In what looked like a close game filled with frustrating statistical truths, the Kings absolutely locked in during the last 4:50 of play in the fourth quarter to go on a 19-0 run and beat the Cavaliers on their home floor, 106-95, getting the road record back to 6-6.
Both teams were missing their top scorers as De’Aaron Fox and Donovan Mitchell sat out. Additionally, Terence Davis missed his third game with a back injury and Cleveland’s Kevin Love was also out.
Throughout most of this one, the Cavaliers limited Sacramento’s assist totals and won on the glass while the Kings got sloppy and shot just 62.5% from the free thrown line despite getting there 32 times. Because of that, it really felt like this game was going down to the wire.
Darius Garland was off to a good start with 13 first half points, but was held to 19 on the night with 2 rebounds and 6 assists and had a horrible fourth quarter mostly due to Davion Mitchell. Chris LeVert lead all scorers with 22 points plus 6 boards and 6 assists, often getting inside the paint. Evan Mobley threw on 16 with 7 rebounds, and Cedi Osman put up 17 off the bench.
Only four Kings were in double figures Friday night in what a joyous Mike Brown called “a big time win.” Domantas Sabonis was tremendous with 18 points, 18 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 crucial late-game blocks. Leading the team in points, Harrison Barnes had 20 while Kevin Huerter (7 of 15 from the field) and Keegan Murray (6 of 8 from three-point range) both put up 18 points each.
In the first minute of the game, the Cavs got two buckets right at the rim, one on a pick-and-roll and the other in transition. After a Mike Brown timeout, the Kings generated some good looks from three, particularly from Harrison Barnes and Keegan Murray, the latter of whom started off 4 of 4 from deep. Sacramento was carving out a lead even as Cleveland got to the rim a few times (5 of 9 in the paint with 8 free throw attempts) and did a nice job of disrupting Sabonis down low, who went 1 of 6 in the quarter for 4 points. But the big man had 3 of the team’s 9 assists which helped the team shoot over 50% in the period and lead 31-20.
Sacramento’s second unit did a nice job to start the second, staying aggressive and attacking, getting to the line four times early. However, Cleveland began coming back a little with the help of Darius Garland, who began to get it going from beyond the arc. Domas continued his strong-willed aggression inside, going 2 of 4 with 4 free throw attempts and having 11 rebounds in the first half, but the team shot just 29% and under 75% from the charity stripe with no assists in the period as the Cavaliers closed the quarter on a 12-5 run to get the game tied at the half.
For a bit, the Kings got cooking on offense a little as the Cavs tried to collapse on Domantas Sabonis. But as the home team’s defense tightened again, they began to form a real lead in the game, going 9 of 12 in the paint during the period with the help of LeVert. Sacramento also continued missing free throws. Late in the period, however, the Kings put together a high-paced stretch that generated some three’s (6 of 11 total in the third) and got them on a 12-7 run to get the game within 1 point.
To start the fourth, the Kings forced some early turnovers and threw down some energizing alley-oops, but they also turned it over themselves. Both teams amassed high turnover numbers in the period, but Cleveland was getting to the line and converting far better from there. Both teams looked determined to win it down the stretch. However—just like that and much like the first time these two teams played—Sacramento turned it up to another level in the final five minutes, accumulating stops, hitting shots, and dominating to erupt for that 19-0 run to close the game.
A look at the 19-0 run to close the game on the road
Sacramento began a seven-game winning streak with their win against this Cavs team in November by winning in the final few possessions. In their second matchup, Sac did pretty much the same thing, but maybe with a bit more flare.
The Kings were off to a great start in the first 90 seconds of the final period, forcing 3 turnovers, including a charge drawn by Trey Lyles and some good hands from Chimezie Metu to get a steal. They also produced some electricity on the other end. Matthew Dellavedova hit Metu for an alley-oop, then the backup center found Monk for one. Sac was up 83-80.
But they couldn’t continue the productive rhythm as Metu sent Mobley to the line and then Lyles got hit with a mistake of an offensive foul call after the ref didn’t see he and the defender had bumped heads. Dellavedova picked up a steal on a nice defensive stance, but Malik Monk traveled on the other end. Evan Mobley then got a bucket at the rim against some less-than-physical defense from Metu, Osman hit a three after an empty Kings possession, and Monk committed his third turnover of the quarter right after Sabonis, Mitchell, and Huerter re-entered.
Both teams traded a miss each and then Mobley hit a layup with the and-one against a couple defenders, giving Cleveland a 90-83 lead with seven and a half to go. Things appeared to be headed downhill fast the way Mobley was playing and the way the Kings were taking care of the ball.
But then Sabonis cleared the paint and allowed Davion Mitchell to get in there for a beautiful reverse layup. After the great offensive possession, they brought the same execution to the other end as Huerter utilized great reaction time to snag an interception.
After a few Cleveland fouls and a missed three from Murray, Caris LeVert was found for a wide open three and Domas scored inside on the other end, missing the and-one attempt (more on the free throws in a moment). Sac then got a stop, turned it over, and allowed an Osman layup, which put them down 87-95 with 4:50 to play.
Knowing the pace had benefitted them at times, Huerter got off a quick three and nailed it, cutting the deficit down to 5 and forcing a J.B. Bickerstaff timeout. Little did the Cleveland head coach know, but the Kings had a victory in their sights.
What followed was a 19-0 run, a four and a half minute rout.
It started with a stop, a Barnes dunk on a great feed from Sabonis after three Cavs collapsed on him, and then another stop. Following a Huerter missed three, Domas came up with a great block on LeVert before magically feeding Davion in transition for a layup.
Cleveland got an offensive rebound, but did nothing with it. So Huerter hit another three after a transition pass from Mitchell, giving the Kings the lead, 97-95 with a little over two to go. The Cavs got another offensive board and did nothing with it yet again, but this time it was because Sabonis blocked Garland’s layup on the second chance opportunity.
Barnes got to the line with the Cavaliers over the limit, hitting just one, but his team came up with another stop on a Garland turnover. And again in transition, Mitchell found Murray for an open three-pointer, extending the lead to 6 points. Osman traveled (there were a lot of those whistles in this one), then Domas got an offensive board and tip-in, and that was pretty much it, save three more made free throws for Sacramento.
In the final period, Domas (4 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks), Huerter (6 points on a couple three’s), and Mitchell (5 points, 2 assists) really stood out in that late-game rally.
Also, it was really an excellent sign that this team—after not playing all that well in Milwaukee and being in the face of plenty more games on this road trip—was able to sharpen things in the final stretch to tie together a road victory against a very good home team.
“I don’t know if I should say this yet, but when you get a win like that on the road, to me, that’s a sign of a good team,” Mike Brown said postgame.
Friday’s free-throw struggles
If Sacramento ended up losing this one, there was a good chance their execution at the charity stripe would have been the primary reason why.
Cleveland only lead the free throw attempt battle after the first quarter. After that, the Kings did a good job of earning more trips to the line than their opponent, but they were not cashing in on those opportunities.
Despite a +10 in attempts from the line, Sac’s advantage was only +3 in points from there; take out the Kings’ 3 last-second free throws, and the points differential would have been even. It felt like Kings leads could have been bigger and that there should have been less Cavs leads.
Compared to Cleveland’s 17 of 22 (77.3%), Sacramento went 20 of 32 (62.5%).
Sabonis was shaking his head with the accustomed awkward smile he flashes when he either doesn’t get a foul call or makes a mistake. At the free throw line Friday night, there were plenty of that. The big man made only 8 of his 14 (57.1%) attempts on the game, generating the lone blemish on a phenomenal stat line (including defensive player of the game honors).
Barnes missed a couple early, and finished decently at 7 of 10 even though he’s hitting 84.1% of them this year. Metu missed a couple as well, going 2 of 4, and Mitchell hit his second of two in the final seconds of the game.
Luckily for the team, the 62.5% from the free throw line did not come back to bite them as it did in the second game of the season against the Clippers when the Kings shot below 60%.
As to why this team—and Domas in particular—shot so poorly is not clear. For a bit maybe one could assume they were a little tired and less locked in, but judging by the last four or five minutes of the game, that can’t be the case.
With four more to go on this trip, Kings fans are hoping this night was an outlier.
Keegan Murray began the game on fire from deep range, hitting all of his initial four attempts from that range.
On the night, he scored 18, hitting 6 of 8 from three, with a couple of rebounds.
In his last four games, the rookie has notably hit 15 of 27 (55.5%) of his looks from beyond the arc, a terrific sign as the month of December continues.
Plus, he took steps forward in some defensive discipline.
In spite of some nice defense, including a block from behind, Murray got three early fouls that kept him off the floor for much of the second quarter. He got one in the third, but still got his playing time on account of some trust from his head coach.
It paid off.
After accumulating that foul trouble earlier in the contest, in the fourth quarter—which he played all twelve minutes of—Murray didn’t foul once.
These positive performances keep getting strung together, and they feel more and more positive each time.
Malik Monk’s off game
There was a need from the start to push the pace and attack inside against this Cavs team to both score and facilitate.
With Fox out, it was important that a guy like Monk step it up. The Sixth Man of the Year candidate wasn’t awful, but he did not quite step up to the task.
Friday night Malik Monk scored 9 points on 4 of 8 from the field with no assists and 5 turnovers, 3 of which came in the fourth quarter. He also shot just 1 of 5 from three.
He provided some scoring late in the third quarter and into the fourth (7 points), but with the lack of facilitating and the turnovers he had a bit of an off game in the big picture.
To be fair, Cleveland made a point of collapsing on guys—not just Domas—in the paint. Monk took what they gave him for the most part and credit is given to the Cavs, who like the Bucks on Wednesday, did not allow Monk to be that impact facilitator.
Still, that’s three straight halves of basketball where Monk has been noticeably limited.
Dellavedova substantiated the depth again
With Fox out, it was also important for Matthew Dellavedova to step it up.
As the third point guard, that is his job, after all. And once again, he provided some excellent minutes in Friday’s win amid Fox’s absence.
In his homecoming in Cleveland, Delly hit his one attempt from the field—a three that he was absolutely feeling—and also posted 4 assists and 3 steals, providing his coach-like presence on both ends of the floors.
He had a gorgeous, aggressive, and decisive drive and dish to Metu for a dunk in the first quarter and later found Metu for that perfect alley-oop feed.
Defensively, he flashed some good hands for one of his steals, and on another, he showed some expert weak side defense where he came into help, but didn’t come too hard, allowing him the ability to backpedal and grab a one-handed interception.
Matthew Dellavedova continues to stay ready and show how valuable he is relative to his role.
Kevin Huerter left for the locker room midway through the third quarter after showing some discomfort in his right shoulder following a close out.
He returned in the fourth quarter, where he hit two big three-pointers.
Nobody asked Mike Brown postgame about it, but judging by the fact he returned and performed so well in the final period, he should be okay.
Keep an eye on it for Sunday’s game though.
The Kings now venture east for a Sunday showdown in New York against the 13-13 Knicks, who are 6-7 on their home floor.
New York has an average offense and a below-average defense. Other than the Detroit game, this one was circled as a winnable game. But anytime a game is classified as such, it can easily be made tougher with that kind of mindset.
Sacramento, however, could use a bit of a break, if you will, against this team amid this road trip, but given how competitive and talented the Kings are, Tom Thibodeau’s team should be bringing their best on Sunday.