In a double overtime thriller, the Kings outlasted the Clippers 176-175 as Sacramento maintained their place in the third spot in the conference.
The offense ruled this one from the start as the two teams combined for the second-highest scoring game in league history, and it featured some of the best players in the NBA, most of whom played like they were unstoppable. Both had some big moments, but the former Wildcat duo of De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk pushed their team over the top.
Fox went 17 of 27 from the field for 42 points (his sixth straight with 30 or more points) along with 5 rebounds and 12 assists while Monk lead all scorers with 45 points off the bench, the most scored by a bench player all season. With them, Domantas Sabonis put up 20 and 10 before fouling out in overtime, Keegan Murray scored a confident 15 points, and both Kevin Huerter and Harrison Barnes added 11 each. The other three members of the bench made valuable contributions as well.
“Truth be told, there was defense being played, but there were some tough shots being made,” Fox said after the game with DPOG chain hanging around his shoulders. Some of them were by him and his teammates, and some came from his opponents.
The Clippers were predictably a tough opponent. Leading his team, Kawhi Leonard went 16 of 22 from the floor for 44 points, looking like he couldn’t miss. All-star Paul George scored 34, Norman Powell scored 24 off the bench, and Russell Westbrook put up 17 points and 14 assists in his debut with the team.
It was a hard-fought game against a talented opponent in a playoff atmosphere on the second of a back-to-back, and despite looking out of it, they won. In other words, it was likely the best win of the season and perhaps one of the best and wildest in history.
“I mean every single point I think from everybody on this team counted,” Fox added later in his joint postgame presser with Monk. “And like I said, there wasn’t a lot of stops, but I think we got timely stops. Whenever we needed to get a stop, I think we got it.”
Game summary (takeaways below)
It was a good game out of the gate for Sacramento. There were some noteworthy team stops, and four of the five starters got on the board early while the Clippers committed some early mistakes. But their stars were hitting some tough shots and it remained a competitive contest. Both teams had their stretches and both played engaged defense, but after one quarter, the offense was the story as it was tied at 40 points.
Sacramento’s second unit continued it’s useful contributions into the second quarter, but the Clippers began to form a lead, getting inside for points and trips to the line (20 in the first half). The Kings were pushing back, though; Malik Monk’s tenacious attacks and his two-man game with Sabonis were inexorable. However, the big man eventually picked up his third and fourth fouls before the three-minute mark could strike. With another 40-point quarter, LA lead by 4 points at the half.
The Clippers’ success from the outside on offense was shining out of halftime, hitting three early on. Similarly consistent in this game was Sac’s ability to score. Sabonis picked up his fifth foul, but played about two more minutes before Lyles came in for him. The Kings saw a surge from good defense, but Kawhi Leonard was hitting everything. Fox, however, was gearing up for his favorite time of the game. And the Kings had actually done a better job limiting LA’s free throw attempts, but the Clippers lead 117-110 with great outside shooting.
Monk carried his great play into the fourth, and the rest of the bench was right there with him. The Clippers eventually went on a 12-0 run to eliminate a lot of the Kings’ progress on the score board. Five turnovers in seven offensive possessions really did Sacramento in as LA got their lead up to 14 points. But the Kings quickly made it a game again, erupting for a 15-2 run with the help of some good defense that forced four turnovers. The lead was a single point with the clock winding down.
With about fifteen seconds left, Westbrook made it a 3-point lead, and Fox went to the rim for a score and committed the quick foul. Paul George hit his free throws, so Sacramento advanced the ball with a timeout as eight and a half seconds remained. The Kings ran a beautiful action drawn up by Jay Triano to open up Monk for a three that he hit, sending it to overtime.
Sabonis fouled out shortly into the overtime period, but the Kings rallied with the help of Fox and Monk. Monk’s free throws tied the game with seconds left, and a great stop initiated a second overtime period with the score sitting at 164-all.
In the additional overtime period, Monk continued to be aggressive and hit big shots, lifting his teammates from their seats on the bench. Fox and the Kings also played great defense, too, getting some big stops, including at the end to secure the single-point win.
Fox and Monk: “We coming at everybody”
The Kentucky boys were causing trouble down in Los Angeles. One had to wonder: did anyone wakeup John Calipari?
On the west coast and with the later start in LA, surely somebody did. His former boys were going off.
De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk combined for 87 points, 21 free throw attempts, and 18 assists. Like a pair of batteries, they powered the Kings to a massive victory and put on one of the most exciting shows this NBA season has had to offer.
It was a start-to-finish affair for both guys in terms of them being locked-in.
After hitting two jump shots to star the contest, Fox was aggressive from the beginning, attacking and opening things up for his teammates with defensive attention going the point guard’s way; all night Fox could generate points with either a shot attempt or a pass.
Upon entering the game, Monk immediately got to work on his high-energy highlight plays. His second quarter, however, really glistened. In that period, Monk remained on the hunt, but most effective of all was his two-man game with Sabonis. Off the bat, the two went for the same play on consecutive possessions with Monk assisting the big man before setting Sabonis up for a trip to the line. As seen here, Monk was had a great feel Friday night as his chemistry with Domas flourished; Monk just kept threading the needle to Sabonis. And as is well known by now, when Monk can get the defense to expect a pass, things open up for him.
In the second half, Fox kept up his all-star play, creating for his team. But best of all was when Fox and Monk’s impact collided. Off a great block from Keegan Murray, Fox took the rebound p the floor, passed it to Monk, who backed linked up with his college teammate for an alley-oop.
Not long after, Fox’s on-ball defense created an interception for Trey Lyles, which lead to a slam dunk for Monk on the other end that was assisted by the league’s fastest player.
Monk carried a large load to start the fourth quarter, hitting three’s, finishing at the rim, and getting to the line; he and the bench began the final period with a 10-5 run. Later in the fourth, Fox began doing what he does late in a game and on both ends of the floor. Perhaps most impressive, Fox was responsible for three of the four turnovers the Clippers committed past the midway point of the fourth, and of course, he never let up on his attack. The most clutch player in the league was demonstrating his excellence, and his sidekick was with him, getting to the line at a critical moment with under a minute left.
Closing regulation, on a well-executed action—and with the help of some lax off-ball defense from Russell Westbrook—Fox hit Monk behind the perimeter for the massive three that sent it to overtime. Fox nearly lost the ball, but the players’ chemistry is such that they could have executed it with a blindfold on.
“We know where each other gonna be out there most of the time,” Monk noted postgame.
In OT, Fox was making it look easy on both ends while Monk was unleashing the fury, and the latter hit two more huge free throws to tie it and generate a second OT period. And in that final stage, Monk hit two big three’s and kept his foot on the gas, and Fox assisted his buddy and played excellent defense that sealed the deal.
The two were inseparable as was apparent when they shared a joint press conference after the win. Moreover, the team is bound together.
“We just stuck with it, man,” Monk commended, adding that the guys kept their “heads up.”
It was a great win between two great teams and a great showing of character for the Kings. Thus the last thing these two wanted to hear about was some headline-esque fluff.
Fox and Monk were asked about what “the statement” they made in the second of a back-to-back with Westbrook making his debut. The immediate response was priceless.
“Was it thoughts about Westbrook or thoughts about us?” Fox asked regarding the original question. “Because I don’t give a fuck who’s over there.”
“Yeah, we ain’t worried about that,” Monk offered.
“It doesn’t matter,” Fox said, clearly confused and frustrated how a collective extravaganza of some great basketball could funnel down—intentionally or not—to a single player. And at the end of the day, Fox noted that he and his team are “only worried about us” and what stands in front of them.
Monk iced it with confidence:
“We’re here, too, though,” he warned. “We coming at everybody.”
The bench: more than just Monk
Beyond Monk, the other four members of the bench unit provided excellent play that coalesced to help generate the victorious outcome.
Trey Lyles did much of what he typically does, being a scorer, playing defense, and being a force on the glass. Early in the fourth, Terence Davis provided some production, hitting a couple three’s and playing some difference-making defense. And Davion Mitchell brought his typical defensive mastery.
But deserving of the most credit was Chimezie Metu. This was a very positive outing for him. Early on, he showed nice defensive verticality and had an excellent spin finish on the other end. He continued his solid play, getting a weak side interception and showing some form of contained confidence.
When Domas got his fifth foul in the third quarter, Lyles came in for the three-time all-star. And after the big man fouled out, Mike Brown went to Lyles. Early into Metu’s time, with Nicolas Batum playing the 5, one was left wondering why the Kings wouldn’t bypass using Metu and going straight for using Lyles as the center. But Metu made everyone reverse their thinking.
Metu had been taken out in overtime in favor of Lyles (probably because he allowed an offensive rebound on a free throw miss), but Brown brought Metu back in. Between the two overtime periods, Mezie was all over the place, getting long rebounds, offensive boards, and grabbing another interception.
Overall, from Monk down to Metu and Mitchell, the bench was sensational.
This game was not only exciting because the Kings and Clippers combined for the most single-game points in this millennium and the second most in league history (the Pistons and Nuggets combined for 370 points in 1983), but also because it was between two teams that could face off in the playoffs.
Judging by this game, that series would be worth its share in popcorn as the extended battle was beyond enthralling.
It was the second such game that carried that type of feel. The other was the second game at home against Dallas, the first game Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic stepped on the floor together as teammates.
So far, of these two games that brought an electrifying air, the Kings have come out on the winning side in both of them.
Obviously, Sacramento does not have a ton of experience, and nor does it play consistent defense, but it’s things like this—winning tough games that go down to the wire, punch for punch—that conjure up hope for what this team could accomplish in the playoffs. Whatever that is—big or small—remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain: the final 23 games of this season should be accompanied by more excellent basketball.
Domas and foul trouble
Domantas Sabonis fouled out for the third time in the last five games. Recall that the three-time all-star reached six fouls in both home games against the Mavericks, and in the previous two games before that series, Sabonis reached the 5-foul mark twice in a row in a pair of games against the Rockets.
This was an issue in the beginning of the season that has crept back into play. After fouling out three times in the first six contests of the season, Sabonis did not do so again until January, and in the last month he’s done so four times…
…But there’s no help from the refs
Sabonis may have fouled out, but the officials did not help.
Typically an objective observer, James Ham couldn’t help but to point out the officiating of Tony Brothers all night long.
From some ticky tack calls on Sabonis to the Metu “blocking foul” to Harrison Barnes having to talk sternly to the refs, the Kings probably felt plenty of frustration. But they played through it and got a win. That’s a good sign regarding maturity in such an atmosphere.
But touching on the previous subheading, don’t read too much into Sabonis’ six fouls as the big man really did all he could in that regard.
Shortly after the game, Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Kings are waiving KZ Okpala and signing PJ Dozier through the rest of the season.
Dozier had gotten two 10-day contracts before they passed on keeping him about a week or two before the trade deadline; after two 10-day’s, the next course of action in terms of signing that guy is a contract for the remainder of the year. It’s likely Sacramento was flipping through potential trades before finally deciding to stick with Dozier.
PJ Dozier not only offers length and defense, he also brings playoff experience.
Okpala was a member of the Nigerian National Team that Mike Brown coached, and now marks the second such player to be let go by the Kings. Shortly after the new year, they released Chima Moneke, and now Okpala is the second of a trio that the head coach appeared to have immense trust in.
The now-former King had some decent moments for the Kings, but he showed to be more or less what most people thought as he was unable to find ways to stay on the floor.
Of course, Okpala still has potential, but this is a playoff team building a contender and Dozier is just a better option because he’s played a rotational role in the league and on a team that won a lot of games.
Sacramento will close out this three-game roadtrip with two games in three nights in Oklahoma City starting on Sunday evening.
The Thunder were one of the hotter teams when they came to The Golden 1 Center in January but since their loss to the Kings, they’ve gone 6-7. Since the break, OKC lost a hard-fought overtime game on the road against the Jazz, and then, in the second of a back-to-back, they fell to the Suns in Phoenix
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander did not play Friday after Thursday’s grueling contest, but it’s almost certain that he’ll play Sunday.
The Kings get one day off here after a back-to-back that was capped off with this double-OT hair-raiser, so it’ll be interesting to see what they’re energy level is at on the road.