Kings Lock-In Amid Playoff Atmosphere to Beat Kyrie & Doncic in OT

SACRAMENTO, CA - FEBRUARY 11: De'Aaron Fox #5 of the Sacramento Kings walks on to the court prior to the game against the Dallas Mavericks on February 11, 2023 at Golden 1 Center 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Kings and the Mavericks went toe to toe in an exciting matchup that featured 14 lead changes and brought a playoff atmosphere, and Sacramento had the last laugh, winning in overtime, 133-128.

After starting slow in the first of this back-to-back, the Kings brought the intensity from the start. In the end, they scored 74 in the paint to Dallas’ 46 inside, but unlike the previous game, the team was on the winning side of the second chance points (17-8) and they were +8 in turnovers and +15 in points off.

For Dallas, Kyrie Irving had 28 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists while Luka Doncic put up 27 points with 9 boards and 5 assists. Josh Green shot 5 of 8 from three with 23 points and Christian Wood threw up 15 off the bench.

For Sacramento, De’Aaron Fox was the ultimate phenom in this one, leading all scorers with 36 points with 5 assists. Domantas Sabonis had a double-double with 22 points and 14 rebounds, Kevin Huerter scored 15 with 8 boards, and Harrison added 13. Off the bench, Terence Davis scored 22 and Trey Lyles had 14 with the both of them recording 6 rebounds and 3 assists each.

After losing to the Mavericks in the first game, Sac brought their A-game even as their opponent got their second star back on the floor. And going down to the wire, the Kings hit big shots, but more importantly, got some stops.

Game summary (takeaways below)

The Kings looked far more plugged into the current moment than they were at the start of the previous game. The shot selection and aggression was pretty good as Sac took advantage on all 3 of Dallas’ early turnovers. But Luka Doncic was feeling it in his first game back, scoring 11 points with 3 rebounds and 3 assists in the first quarter. After Fox left the game, the Mavs went on a 9-4 run, but the Kings responded with a 15-4 run to get the lead with great pushes after some nice stops. At the end of the period, Sacramento lead 34-32.

Terence Davis—who started 8 of 10 from the field with great defense as well—and Trey Lyles helped the Kings get off to an 11-3 start in the second quarter. Strangely, however, when the second unit guys left the floor, the intensity dropped. However, after a timeout, the intensity was cranked up as Sacramento went up with a 24-12 run. Dallas managed to go on a 17-2 run in the final four minutes of the half as the three’s began falling (5 made in that span). The Mavs lead 64-62 after Kyrie Irving hit a buzzer-beating three following a nice push.

Doncic picked up where he left off and the Kings hung with them; it was a more frantic stretch of basketball to start. Sabonis was doing it all and Huerter hit a pair of three’s, but the Kings committed their first 5 turnovers. Then Sacramento went on a 9-0 run later in the period, but Dallas finished it well, generating an even quarter and a 2-point lead going into the fourth.

The intensity and neck-and-neck nature of the game continued with the pace and pressure high. It was mostly even through the first few minutes as Trey Lyles continued to play well and Christian Wood began going off for Dallas. Both teams traded punches. But since it was the fourth quarter: so the guy to watch was De’Aaron Fox, who went off for 12 points and some great defense. But nobody prevailed at the end of regulation and overtime was cued up.

In the OT period, Terence Davis answered a Josh Green three and played some nice D on Doncic. But Fox began a 7-0 run and did not let go of the forceful grip he had on the game. Sabonis may have fouled out and Kyrie Irving did go head to head with him, but the most clutch player in the league was too much. Even on defense he made this shot very difficult for Doncic. In the end, Sac’s point guard hit his free throws, and his team pulled out the win.

Hands down the consensus most clutch player in the NBA, an unmistakable all-star

Fox’s control of this game was so strong, you needed the most powerful of exorcisms to subdue his hold on it.

Going into the fourth quarter, Fox had just 10 points. In the fourth and in the overtime period combined, he scored 26 points.

All game, he provided nice defense as he did the night before, but the offense had various elements working for it as Sabonis was putting in work down low and on the boards, Kevin Huerter was finding ways to score, Harrison Barnes had an aggressive start, and Terence Davis was providing boosts off the bench. Offensively, Fox did not have to seize the reigns.

Well, not right away. The game seemed to bounce back and forth, and thus Fox needed to be the weight that tipped the balance. He knew that and acted upon it, just doing what he always does a la Mac Dre:

“Oh, you mad?

I ain’t mad at you

I thought you knew

I’m just doin’ what I do.”

The defensive intensity never let up; his pressure forced a big turnover that accentuated the noise of the arena as Fox and Kyrie went all out for the loose ball. And then he started getting what he wanted, going to the rim with creativity, creating shots, and using his speed.

As the fourth was coming to a close, one of the most illustrative moments of his prowess was on another steal where he read the play perfectly, leaving tread marks on the hardwood to intercept a Luka Doncic pass and take it to the other end for a dunk.

He took the last second shot that could have won the game, but he missed the three. As dumb as this sounds, even if it looked sort of forced and, more so, that Dallas knew who was taking that shot, it was clear Fox was feeling it. And by feeling it he was feeling dangerous; overtime was not a daunting task, just a prolonged path to the result Fox was willing into existence with his play.

In OT, he did all the same things: finding his spots, exploiting switches, forcing the issues, and getting to the free throw line. Best of all, though, was that other end of the floor where he again caused trouble for Docic, this time contesting his step back about as well as he could to force a miss that essentially sealed the win.

At the end of the day, especially with two pairs of all-stars going at it, it’s easy to fall into just trying to trade punches. But Fox constantly helped lead his team to get crucial stops such as that last one.

Man, that guy is a hell of a basketball player.

Davis and Lyles stepped up with Monk out

With Malik Monk out with a right ankle sprain, the bench needed to step up to the plate.

And they did, mainly because of Terence Davis and Trey Lyles.

Terence Davis was part of the closing lineup for a reason. He was tied for the second leading scorer and was an instant impact as he typically is, but this was more akin to the Brooklyn game on TNT or the January start against Houston where he scored 22. He was on another level.

Davis plays in such a way that these types of performances are always possible; he’s always ready to play, always giving it his all.

At risk of calling him something silly like a pressure creator, we’ll call Davis a pressure cooker. On both ends of the floor, TD comes in and unleashes his aggressive style, applying pressure to whoever’s in front of him. Offensively, he’s going to make you work. Defensively, you’re going to feel him.

That was the case in this game as Davis pushing the ball and applying on-ball pressure, looking for the best shot and playing passing lanes, hitting jumpers and stepping up to disrupt future Hall of Famers

As he is prone to do on a moment’s notice, he became one of the guys; he and Fox linked up on an alley-oop, and he teamed up with Domas to play some nice defense. Things were coming easy to him

And in overtime, he answered after a Josh Green three with one of his own, continued playing defense, and was involved on the offensive glass.

It’s worth noting that along with Harrison Barnes, Davis took on much of the responsibility guarding Doncic, saying postgame that he just tried to make him work because you can’t speed him up. It’s no wonder TD won the DPOG chain for the night.

Along with Terence Davis, Trey Lyles was great for this team, getting minutes as the small 5 after Sabonis fouled out late in the contest.

It was an all-around game for the Kings’ all-around guy off the bench. He hit a three, scored in the post, had a magnificent finish at the rim, found teammates, had a nice put back (3 total offensive boards), secured stops, and played solid defense.

Lyles has probably been the most consistent member of the bench when taking into account both ends of the floor. He’s also just filled in his role about as perfectly as anyone else.

Both Davis and Lyles were awesome, and both showed the depth of this team, especially with Monk out.

Playoff preview?

This game featured all the ingredients of playoff basketball minus the time of the year. There was the star power on both sides, the back-and-forth competition, and the deafening noise. A slight addition to that could very well be that these two teams played a mini series in this back-to-back, opening up for more necessary adjustments. 

The commentators, Mike Brown, and the players all agreed with the atmosphere and the feel.

It felt like a preview of what’s to come this spring. 

How tired are some of Sac’s legs?

In their last 9 games, which stretches back to the beginning of the seven-game road trip, the Kings have shot 32.7% from beyond the arc.

In that same stretch, Harrison Barnes is shooting 30.3% and Kevin Huerter is shooting 23.1%. 

Are they and some of the other guys on the team feeling some timed legs?

Barnes had an awesome month of January where he shot 49.5% from beyond the arc, allowing his overall percentage recover from his slow shooting start. Barnes has played in every game for the Kings, he’s the only one to do so, and he’s the oldest guy—not necessarily an old guy—in the nightly rotation.

Kevin Huerter’s start was diametrically opposed to Barnes’ as the newly acquired guard. Huerter began the year shooting 49.6% from deep in his first 17 games. But that hot start did not last forever. In fact, every month’s three-point percentage has been lower than the last. He’s got a different role in Sacramento one that required more movement from both to get those three’s and to find other ways to score when run off the line.

Both could use the rest and the same goes for the rest of the team. But those two in particular because their impact—not just from three but overall—is vital. Fans saw how much either guys’ hot-shooting does for this team.

Funnily enough, even without them nailing their three’s, it’s still one of the best offense in the league. But some refreshment for some legs could help them immensely.

Luckily for the Kings, they have a few days before they play again, which will then usher in the all-star break.

Going forward

Well, there’s one more game before the much anticipated sanctuary of the prolonged all-star break.

The Kings will play in Phoenix on Tuesday night to take on Devin Booker and the Suns. Kevin Durant, who suffered an MCL sprain last month, is not going to play in the all-star game and thus won’t play Tuesday.

Nevertheless, the Suns have won four of their last five with Booker playing in the previous three after returning from injury.

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Dan Smith
Dan Smith
1 month ago

Agree, the Kings could have some tired legs. This stretch is great with 1 game in 11 days, Feb 12-23. I hope they captilize on it, and heal/rest up!