Kings Can’t Come Up With Win in Atlanta Despite Opportunities, Snap Winning Streak

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 23: Kevin Huerter #9 of the Sacramento Kings hugs Trae Young #11 of the Atlanta Hawks at the conclusion of the Atlanta Hawks 115-106 victory over the Sacramento Kings at State Farm Arena on November 23, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

In the ever tough second of a road back-to-back, the Sacramento Kings could not come up with a win in Atlanta, losing 106-115.

They looked a little gassed and out of sorts, but there were some excellent stretches in the second half that gave the Kings a chance. Despite a few opportunities, they could not muster much. 

While the Kings did not shoot well and had a terrible defensive first half, ultimately, one can circle the turnovers as the main reason for this loss.

The Kings offense did not get off to the best of starts which set the table for Malik Monk to have an impactful night, scoring 27 points with 4 assists and 2 steals. Domantas Sabonis posted 15 points, 13 rebounds, and 7 assists while De’Aaron Fox—after a 1 of 6 first half—finished with 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists.

Atlanta’s Trae Young lead all scorers with 35 points while also adding in 4 assists. Other than him, the Hawks had four other guys in double figures. De’Andre Hunter hit some big buckets early and really late, Clint Capela posted an 11 and 14 night, and rookie AJ Griffin had 12 off the bench.

Sacramento got off to a rough start, finding themselves at just 3 of 9 from the field with 3 turnovers in the first five or six minutes of play, so Mike Brown called time and went to his bench early. Trey Lyles immediately made an impact with 8 points and an offensive board that generated a second chance score , and a tad later, Malik Monk came in to help as well with 7 first quarter points and an assist. Despite the nice bench effort, Atlanta shot 57.7% from the field and scored 35 in the period and found themselves up 9.

The Hawks continued their hot scoring in the first couple minutes of the second, getting out on an 11-5 run after three quick Kings turnovers. Coach Brown went deeper into his bench, calling on Matthew Dellavedova’s number to instill some on-floor stability. Monk continued his production, but Atlanta’s shooting kept flying above 50% while Sac struggled defensively. By the end of the half, the Kings allowed their opponent to score 72 while committing 8 turnovers with 11 points coming off of them and surrendering 10 second chance points.

Fox looked far better in the third quarter, getting to the rim. Plus, Kevin Huerter, Sabonis, and Monk were continuing their production. Better, they were actually get a few stops. Thus Sacramento slowly collapsed the separation on the scoreboard, cutting it to a 6 point lead around the five-minute mark, and finishing the quarter with the deficit at 9 points. The Kings did a nice job of holding Atlanta to 25 points in the period while surpassing them in paint points.

In the fourth, the Kings continued getting some scores and stops, but turnovers remained an issue and Sacramento couldn’t buy a three-pointer. They’d cut the lead to 7, but after the midway point of the quarter, but Atlanta hit a couple big three’s to lift the lead back up to double digits again. The Kings turnovers (6 in the quarter) and shooting struggles (30% from beyond the arc on the game) prevented them from being able to take control of this one despite the fact the Hawks gave them every opportunity to. Both teams scored just 18 each in the final period, and in the end, Sacramento lost, snapping the seven-game winning streak.

In spite of all the difficulty with this one being the second of a road back-to-back against a good team, the Kings really could have won this game. But 18 turnovers with 25 points allowed off of them—7 points off 6 in the fourth alone—was too much of a back-breaker.

End of the streak

The Sacramento Kings had won seven in a row, but that streak is now over as the city of Sacramento was left beam-less the night before Thanksgiving.

It was going to be tough, and plenty of fans probably did not expect the Kings to end this trip with a total of nine wins in a row. A loss on this tough trip was bound to occur.

But it must have stung that it was this one because they had a legitimate chance to win the game. Take away the turnovers, and Sacramento arguably played better for much of the second half. It could have been envisioned as a “hang with ’em” kind of loss, but it ended up being one you kind of want to kick yourself over.

Without a doubt, on the second of the back-to-back, the team looked a little off. It was a evident physically, but even more so with how sharp they were. In all, they simply weren’t that sharp, so maybe a day off—even if it’s a holiday on the road—can help them bounce back.

Second half adjustments and lack of adjustments

At half time, Atlanta had 34 paint points to Sacramento’s 26. However, by the end of the game, the Kings won the points in the paint battle 54-36 after dominating 28-2 in that second half.

Looking at the first half shot chart for the Hawks, there is a mosaic of green circles—indicating makes—within the paint area. In fact, Atlanta shot 28% in the second half after shooting well above 50% in the first.

The only reason the Kings made it a real game was because of these adjustments (look at their second half chart). 

Of course, out of the gate in the second half, Fox got a few inside scores after a quiet first two periods while others continued their offensive production. But that defense was sorely needed after allowing the opponent to have 72 points at halftime.

In the second half, Atlanta only scored 43 points as the Kings did a nice job making changes to their interior defense.

But Sacramento did not adjust their ball security, committing 10 second half turnovers with 14 points allowed off of them.

Late in the game, it was one thing that the Kings couldn’t hit a three. It was rough and contributed to a loss, but if you get a decent look, your defense has a chance to come back and get a stop. You eliminate that possibility flinging the ball all over the place because the opponent gets some easy opportunities.

The turnovers bailed out the Hawks, who did not play well in the second half.

Monk and Lyles off the bench

Sacramento did not get off to a good start, and Mike Brown went to Davion Mitchell and Trey Lyles earlier than usual. 

Lyles made an instant impact. After missing his first three-point attempt, he came up with an emphatic jam, an and-one layup, a terrific block in transition, and an offensive rebound that lead to a made three for himself.

He continued it throughout the game, making some nice passes, putting in some hard effort, and coming down with a few more offensive rebounds and points off of them.

Trey Lyles does not see the same load of minutes night to night, but he always seems ready. His 12 points and 7 rebounds (5 of which came on the offensive end) was absolutely vital in Sacramento’s effort to stay in this one from start to finish.

While Lyles has been awesome off the bench this year, another guy has made himself an early season Sixth Man of the Year candidate. That guy is Malik Monk, who lead his team in points off the bench Wednesday night.

Monk also made an instant impact, getting to the rim, turning defense into offense, hitting three’s (3 of 7 on the night), making some beautiful feeds to teammates, and being that non-stop, aggressive force.

It was just another great performance for Monk, who has shown how significant of an addition he was, especially when one sees that the bench typically does what he does.

Barnes did not get to the line once

The previous seven games were not just awesome for the Kings as a whole, they were particularly great for Harrison Barnes.

He looked pretty good in this one, too, scoring 8 points with 7 rebounds. Barnes was 4 of 8 from the field, missing his two three-point attempts, but the thing that sticks out is his 0 free throw attempts.

During the win streak, Barnes averaged over 6 free throw attempts per game. Particularly in the wins over San Antonio and Memphis, HB’s veteran presence of mind to be aggressive and end up at the line was monumental for the Kings.

He was still aggressive in this one, but not at the same volume, and obviously he never got a call.

This doesn’t at all mean everyone should go back to worrying about Barnes, but it raises two points of interest. One, it illuminates how vital his ability to draw fouls is for this team. And two, it begs the question of whether or not the 30 year-old was really feeling the back-to-back in his legs.

Murray’s struggles

Keegan Murray continues to struggle in the month of November where he’s averaging 8 points on 37% shooting from the field and 29.5% from three.

On Wednesday, he scored 4 points after going 0 of 5 on the night.

Hopefully the rookie is doing okay in terms of off-the-court family matters, but his slump continues.

Personal matters probably play a role, but when looking at the kid’s home-road splits, he definitely has more issue on the road. In 7 home games, Murray is averaging 15.9 points on 51.9% from the field and 42.2% from deep. And in 7 road games, he’s averaging 6.9 points on 31.1% from the floor and 24.3% from beyond the arc.

How much is this a rookie adjusting to the NBA travel life?

Going forward

The Kings have Thanksgiving off, but they move on to Boston tomorrow night for the third and final game of this brief yet difficult road stretch.

The Celtics are the team you hear about all the time in the same breath as the Kings because both teams are at the very top of offensive rankings.

This one needs little introduction; it sounds like it could shape out to be one of the more entertaining games of this still young season.

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Dan Smith
Dan Smith
5 days ago

Hoping at the 20 game mark, they’ll be at least 11-9, or possibly 12-8. That would be a good starting point to keep the season going in the right direction.