Sacramento’s Offense is Putting the NBA on Notice at 120.0 Points Per Game

SAN ANTONIO, TX - JANUARY 15: Members of the Sacramento Kings huddle up during the game against the San Antonio Spurs on January 15, 2023 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

Venturing out to Texas, the Kings defeated the San Antonio Spurs by a score of 132-119, winning their fourth game in a row and putting up yet another performance that duly demonstrated why they are the highest scoring offense in the entire league.

On top of committing just 5 turnovers, it was Sacramento’s fifth straight game of 130 or more points scored and their sixth straight contest where they shot over 39% from beyond the arc (46.7% on 30 attempts). 

Continuing his impressive month, Harrison Barnes lead all scorers with 29 points on 8 of 11 from the field, including 4 of 6 from deep, and going 9 for 11 from the free throw line. Domantas Sabonis had his twentieth double-double in a row with 18 points, 18 rebounds, and 8 assists. Helping seal the victory, De’Aaron Fox finished with 23 points. Davion Mitchell went 7 of 8 from the field and 4 of 5 from three for 19 points off the bench while both Keegan Murray and Trey Lyles added 12 each.

And while their defense struggled to stop the Spurs in the first half, the Kings worked to force their opponent’s field goal percentage back down to earth and allow just 22 paint points in the second half. Jakob Poeltl went 7 for 7 in the first half with 5 free throw attempts, but subsequently went just 3 of 5 with 1 trip to the line in the second.

The Spurs had three players score 20 or more. Leading his team, Poeltl had 23 points and 7 boards, converting 10 of 11 from the field. Keldon Johnson scored 20 with 7 rebounds while Josh Richardson hit 4 of 6 from three for 21 off the bench. Tre Jones had 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists.

It was a tremendous offensive performance as the Kings got their points per game average up to 120.0 on the season, which sits comfortably atop the league (and would be the eighth highest of any team since the three-point line was implemented if the season were to end today). 

With that, they also had a decent defensive performance in that it got better as the game went on, though as coach Mike Brown noted after the game, they’ll have to do a better job of defending for forty-eight minutes rather than twenty-four.

Game summary

The differential in field goal percentage was stark as Sacramento began 3 of 10 compared to San Antonio’s 6 of 10 start. The Kings had missed some good looks, but Harrison Barnes sort of got the gears turning for a team off to a slow start, hitting a three and earning a three-point play to get the scoring going. The three’s fell for a bit before they didn’t, but the Kings did a good job of getting to the free throw line (8 to the Spurs’ 2 trips). While the offense came along, the defense still needed some tuning up as Sac lead 33-32 after one, allowing 22 in the paint.

Sacramento’s offense kept chugging, but the defense did not appear to be getting any better. The Spurs were dumping points in the paint like rain in Northern California over the last couple of weeks, accruing 44 by halftime. Plus, Popovich’s team shot 63.6% in the first half with 17 turnovers. But as good as San Antonio is offensively inside, they struggle defending the paint and defending in general. With the offense free flowing from both ends, the Kings trailed 63-64.

In the third, the Spurs were still getting inside a fair bit and were converting put backs, but the Kings were doing better defensively. San Antonio’s shooting percentage began to come back to earth as they scored just 14 in the paint and managed to post only three assists in the period. And off of that, Sacramento began forging a double-digit lead, going on a solid run as the third began to wind down. Heading into the fourth, the Kings lead 102-90.

The Spurs began the fourth quarter with energy, getting offensive rebounds, hustling, and pushing the ball. Worse, they were all of a sudden on fire from three. But De’Aaron Fox helped his team stay on track. Sacramento went on an 11-5 run to stretch the lead back out, closing the game out to “Light the Beam” chants and eclipsing the 130-point mark for the fifth consecutive contest. While San Antonio hit 6 of 12 from three in the quarter, it was noticeable that they were limited to 8 paint points and 22 in the entirety of the second half.

Harrison Barnes takes Sacramento’s offense up a notch

Again, over the last five games, the Kings have averaged 135.6 points per game. It’s no coincidence that over that same span, Harrison Barnes is averaging 24 points per game. In fact, Barnes has lead the team in scoring in three of those five games, and that was the case Sunday night.

Obviously, the hot three-point shooting from seemingly everybody on the team has played a huge deal into this recent tear, but Barnes is entering a full stride in terms of all facets of his offensive production, which stacks up high atop his foundation of a seasoned and poised presence.

Since the cold and very wet month of January began, Barnes has only caught fire, playing with scolding vigor.

Barnes has not scored less than 16 points through 8 games this month, nor has he failed to sink at least 2 three-pointers in that time; really, he’s shooting 50% from deep. 

Moreover, in games where he scored less than 20, such as the game in Utah and the one against the Lakers, Barnes was guarding each of those teams’ best players (i.e. Lauri Markkanen and LeBron James). 

And as the case was on Sunday night, Barnes has a way of setting the offense onto a positive course when all else is failing to. De’Aaron Fox has an awesome ability to close things out as games trickle down to the end, but HB is capable of grabbing the offense for a few possessions and shaking it clean like an etch-a-sketch, allowing a recalibration of sorts.

The Kings did not look quite like themselves to start the game. Offensively, things picked up after Barnes sunk a three, which was followed by a Kevin Huerter three. Soon after, Barnes earned and converted a three-point play opportunity. Gregg Popovich ended up calling a timeout in the succeeding moments, and best of all, Barnes—by seeking to get inside and get to the line, and by hitting open three’s—carried out a necessary reset that allowed for the offensive showcase that ensued for this team.

Of course, Barnes is not the leading offensive force in either scoring or playmaking, but he is a considerable factor in many categories that include scoring. When he’s putting up points—and, better yet, hitting his three’s—Sacramento’s offense is able to climb as high as it has of late.

Fox’s flare

De’Aaron turned up the heat as he so often does in the fourth quarter where he scored 11 points. 

The Spurs began the final period with a burst of energy that reigned the momentum into a favorable position for them. Out of a Mike Brown timeout, Fox scored the next three field goals for Sacramento. First, a three, which was followed by a step back jumper inside. The third came with added significance. 

Fox had the ball jarred loose along the sideline, falling on back on his bottom out of bounds with his hands on the ball for a turnover. Standing there, ready to check in, was Jeremy Sochan. 

As an aside, other than Indiana’s Bennedict Mathurin, whose confidence is frankly champion-esque, Jeremy Sochan might be the second most self-assured rookie in the league. With that in mind, and knowing what followed, it seemed as though some words were exchanged between the two competitors as possession went the other way. On the broadcast, it appeared as though Fox was barking at the refs, but it became clear that it was in fact Sochan, who checked in. 

Fox was called for a defense foul, only boosting the teeming spirit within him. After Keldon Johnson missed a three, Sabonis kicked the ball up to Fox who was more than prepared to let off a little steam. The point guard flashed from one end to the other like a strike of lightning, finishing at the rim with an incredible dunk thrown down with complete disregard for his defender. And that defender, who tried to get attached to the speedy guard at half court and who ran with him down to the cup, was Jeremy Sochan.

Standing beneath the basket for a split second, Fox sent a momentary yet stern stare Sochan’s way. Sometimes a natural order takes hold, and the veteran star—and potential all-star—taught the rookie a little something about the NBA.

On top of setting in motion the deal-sealing fourth quarter performance for the Kings, De’Aaron Fox reminded a few people of why he is not in any way like them.

Davion’s 19 point-performance

When you think about it, it’s no wonder the Kings had another surplus scoring night knowing that Davion Mitchell scored 19 points on 4 of 5 shooting from three-point range. But with the though comes the reminder of the ultimate fantasy: that a defensive stalwart like Mitchell—who won the DPOG honors on Sunday—could pad his game with a little more offensive production.

For roughly the last two weeks, it’s felt like Mitchell has been more aggressive offensively. Sometimes he’ll be aggressive for a minute or two, maybe in his first few minutes when Fox goes to the bench for the first time, but a continuation of that is not always frequent. And as a whole, he just doesn’t get off a ton of shots.

Sunday felt like a night that spun reels of what could be a more complete impact from the second-year man. And what’s more, he scored 14 of his 19 in the second half.

Now, of course, this stuff as been said before. Think of Charlotte on Halloween when Fox went down; Mitchell scored 23 on 11 field goal attempts, but starting the next game, he scored just 9 on 9 attempts. 

But the gradual process of establishing a consistent impact on both sides of the ball takes time. Mitchell’s just one of the few exceptions where he has a foundation on the defensive side and is working to acquire the same presence on the other end. He does it at times, like young players play good defense at times; it should come along.

And given the defensive impact, if his offense can force him onto the floor more, it keeps the team defense higher altogether while never skipping an offensive beat. Mike Brown noted the need to find the right combinations that allow for offense and, most of all, stops: Mitchell could embody that combination.

If nothing else, at least this was a sign that in moments where Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk combine for 33.3% shooting, Mitchell can step up and provide an adequate scoring load to fill in the empty areas.

At the end of the day, it was a great game for Davion Mitchell and his offense should come around as his aggression on that end continues to rise.

Going forward

With much to marvel at over these last five games of 130-points or more, the Kings will have a chance to make it six down in Los Angeles against the Lakers on Wednesday.

Though, Mike Brown would probably prefer a defensive clinic rather than an offensive barrage.

Playing this Lakers team a little over a week ago, Sacramento began their 130-plus streak, but they did so with some terrible defense, losing that game 134-136.

Since beating Sacramento, the Lakers have since lost three straight. After a loss to Philadelphia on Sunday, they’ll gear up for a game against Houston before having a day off ahead of the Kings’ visit.

Meanwhile, the Kings will have a couple of days off from gameplay prior to playing in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

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Dan Smith
Dan Smith
4 months ago

Hopefully having 2 days rest again won’t be a bad omen against LA, haha. Good to see Harrison showing out, and congrats to big Domas for winning POTW!