After a game that featured 26 lead changes, the Sacramento Kings found themselves on the losing end of a close 107-110 game on the road in Miami after Tyler Herro sealed it with a last second three.
The Kings had gotten some excellent performances from a few guys in the absence of De’Aaron Fox. Domantas Sabonis had his best game of the year so far, scoring 22 points, grabbing 12 rebounds, and adding 8 assists, but moreover, he played just short of 31 minutes until he committed his first foul. Kevin Huerter had another nice game, also scoring 22 which included his 4 of 9 from deep, and Malik Monk had a notable performance off the bench with 19 points and 7 assists.
Likewise, with Jimmy Butler out for the Heat, their other three best players stepped up. Bam Adebayo put up 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists while Kyle Lowry put up 22 with 7 assists. And Tyler Herro had another nice game, scoring 26 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.
Sacramento got off to a great start in the beginning of the game, mostly on the defensive end. After an Erik Spoelstra timeout, Miami, led by Kyle Lowry, made their push. At the end of the quarter it was a one-point Heat lead.
The Kings had gotten off to a 22-14 advantage in paint points in the first period, but in the second, the Heat’s oft-used zone defense held their opponent to 4 this time, cutting Sacramento’s paint point lead to 26-22. Mike Brown’s team was a little more stagnant offensively, shooting just 32% in the second. Still, it was a two-point game at half after a lower scoring second quarter.
The seesaw nature of the lead changes stuck around all night.
Monk hit a couple of three’s and dished out a couple of assists in the third, but Miami got another 14 points in the paint as they entered the fourth with a one-point lead.
It continued to be a good game in the final quarter in terms of lead changes.
Kevin Huerter had shown some discomfort in his lower body that caused him to head to the locker room, but he was back out there in the same quarter.
Sacramento had a 12-4 run that put them up by seven points, and off of that run Herro began hitting tough shots. The layup in reference was a dribble drive against some solid Terence Davis defense that resulted in two points. Then Miami got a couple of offensive rebounds (4 total in the fourth with 4 second chance points). In the final four and a half minutes, after Herro tied it, the game remained tight.
The Kings continued their solid play, but in the eight final minutes of the game—from Herro’s first tough make to hist last—the Heat were shooting well over 60% from the field. Davion Mitchell had a couple of big buckets and Sabonis hit some clutch free throws, but nothing would stop Herro from hitting another well contested shot by Davis—this time from deep—to win the game by three points.
Mike Brown surprisingly called out the clutch make because he felt Herro had traveled.
“I didn’t think we got a fair whistle and I hope when the officials go back and look at the game they’ll see it,” the head coach said after the game in reference to it.
Sacramento played well in this visit to Miami. Offensively, they displayed the right kind of ball movement, assisting 29 out of their 41 made field goals for a .707 assist%, and only committed 12 tunovers. And defensively, they had a lot of good moments on rotations, they surrendered just 5 fast break points, and held their fouling in check as the Heat got to the line just 13 times. Though they did give up 54 points in the paint, not staying consistent at defending the middle.
In the end, with such a close game, the Heat won after shooting slightly better from the field and hitting the shots when they counted most.
You have to defend the middle
Sacramento allowed 54 points in the paint. After last night’s loss, they now give up an average of 52.9 paint points to their opponents; they’re among the worst in the league in that statistic.
Following a first quarter where both teams landed plenty of punches inside the paint (Sacramento led in that department 22-14 to start), both teams’ offenses slowed in the second, but the Kings could at least say they held their opponent to just 8 on the inside.
In the second half, they allowed 14 and then 22 points in the paint for 36 total in the half on 69.5% shooting on the inside.
As mentioned, Miami hit some tough shots late down the stretch, mostly from the inside. But there were still some issues in the Kings’ defense, particularly in the third quarter.
Sacramento did have some nice moments defensively. Huerter played really nicely on that end, flaunting some savvy hands, and the team had a few terrific stops. But they have got to figure out a way to stop letting their opponents get so many points inside, especially if their opponent shoots 32.4% from deep as the Heat did (Max Strus and Duncan Robinson were a combined 3 of 10 from three land).
The Heat hit some tough shots late in this game, but the paint points have been a dismal trend for this Kings defense.
Barnes closed the game, not Murray
Keegan Murray had another game where he was not executing his outside looks, going just 1 of 5 from beyond the arc. He scored only 7 points, but the rookie did grab 4 boards, dish out three assists, and post his third 2-block game of the season. Overall, he had some nice moments on the defensive end, made some fantastic cuts to the basket, and hit Sabonis on one particular pass. Again, he had the highest +/- on the team at 7.
But Harrison Barnes and Malik Monk were part of the closing lineup, not Murray.
All game Monk had looked aggressive and solid with both his step back three-point shot and driving to the rim. Plus he had his 7 assists in the absence of Fox; the former Laker had already been flaunting his improved facilitating ability this year, but even more so without his college teammate. So his presence made sense, especially with Miami’s smaller late-game lineup. Just to note, though, Monk did commit a Buddy-esque turnover by dribbling it off his foot in the final minutes.
Barnes played over nine minutes in the fourth mostly at the 4, and went 1 of 4 from the field for 2 points. He made an excellent cut for Sabonis and finished in traffic, but after that he missed his final three looks, including a pirouette into the abyss and a missed layup.
Of course, Barnes did grab some key rebounds on the defensive end in a quarter where Miami had 4 offensive boards, and Murray did have the ball stripped for a turnover early in the fourth quarter. On top of that, Barnes is in his eleventh year in the league. So maybe there isn’t much to read into here.
Still, it will be interesting going forward to see if Brown favors Barnes over Murray in those kinds of scenarios.
However, there’s little doubt Murray would have been there if he was shooting a little better from deep.
And to be fair to Barnes, he had some solid moments in the first half, including two three’s from the top as well as a heads up moment where, with the Heat’s zone, he drove to the paint and passed the ball out, which was then swung to Huerter, who had a little more space for a three.
A tip of the cap to Domas
Domantas Sabonis had his best game of the season, almost getting a triple-double with 22 points, 12 rebounds, and 8 assists.
He also was extremely aggressive inside with fine efficiency (7 of 13 in the paint, including 5 of 5 near the rim). Domas had a few games early on where he was missing some point blank shots, so to see him not only attacking the rim, but doing so with success was a good sign for the centerpiece of this offense.
What’s more, Sabois drained a wide open look from three that was bestowed to him, and he hit four clutch free throws late in the game.
But at the end of the day, after fouling out two games in a row, to see Sabonis commit just 2 personal fouls was a pleasant change. In fact, he played just short of 31 minutes before committing his first foul. His second foul wasn’t even on the defensive end.
So hats off to Domantas Sabonis for staying disciplined defensively while also not getting pushed around nor being hesitant on the offensive end.
It was Matthew Dellavedova’s first full game with the backup point guard duties and after coming in on Monday and playing marvelously, he had another game where he made some valuable contributions.
As expected, he provided some nice passing and some heads up plays. For example, when the offense got a little stagnant early in the second quarter against the zone, Delly got aggressive and attacked the inside, though he missed the floater. He also took a charge in the second period.
Not only does the traveled veteran serve as an excellent floor general and on-court teacher, he was excellent defensively. Dellavedova is just so solid on defensive rotations and at moving to help; he’s an excellent part of the five-man string. And he had a fantastic instictual steal in the fourth quarter, too.
This is exactly what anyone could ask for from him. As the third point guard, he has to stay ready and make a positive impact when someone misses time. And he’s doing just that.
Though, considering his age and how hard he plays, it’s probably good the Kings are so confident Fox will be back sooner than later. One probably wouldn’t want him playing for too long of a stretch.
The Kings will head north to Orlando, Florida for a Saturday game against the Magic.
This one will be a must-watch for any basketball fan since two of the best rookies will be facing off in this game.
Paolo Banchero so far is averaging 21.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game through 8 contests.
Overall, with Banchero, Franz Wagner, and others, Orlando is a very intriguing young team with a lot of upside in their talented youth, so this won’t be an easy one by any means, even if they are just 1-7.