Suns and Kings Exchange Punches, But Devin Booker’s 44 points Delivers Sac’s Third Straight Loss

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 28: Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns is guarded by Domantas Sabonis #10 of the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on November 28, 2022 in Sacramento, California. 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 Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

In a hard-fought contest, the Kings came up short on their home floor to Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns, 117-122.

The Kings got another sensational game from Malik Monk off the bench as his sudden impact produced 30 points and 8 assists. Domantas Sabonis had a near triple-double with 17 points, 9 rebounds, and 10 assists. And Kevin Huerter, in spite of another three-less game, managed to score 18 points.

However, Booker proved too much in this one, hitting 60.7% of his looks from the field despite some solid efforts from Kings defenders. Phoenix’s star finished with 44 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 6 steals. Deandre Ayton threw on a 15-point, 12-rebound night and Damion Lee hit a couple important three’s in the fourth quarter, scoring 15 off the bench.

There was not a whole lot of outside shooting in this one, so when the Suns were beating the Kings up on the offensive glass and in second chance points, it looked like it could tip the balance. Sacramento made some adjustments after giving up 8 offensive boards and 11 second chance points, yet in spite of that, their uncharacteristic struggle to pull in defensive rebounds secured their demise in the end.

Early in the first quarter, the Kings were attacking the inside as Huerter went 4 for his first 4. As the pace increased, which is advantageous for Sacramento, the Suns were trading punches. The bench unit provided their usual dose of energy, led by Malik Monk as well as KZ Okpala, who was getting minutes for Trey Lyles, who was out with an illness. But led by Booker’s 10 first period points, the Suns went on a 14-2 run to close out the last two and a half minutes, leading by 5 points.

Sacramento came into the second quarter with more of that same energy, tying the contest up early off some Phoenix mistakes. For the remainder of the period, however, both teams continued to exchange shots as each team seemed to have an answer for anything already dialed up. With both teams tied at 40 paint points, the Kings led just 64-63 at the half.

Out of the break, Booker and the Suns went on a 13-2 run to carve out a bit of a lead. Sacramento answered with an 11-2 run before Phoenix conjured up a 9-0 run with the 10-point lead. With Monk back in, Sac went on another 11-2 run, but their opponent responded with a 14-7 stretch to end the third, holding the less vibrant Kings to 20 points in the quarter and leading 91-84.

The Kings opened the final period with a lot of the energy they had earlier and cut the deficit to just 2 points with the help of a couple big three-pointers. The Suns stretched it back out a little more, but Sacramento kept their foot on the gas to go on a separate 10-0 run. With the help of some good looks from three for Damion Lee, Phoenix regained the lead on a 9-0 run. They eventually created a 10-point cushion.

In the final couple of minutes, the Kings trailed by those 10 points. Monk hit a three, Sac had a stop fall in their lap, Monk got to the line and hit a couple free throws, then Huerter ended up with a steal and score on some full-court pressure, and like that, the Kings were down 3 with 35 seconds remaining. Mike Brown’s team played some excellent defense, but they could not secure the stop as Phoenix came down with the offensive board, triggering the futile foul game, and ultimately handing the Suns the win.

Close but no cigar

This one was like a boxing match with each fighter trading blows back and forth for a good deal of it. Even as Phoenix had a little more space at times in the second half, the matchup was close and seemed bound to come down to the wire, to go the full twelve rounds. Thus it seemed the Kings could have the chance to pull out a victory here.

Sacramento had been making a trend of winning games late. That is, winning the final possessions, coming up with more stops than their opponents in the final chunk of time.

But in this one, when it mattered most, the Kings were so close to having a chance to win it before they came up short on the final execution.

It was improbable that it even arose, but Sacramento managed to come up with a massive steal on their full-court pressure, which allowed them to get within three with under a minute to play. 

The clock had 35 ticks remaining and the Kings played some excellent defense. Huerter held off at first, but eventually came up top to trap the ball handler. As the Suns moved the ball around, Mike Brown’s guys hung with the play until Mikal Bridges got a decent look in the corner with the shot clock expiring. Bridges missed, awarding the team defense, but Torrey Craig came down with the offensive rebound. 

The Kings had done a good job of limiting their opponent on the offensive glass in the second half; in fact, coming into this one, they allowed the least offensive rebounds to their opponent. Yet in a neck and neck game with a division rival and championship contender, they flubbed on their strength and lost the game.

A loss is never good; in sports, a loss is a failure when taking into account that it’s a win that is the objective. As much as that is the truth, this year’s Kings team is full of silver linings. So after this one, the feeling lingers that some valuable lessons will be taken away from this one. 

Take solace in the microcosm of Terence Davis. After failing to step up in help to prevent an easy layup in the second period, Mike Brown called timeout and walked Davis out to the paint to demonstrate what he should have done. A few minutes later, in a very similar scenario, Davis stepped into position and took a charge to the delight of his head coach.

Keep an eye on this team to see if they can respond to losing three straight.

Monk has all the answers

Watching Malik Monk this year has been a treat. Off the bench, he seems to always dial up just the right thing similar to how jazz pianist Thelonious Monk could hit just about any key when in the flow of his improvisations. 

The beauty of Thelonious Monk’s music was that nothing was predictable; when live, literally anything can come at you, no matter how well you think you know the tune, and, most likely, whatever comes is the thing you’d least expect. In a similar fashion, Malik Monk provides that same complex versatility with his sudden impact off the bench.

Monday night against the Suns was perhaps the best example thus far this season.

First of all, everyone knows Monk can score. Of course, he has a jump shot as he hit a couple from deep on five attempts as well as a smooth fadeaway mid-range

Moreover, he continued being that aggressive force that gets to the rim the way he just hits the throttle; it generates so much, either for himself or his teammates. In terms of himself, he had at least three finishes that were simply marvelous both in execution and spirit, plus he got to the line at a critical time late in the game while continuing his ability to race to the other end in transition

With 8 assists, he continued being an excellent facilitator for his teammates as well. On one of his drives, he flipped the ball up for a Chimezie Metu alley-oop. He also used Sabonis in the two-man game, finding the big man for a slam. On another occasion, with three Suns defenders zeroing in on Monk and Domas, Davion Mitchell cuts to the rim and is met along the way by a pass from Monk.

Adding to his dynamic effect, Monk took it to the defensive end, too. He played a part in some team stops, but he was also the same disruptive defender that he has been, using his hands in one instance to jar the ball loose from behind as Bridges tried to drive towards the basket.

“I’ve always been like this, I just never got a chance,” Monk said postgame after being asked about his play this season. “And I thank Mike (Brown) for giving me a chance to go out there and show everybody what I can do, so I’m gonna continue to do it.”

Overall, Malik Monk has been an all-encompassing weapon for Mike Brown off the bench, putting his name in the Sixth Man of the Year discussion for what should be the whole year.

Fox’s down game and his last three

One of the noticeable things about this game was how little De’Aaron Fox made his presence known. He did play about 3 minutes less than he averages, but his 4 of 12 from the field for 17 points stands out for being mighty slight relative to what the point guard usually offers. And in such a close battle, one would think he’d have taken over, especially when Phoenix’s star was doing so.

There were times where he got to his spots, but he finished going just 2 of 7 from the area within the three-point line, but outside the restricted area.

Asked about what may have contributed to this kind of night, Fox shook off the idea that it was anything in particular, saying it was “just a bad game.”

It happened to be his third game in a row where he did not exceed 20 points.

Fox is averaging 25.1 points per game on 53.0% shooting with 4.9 rebounds and 6.1 assists. In these previous three games, he’s averaging 16.3 points on 34.7% from the field with 4.6 rebounds and 4.0 assists.

He did impact the game defensively, remaining nicely engaged on that end and coming up with a steal and three blocks. However, his offensive hiccup over these last three games are notable because the Kings have lost all three, pivoting off their seven-game win streak and into a losing streak.

“I know he’s probably looking at this game tonight knowing he could have played better — I know he could have played better — and we’re gonna continue to push him in that direction,” coach Mike Brown said after the game when asked about Fox’s last three.

Expect Fox to get it back on track sooner than later. His team needs him to.

Huerter found ways to make an impact

He really is the third best player on this team.

After going 0 for 6 in Boston on Friday night, Kevin Huerter again failed to convert a three-point shot.

Despite that, he managed to score 18 points and remain an effective member of the offense.

Knowing the three wasn’t falling, Huerter hit 7 of his 8 made field goals in the paint, often utilizing the presence of Sabonis to his advantage.

He began the game 4 of his first 4, including two makes off the Huerter-Sabonis two-man game, once taking it to the rim himself and the other on a give-and-go cut to the rim.

In the second half, he leaned into the same offensive strategy, coming off screens to get downhill to the rim, making tough finishes, and just using movement to get to an open spot.

And he even impacted the game on the other end, which is something he’s made positive strides in throughout this season so far.

It was Huerter who came up with the steal in full-court pressure late in the game that served up a real opportunity for his team to win the game. Likewise, he intercepted a pass from the weak side and displayed some effective active hands to get two more steals on the night.

Obviously, if Huerter hits his three’s in this game, perhaps the Kings win, but they don’t come as close as they did if Huerter’s impact was solely made from beyond the arc.

Kevin Huerter continues to ascend as a potential two-way talent.

Peek-a-boo Barnes

Just when one thinks Harrison Barnes is trending in one direction, he does something unexpected. 

Earlier this year, when it was reasonable to think a lesser load would allow him to flourish, Barnes looked underwhelming. Then he got it together, brushing off many of the complaints that surrounded him. But now it’s becoming apparent that the veteran forward is, in fact, still prone to disappearing.

That’s what he did against the Suns.

In 28 minutes, Barnes scored 6 points with 2 rebounds, and 2 assists. To his credit, he led all players in free throw attempts, hitting 4 of 5, and he did have a couple of steals. Even still, he was pretty much a non-factor.

After a 27-point performance against the Pistons and the succeeding 26-point night in Memphis, Barnes had an 8-point night in Atlanta with 7 rebounds and no attempts from the free throw line. He played better in Boston, scoring 12 points, but back at home, he had this game against the Suns.

At this point, this is more of an observation than anything else. He looked aggressive at various points, but there were plenty of stretches where his presence on the floor felt nonexistent. Granted, he did guard Booker a fair amount.

There’s no mistake Barnes has done this before. It happens. But again, the smaller overall load and/or responsibility was thought to be something that would allow him to up the intensity when needed.

Similar to the note on Fox, in such a close game, one would think one of these longest tenured Kings would step it up a little. 

So-so for Keegan Murray

It’s not the end of the world, but Keegan Murray has hit a tough stretch in his rookie season, and they stretch back to the Charlotte game when he and his family faced a personal tragedy.

In the twelve games following that visit to Charlotte, Murray is averaging 7.2 points on 32.6% shooting from the field and 26.4% from beyond the arc. 

This was only his fourth double-digit scoring game in that span, and they all came at home.

It was encouraging to seem him score his 11 points on 5 of 11 shooting from the floor–including hitting his lone attempt from three–but more so when thinking about some of his more aggressive moments. He continued having some rude realities of the NBA thrown in his face, such as when he gets blocked, commits a silly turnover, or sets up for a shot that goes nowhere, but he seems to be sticking with it for the most part.

That isn’t to say he was great on Monday night, but it seemed like a step back in the right direction.

Perhaps he can take advantage of another home game tomorrow to continue climbing out of this slump.

Going forward

One of the most highly anticipated games of this early stage in the season is when Tyrese Haliburton and the Indiana Pacers visit on Wednesday night. Along with Domantas Sabonis’ former team will be former King Buddy Hield.

The trade between the two franchises back in February has been one of the most talked about deals in recent memory, and probably because both teams benefitted from it immensely even if nobody (who makes money off of talking about it) wants to admit it. 

The Kings are 10-9 and ranked 7th in the Western Conference, and the Pacers for that matter are 12-8 and are in 4th place among the East.

While Sac comes off this loss to the Suns, Indiana will be coming off a Monday night win in Los Angeles over the Lakers where they took it by one point after a great fourth quarter performance and a buzzer beater.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

3 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
trackback

[…] felt reminiscent of the loss to the Suns a week ago where Devin Booker put up 44 points, but Fox only managed only 11 points on 4 of 12 from […]

trackback

[…] [ November 29, 2022 ] Suns and Kings Exchange Punches, But Devin Booker’s 44 points Delive… […]

Dan Smith
Dan Smith
1 month ago

Fox, Huerter & HB gotta bring it tonight. We need more production from the starters…and hopefully Murray starts to snap out of his min funk. Let’s go Sacto!