Led by a pair of phenomenal performances from their two stars, the Sacramento Kings got a 122-115 home victory over the Golden State Warriors less than a week after probably the worst moment for NBA officiating this season.
Domantas Sabonis scored 26 points with 8 assists, and as a static menace on the glass, he grabbed 22 rebounds, 6 of which were on the offensive side. De’Aaron Fox finished with 22 points, 4 rebounds, and 8 assists while continuing to prove he’s an all-star and, moreover, the closer for this team. Keegan Murray added 21 with 3 steals, and Kevin Huerter had 17 points.
Steph Curry and Andrew Wiggins combined for 55 points, and Klay Thompson saw 5 three’s go down, but Sacramento again came out ahead because it was them, not Golden State, that got the stops on the defensive end, closing the final four minutes or so on a 12-2 run as the Warriors scored on just one of their final seven possessions.
The Kings played a really rough first quarter, mostly because they missed many of their good looks and allowed 39 points to the opposition, 13 of which unsurprisingly came from Curry. But for the remaining three, the Kings played much better, executing with better success and holding the Warriors below 30 points in each period.
Whatever the adjustments were, they worked as Sacramento began flipping the table on rebounds, points in the paint, and three-point shooting.
In the second quarter, the Kings won in rebounding (15-12), points inside (16-12), outside shooting (4 of 9 from deep compared to Golden State’s 2 of 10), and free throws (8 of 11 compared to 3 of 4) after being bested in each of those categories in the first. Plus, the Warriors committed 8 turnovers. Sabonis had 6 rebounds and hit a three, and Malik Monk came in attacking, ending up going 7 for 7 from the charity stripe while the defense looked better. And the Kings led by 2 at the half after trailing by 13 points.
In the first three or four minutes of the third, while the Kings committed two quick turnovers, Golden State came out of the half on a 16-8 run that started when Curry had a four-point play off a Murray foul. Then a couple of scores inside, another foul on a shooter, and some quick Klay Thompson 3’s—including one in transition—occurred, resulting in a timeout. Following that break, Sac finished the third on an 18-13 run to be up 98-91 going into the fourth.
The final period began with an Anthony Lamb transition three that Mike Brown felt Fox either should have stopped the dribbler or should have kept running and guarded the shooter. A quick timeout came from the head coach, and he talked rather firmly to his star point guard. Out of the timeout, the Kings went on a 9-7 run, which kept their lead at 6 with under nine to go.
But then Golden State came out with a 12-3 run of their own that started when Curry got far too much space on a three-point attempt coming off of screen action. A little later Lamb got a wide open cut when Harrison Barnes lost track of him, and then Thompson got a clean look when the Kings tried to trap Curry (it’d given up a lot of layups earlier, but not many three’s). And then Draymond got a layup to give his team a 3-point lead.
However, within just a few seconds, Fox was already down court scoring a layup, which initiated the 12-2 close to the game. The point guard then hit a second chance three followed by a step back mid-range, turning a 3-point deficit into a 4-point advantage in just over a minute of play before finally sealing the 122-115 victory.
It was another great win. Both teams made good adjustments in this game—for context, the Warriors committed 13 points and surrendered 13 points off of them in the first half before committing just 5 in the second with 5 points off them—but the Kings came out on top.
Fox: the killer and the closer
As evidenced by the fact that Mike Brown says he’s allowed to coach him, De’Aaron Fox wants to win. Even without that, it’s crystal clear.
It’s a combination of that desire to do it the right way and his basketball talent that makes him this team’s deadly closer. He was an integral part of closing out the Cavs on Wednesday and he absolutely took over the fourth quarter on Friday against the Lakers.
Last night, he kept it up, scoring half of his 22 points in the fourth quarter as well as 7 of the Kings’ 12-2 run to close out the game.
It goes without saying that Fox is the fastest player in the game. In achieving the goal of quick and early offense so as to take advantage of a defense not yet set, Fox is a not-so-secret weapon.
Before some defenders can even blink, before they can realize, Fox will often be barreling their way. It’s like watching a nature documentary with Fox all of a sudden in their face before they have time to process what it was that just burst out of the bushes, and then, like that, the predator has already sunk his teeth into you. It’s often over before you know it.
That’s what it looked like when Fox kicked off the 12-2 closing run. Draymond had just gotten an easy layup and Fox took it to the other end in a matter of a few seconds, running down the unsuspecting Lamb with mesmerizing lethality. There was no chance when a guy gets down hill that fast.
He then had a three and one of his exquisite step back jumpers, leading his team to a great victory against the reigning champions.
It wasn’t even just that, though. On the other end, Fox continues to play well from start to finish. But like any killer, he steps it up to close the deal.
Before that 12-2 run, Fox had shown some resolve early in the shot clock to close out on Curry in the corner, which resulted in his long wingspan getting some fingers on the ball for the block. That was moments before Draymond’s layup and Fox’s lighting score; it almost set up for that run. It was also minutes after he was called out by his coach for his failure to execute in transition defense.
Fox is not only a winner, he’s proving to be the closer.
The trap defense
Mike Brown used the trap defense on Sunday with some mixed results. When Curry would come off a screen, both his defender and the big would often come together to trap him.
At first it seemed to be sacrificing really easy opportunities at the rim to the Warriors. And maybe that’s better than an open three, which did not often arise as often from the trap, aside from a notable Klay Thompson three that came off a few extra passes.
But at the end of the day, guarding Curry and the Warriors is not a straightforward challenge, so one has to take what they can get. Especially when in the last game the Warriors seemed to switch Domas onto Curry to get some spacious attempts off (remember Steph dropped 47 last week).
There were a few moments where it worked fairly well. Such was the case in the fourth quarter when Curry attempted a really difficult shot off the trap, which sure it’s Steph Curry, but Thompson was wide open on the opposite wing. And he missed another three-pointer while avoiding the trap.
That’s to say, for the most part, maybe it did not stop them—it didn’t—but it played a part in slowing them down in that it didn’t really let Curry beat them. Curry had just come back to beat the Cavs in Golden State’s last game.
As maybe one can gather, it was not the trap that was stopping the opponent so much as them missing some looks. When Curry would pass it, it’d often result in good shots, whether inside or out. But in the fourth, the trap defense the Kings used generated three other open looks from three in the final two and a half minutes and Wiggins, Thompson, and Lamb each missed one of those juicy opportunities.
In the big picture, though, it was a factor in Sacramento’s win, especially late when it seemed the guys not named Curry couldn’t make the Kings pay on some good looks.
You have to get the ball out of Curry’s hands—as players noted postgame—and while it wasn’t pretty, the trap was useful.
A nice night for the kid
Keegan Murray’s father made it public a few days ago that the personal matters their family was facing was due to Murray’s grandmother suffering a stroke while in attendance for the Kings’ visit to Charlotte two weeks ago.
In the six games before Sunday, which includes the game against the Hornets, Murray was averaging 7.3 points on 34.7% from the field and 30% from three.
On Sunday, he came out looking better plugged in, making an impact from the start with a team-high 9 points in the first quarter. In all he scored 21 points, including shooting 5 for 9 from deep, grabbing 4 rebounds, and posting 3 steals.
Early on it looked like maybe he was still not in the best headspace when he missed a beautiful three-point opportunity from the top and when Sabonis made a beautiful pass that he was unable to field.
Not long after he saw one go in, and he hit another two in that first quarter.
As encouraging as this was, the off the court matters are unlikely to have dissipated completely at this point. Note, he did have a nice game in there against the Cavs amid that six game stretch, which was the lone game at The Golden 1 Center, so he clearly has a comfort in his new home since his two productive performances since the off-court matter unfolded came in that building.
Home court advantage
After losing their first three home games, the Kings have now won their last three at The Golden 1 Center.
Golden State missed most of their final shot attempts, but some credit has to be given to the home crowd, which Domas noted added to the demoralization of the opponent.
There appeared to be a sizable pro-Warriors crowd in attendance (listen to the roar after this Thompson three and subsequent timeout), but Kings fans in attendance made a difference at several points down the stretch.
“Before the game, I asked one of our guys if it was a road game because I felt like they were cheering louder for the Warriors,” Keegan Murray said honestly after the game. “But at the end of the game you could see the Kings fans really turn up, especially going on the run, so it’s special for me to be here and it feels like home.”
The Kings have always had a fanbase ready to erupt, and with this team playing competitively and playing for each other, they have the chance to do so. Expect the home crowd to be a major factor going forward.
After finally getting that win against the defending champs—which felt so close through their three early-season battles—the Kings continue their ascent towards bandwagon royalty with their first nationally televised game of the year against the visiting Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night.
Really early on into the NBA season, the scheduling change moved Sacramento’s game to TNT, which as anyone who has watched this Kings team knew was a prudent business move. Mike Brown’s squad is on the league’s radar.
The Nets will be coming off their visit to Los Angeles, where they were beat by the Lakers after winning four of their previous five. The Eastern Conference team has fallen to 6-8, and there is still no update on a Kyrie Irving return, so it’s unlikely the point guard plays tomorrow.