend the paint.
After the first quarter, the Kings were shooting just 31.8% from the field compared to Charlotte’s 54.5% clip. The shots started falling a little more frequently in the second, with Huerter, Mitchell, and Malik Monk scoring a combined 17 points.
As for the points in the paint, the Hornets made great use of Sacramento’s slowness and failure to rotate, particularly when it came to help inside. The Kings allowed their opponent to score 32 of their 67 first half points in the paint.
Down 15 at the half, the Kings came out with a beautiful third quarter, beginning it with a 7-0 run. They not only won the period 37-18 with the help of Huerter’s scoring, they also were on the right side of the Hornets’ 7 turnovers in that quarter. The paint was slightly better defended, allowing 8, but, overall, they did hold the opposition to just 18 points.
The Hornets came back to life a little in the final quarter. Charlotte had 5 second chance points at halftime, and the number did not change after the third quarter. They ended up scoring more than half of those second chances in the fourth quarter as the Hornets showed some nice presence inside to get extra opportunities out of the Kings.
Sacramento took advantage of a Charlotte technical foul to go on a 10-0 run midway through the quarter. But as the game was feeling close again, Kings fans were likely perturbed to see Domantas Sabonis foul out for the second game in a row.
Though, with their two-time all-star out for the final two or so minutes, the Kings sharpened their fundamentals and closed out the game 9-3. The most impressive moment for Sacramento’s defense was when they forced a 5-second violation on a Hornets inbound with terrific team ball denial, which Mitchell and Dellavedova no doubt played a significant roll in.
And after Harrison Barnes knocked down two free throws (Jason Anderson pointed out that he’s 19 for 20 in his last three games), they almost did it again on the final inbounds opportunity for Charlotte.
In the end, the Kings came out on top after an admiral showing of mental toughness and late-game fundamentals to fight back on their first east coast trip of the season.
Fox’s right knee
After he’d hurt his knee, Fox went to the sideline to try to walk it off and work out the pain.
He came back in for about a minute and a half before heading back to the locker room. In that short amount of time, he was visibly bothered by it. Even when he trotted out to the floor, it was clear he was uncomfortable.
Fox was diagnosed with a “knee bruise,” while, officially, the Kings are referring to it as “knee soreness.”
Stepping up without Fox
With the offense struggling in that first quarter, it almost seemed like the nail in the coffin for Sacramento when De’Aaron Fox went down with the injury to his right knee.
As worried as one could reasonably be to watch a Fox-less team proceed, they could look back to last year when the team—although it looks very different now—responded well after Fox injured his hand in March.
One of the guys that stepped up was Davion Mitchell. Last night, he did the same.
Of course, even before Fox got hurt in last night’s game, Mitchell saw both of his three-pointers go down in the first quarter. In the previous five games, Mitchell was 2 of 12 from beyond the arc in a miserable start to the year shooting wise. So for him to knock down a couple off the bat was a sign of good things to come.
And the opportunity to put up a career high in both points and three’s made arrived with the unfortunate injury to Fox.
If this is a sign Mitchell’s getting into a better flow, then his contributions off the bench—while already pretty great on the defensive end and in regards to facilitating—will be even more potent.
With the second-year guard assuming the starting roll, it was time for the veteran to slide up in responsibility. And that he did.
Matthew Dellavedova may have only had 3 points, but they happened to provide Sacramento with their first lead of the half, and he was not at all hesitant; he “let it fly” as Mike Brown often says. The Hornets commentators comically referred to it as “a kick in the pants,” and Delly sure did them dirty.
Plus, he dished out 3 assists, including a crisp pass to a cutting Kevin Huerter.
Like he does on the bench, he provided excellent leadership on the floor during some key stretches in the second half. It was the exact situation where a team needs to call on the third point guard, and Dellavedova was ready to perform.
Trey Lyles was commended by his head coach after the win over the Heat for staying ready. And now its seems clear that Mike Brown knows just what he has in a guy like Lyles.
The eight-year man played only two out of the first four games. After it was clear that the rotation should be tightened, Lyles made sure to show why he should be in it, and on both ends of the floor.
Lyles finished with 6 points, 4 rebounds (2 of which were on the offensive glass), 3 assists, a steal, and 2 blocks.
With poor rotations opening opportunities for Charlotte inside, Lyles made a discernible difference in that department. On his second block of the game, Lyles not only made seamless switches, he bodied up his man as he drove, using his chest with his hands up to swat the ball down. He looked excellent on that end; the 20 lbs. he lost in the offseason really paid off.
He might not get another DNP for awhile.
Additionally—with Sabonis out as well as with Richaun Holmes playing below his potential and Alex Len coming into the game looking slow—Lyles played the small 5 in the final two or three minutes of the game.
He also knocked down a three and got to the line in a critical moment with an adroitly executed pump fake, hitting both of the free throws that followed.
Malik Monk was a no-show in the second half, but his contributions in the second quarter shouldn’t be overlooked.
He hit a couple three’s in the second, contributing 7 points in just under 6 minutes during that period.
And Monk utilized excellent hands to sneak up and swipe the ball away from Kelly Oubre Jr.’s hands. He continues to surprise on that end of the floor under Mike Brown.
However, Monk has got to be able to be effective all game.
In all, though, the bench really stepped up with Fox out.
Domantas Sabonis and his foul troubles
Sabonis looked good for the most part, grabbing 16 rebounds, dishing out 7 assists, and often leading the charge on offense.
However, Domas fouled out again.
Some calls are justifiably infuriating. The 6th foul against Miami, where the official waited to see if the ball went in or not, was ludicrously late.
But others, like his final two fouls against Charlotte, appeared to be pretty good calls.
Regardless, the fouling issue haunted Sabonis on Halloween night as it did early on during his time in OKC when Billy Donovan proclaimed he couldn’t play him.
If referee’s aren’t going to let the coin land your way on some of these whistles—which is something Kings fans are conspicuously used to seeing—it’s still important to try and reduce the fouling. Mike Brown continues to point things out on film in order to make corrections, so expectations should be that it improves. Even one or two less fouls per game makes all the difference.
Still, it’s obviously tough and it’s frustrating for him and Kings fans.
Defense was not at all perfect
32 were allowed inside in the first half, it was just 8 in the third quarter, but it shot back up to 14 in the final period.
As was said with Domas’ foul trouble, the tape will be examined and corrections will be made. While it was good that the Kings had some clutch defensive moments and played good stretches on that end, they have to be more consistent.
This game was nevertheless an improvement, especially since Charlotte scored just 41 points in the second half.
Keegan Murray is human
Okay, the rookie is human.
Keegan Murray was just 5 of 15 from the field (2 of 7 from deep), scoring 12 points, grabbing 4 rebounds, and getting a pair of assists.
In 31 minutes, though, he was still an excellent presence even if he wasn’t shooting very well. On Lyles’ aforementioned pump fake, it was Murray who found him. And at the end of the day he posted a +15.
The Kings will travel to Florida for a pair of games, first in Miami on Wednesday and then in Orlando on Saturday.
It was less than a week ago that the Heat came to Sacramento and lost, giving the Kings their first victory of the season. They’ll now have to go into their building to try to get a second win.
Miami plays Golden State tonight in the first of a back-to-back, so the Kings might not see the freshest Heat team.
But Sacramento may not have De’Aaron Fox.