In a game that lacked flow and polish for Sacramento, the Kings fell to the Knicks on the road, 99-112.
Simply put, on both ends of the floor, New York prevented the Kings from ever finding a rhythm that they could sustain. Sacramento had just 20 assists, allowed 58 paint points, and found themselves down double digits practically the entire game. Plus, the Kings shot horribly from the free throw line (65.7%), sent their opponent to the line a fair deal, and were miserable from three-point range (25.6%).
Without De’Aaron Fox again for this one, Domantas Sabonis had yet another double-double with 20 points and 12 boards as the central figure for his team. Keegan Murray scored 18 with 7 rebounds, Kevin Huerter had 17 points and 6 assists, and Harrison Barnes put up 15.
For the Knicks, Julius Randle scored 27 before getting ejected in the second half, and Jalen Brunson had 18 points prior to leaving the game with an injury. RJ Barrett was terrific, scoring 27 points with 9 rebounds and 6 assists. Additionally, Mitchell Robinson managed a 12 and 9 night despite foul trouble, and Immanuel Quickley scored 12 off the bench.
Sacramento had some early turnovers and allowed the majority of New York’s field goals to come in the paint, particularly at the rim. Davion Mitchell had two early fouls as well. But their defense tightened slightly while the offense got to the line. In the first period, though, Randle and Brunson combined for 7 of 14 from the field for 22 points as they and their team got to the line in their own right (10 for 10). While Sac looked dull offensively, piling up 6 turnovers, New York was rolling, ending the first quarter on a 17-5 run to go up 36-22.
The Knicks started the second with an and-one layup, getting to the line once again as the Kings offense started 0 of 4 from the field, continuing to put up a lot of three’s without a ton of success. Back out there, Sabonis had things running through him, continued assaulting the paint, and got to the free throw line (though, he went 5 of 9 in the first half). Barnes also worked to get to the line (6 of 7), but Sacramento’s 11 turnovers (-3) inhibited their ability to ever really cut into the lead as they trailed 50-66 at the hands of Randle’s 27 points in the half and his team’s 32 paint points.
Starting the second half, the Kings defense began getting stops that generated offensive opportunities rather than jacking up three’s in the half court. However, as the Kings began trapping and doubling, their opponent was generating some open looks and alley-oop’s as the stops eluded Sacramento’s defense. Without defensive answers, Julius Randle did the Kings a favor, getting two technical fouls in a few seconds after disagreeing with a non-call, but the lead hardly changed as New York was up 95-80 at the end of three.
The inability to consistently accumulate stops continued for the Kings. The Knicks’ lead remained fairly constant, but Brunson went down with an ankle injury and left the game. Despite Sacramento’s effort, New York’s scoring was never thwarted because of second chance opportunities and their defense continued to prevent any flow for Sac’s offense on the other end of the floor, hanging on to their lead to win.
“Give the Knicks a lot of credit, they did what they were supposed to do to win the game,” coach Mike Brown said postgame. “We didn’t play well, but they had something to do with it.”
No answers on either end
As coach Brown noted, credit the Knicks with executing a great game on Sunday as they withheld any opportunity for their opponent to get it going for any considerable stretch of time.
Defensively, Sacramento did not look great. Sometimes they would adjust in one aspect, but New York would exploit another.
Julius Randle simply got off to a great start. He benefitted from a few kind whistles, including elbowing Harrison Barnes in the face, but he was steaming. Some of that was bound to happen, regardless of who was guarding him, but he did earn 6 of his team’s 10 first quarter free throw attempts which were administered by Sacramento’s early propensity to foul.
For Jalen Brunson, he got 6 of his 8 first quarter points by neutralizing Sac’s paint defense. A couple of his made field goals came from his ability to dribble into the high paint area for an easy jumper. On the first one, he got into the perfect spot in between Sabonis and his man, Malik Monk. On the second such shot, Monk was blocked by a screen, and Domas was too late getting out to that particular spot near the elbow after the point guard. His other two points came from the free throw line, which were earned by getting Davion Mitchell caught in the air near the rim.
After a better stretch of play in the first half of the second quarter, potential stops were spoiled by the occasional foul or opponent offensive rebound. From there, the Knicks continued invading the paint as Sacramento’s backline help was often stretched thin; RJ Barrett from the perimeter downhill to the rim was no match for Sabonis, and Julius Randle was likewise too much for Barnes in isolation. New York had only 2 free throw attempts, but they continued to eat well in the paint.
The third quarter started, like the second, with some better play, but the main takeaway from the defense was the fact Sacramento’s trap or double-team was seemingly beat every single time they whipped it out and typically, as Mike Brown noted postgame, because the weak side help was poor.
It started to become a pattern when Sabonis came up to trap Barrett with Murray, and the ball was lobbed to Mitchell Robinson. Soon after, Barrett found an easy floater in the middle of the paint due to the double and then, after that, Robinson got another alley-oop, which capped off the kind of 6-0 Knicks run that helped preserve a double digit lead.
The double gave up an open dunk and the Kings switched to a zone, which Brunson quickly beat that with an 18-footer. The zone did produce a few stops, but New York closed the quarter getting a paint score from Quickley and having Barrett get off a floater that Isaiah Hartenstein tipped in.
The defense was a little better in the fourth, albeit beat at times, but the disjointed flow throughout the game never allowed the kind of offensive execution needed to comeback.
Part of the reason for that was that with the defensive issues the Kings offense struggled to hold a rhythm. Sure, they struggled and shot too many three’s, but pace and flow stayed choppy largely due to the defensive struggles. The Knicks just had no trouble getting set and disrupting the Kings, stifling their ball movement.
No matter how one chooses to slice it, it was an ugly game on both ends.
Charity stripe troubles
As has been the case all season, when the Kings got inside, it generated some good things.
The Knicks did a pretty good job of limiting Sacramento inside as they mustered only 46 paint points and 20 total assists.
Still, the Kings stuck with it, getting to the line as well.
But for the second consecutive game, the team struggled from the free throw line, converting 23 of 35 (65.7%) of their opportunities. Meanwhile, the Knicks made 24 of their 27 (88.9%) free throw attempts, gaining an edge in points from their despite 8 less attempts.
Sabonis forced his opposing bigs into foul trouble, but he made just 6 out of 11 free throws. Similarly, Barnes also did an admirable job of getting to the line, but he hit just 6 of 9. And Kevin Huerter–who’s struggled at the stripe all year, shooting just 70.4%–went 3 of 6 at the line.
On Friday night in Cleveland, the Kings finished 20 of 32 (62.5%) from the stripe with Sabonis and Barnes struggling.
Over his last two games, Domas is 14 of 25 (56.0%). After the second game against the Clippers when Sabonis and the Kings lost a game due to their inability to convert free throws, the big man shot 78.9% from the line in his next 21 games. He’s still above his career average on the year, but two straight bad free throw nights on the road is not a great sign.
Looking at Barnes, in the month of December, he’s actually shooting just 66.7% from the free throw line despite earning 6 attempts per contest through those five games. In his last trip to the line on Sunday, he came up empty after starting 6 of 7.
If the Kings were able to make a higher percentage of these free opportunities, the game could have gone a lot differently. After all, they lost by 13 points and left 12 at the free throw line.
Poor bench night again
The Kings bench averages over 40 points a night, yet they could only put up 22 against the Knicks.
In the first three of this road trip, the bench is averaging 24 points per game.
The leader of the bench was not his impactful self. Malik Monk was better than his previous game, but he had 12 points on 3 of 15 from the field with 3 turnovers and 1 assist.
The last time Monk was playing in that Sixth Man of the Year form was the first half in Milwaukee. Since then, he’s lacked something. Over his last three games, he’s just 3 of 20 from beyond the arc, but more importantly he’s dished out just 2 assists.
Monk is averaging 4.0 assists per game on the year, and it was his ability to both score and facilitate that lit a fuse for the rest of the bench and also generated the sort of firepower necessary to keep the competition high when Sabonis is resting. More than anything, Sabonis had to play 39 minutes because of that absence.
Just a week earlier, Monk was telling reporters that his assist numbers were generating easy looks at the rim because defenders expect him to pass, but now neither are really coming his way as the Bucks, Cavs, and Knicks all managed to limit his dynamic skillset.
In his first game back after missing the previous three games with a back injury, Terence Davis went 0 of 3 from the three-point range. He brought his usual aggression, but did not make much of an impact.
And Chimezie Metu had 0 field goal attempts with 2 rebounds in 9 minutes. Without the Kings turning defense into offense for rim runs and dunks for him, and without guys like Monk and TD drawing defenders in order to throw up a lob his way, Chimezie Metu was not much of a factor.
KZ Okpala did play 4 minutes, putting only a single assist on his stat line with no notable moments.
The lone guys worth commending off the bench Sunday were Matthew Dellavedova and Trey Lyles.
For one, Delly because he’s relied on as an on-floor leader that manages the game and sets a tone on defense when he is called on to play. He had only 2 points, but any points from him are a bonus and he did have 4 assists.
And second, Lyles because he was pretty good on both ends, in his nine minutes of play. He might be still working his back into the swing of things since an illness threw him off his solid play and usual load of minutes, but he might be getting back into the rotation.
Lyles went 3 of 6 from the field, including a made three, for 8 points with 3 rebounds, 2 of which came on the offensive glass. Both of his offensive rebounds resulted in put back scores with the second coming with an and-one free throw.
Defensively, Lyles looked back in form on a couple of occasions. One of them came as the low man when he defended a lob at the rim, forcing a turnover.
Still, it was a bad night for this group collectively. The bench has thrived on energy, which keeps the whole team afloat and/or rising while Sabonis rests. When that boost is absent, it’s clearly felt as it has been in these last three.
Murray’s left thumb
Keegan Murray was originally listed as questionable with left thumb soreness as Sunday’s game approached. He was cleared and ended up playing with it taped up
The former Hawkeye also continued his play of late here in December, scoring 18 points on 6 of 15 from the field and 3 of 8 from deep with 7 rebounds and some nice defense, including taking a charge.
In five games this month, he’s scoring 16.8 per game and shooting 55.6% from deep.
But as Kayte Christensen noted on the broadcast, the rookie was apparently nursing the thumb as if it were bothering him later in the game. He did finish 1 of 6 from the field in the fourth quarter, which included going 0 of 3 from beyond the arc.
Keep an eye out on the thumb.
At the halfway mark of this six-game road trip, things take a step up in the difficulty department as the Kings prepare for a Tuesday-Wednesday back-to-back, first in Philadelphia before heading to Toronto.
The 76ers have won three in a row and are 9-5 on their home floor. Their offense is ranked 14th in the league and their defense 4th, giving them the 8th best net rating.
Despite their 109.5 defensive rating, Philadelphia’s rating on that end over their last five games is 115.3.
Of course, Joel Embiid will be a tough matchup, though. He’s averaging 32.2 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game.
With a game against the Raptors north of the border slated for the following night, Sacramento will really want to try to steal this one in Philadelphia.
[…] it twice that the Knicks beat them on the offensive glass this season. In their first meeting, New York had 15 offensive rebounds. Amid an east coast road trip, the Kings were not as intent on […]
Disappointed with the result, but just seemed like they weren’t rested and didn’t have any energy, which is surprising because they did have a day off. And it was only game 3 of the trip but looked more like it was the 6th and final game. Didn’t seem like they had the legs to make and jumpers or shots at the foul line. The fatigue or lack of energy they were showing probably explains the lack of defensive effort also. Hope they buckle up and get ready to bring their A games for the Sixers, they will need it! Go Kings!