The Kings Not Only Won their 21st Road Game, They Were Undeniably ‘Gritty’

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 16: Domantas Sabonis #10 of the Sacramento Kings looks to pass as Nic Claxton #33 of the Brooklyn Nets defends during the second half at Barclays Center on March 16, 2023 in New York City. The Kings won 101-96. 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. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Though the Kings did not look like their complete selves on the offensive end, they nevertheless handled their business in Brooklyn to beat the Nets 101-96 to cap off a perfect road back-to-back.

Sacramento did commit 12 turnovers to Brooklyn’s 6, but the Kings won on the glass (67-45 in rebounds, 13-3 in offensive boards), in second chance points (16-0), free throw attempts (32-23), as well as fast break scores (11-0). 

Domantas Sabonis was a ceaselessly spinning gear for his team, finishing with 24 points and 21 rebounds. But equally as critical to this win was Malik Monk, who made a decisive impact with his 12 points and 6 assists off the bench. Though he struggled from the field, De’Aaron Fox put up 18 points and 5 assists with good defensive engagement. And four other guys were in double digit scoring as well: Harrison Barnes, Keegan Murray, and Trey Lyles all had 11 points each while Kessler Edwards added 10 against his former team.

Even as the Kings were clearly the superior team (even playing at half speed, so to speak), the Nets kept the game close from start to finish. Mikal Bridges continued to show his talent, scoring 23 points. Spencer Dinwiddie put up 18 with 7 assists, Nic Claxton had 14 points and 14 boards, Cam Johnson added 10, and Seth Curry hit 3 three’s that helped him finish with 14 off the bench.

The primary takeaway, it seems, is that the Kings were at half battery life on account of their late arrival in Brooklyn the morning of, and yet they maintained a lead for the majority of this game and never gave it up. This was a victory generated through will because they were nowhere close to their full offensive capability.

“The guys showed grit definitely tonight,” Mike Brown imparted to the media after the win. “I told them I was proud of them. The game wasn’t pretty offensively, but I thought we tried to get out and run, I thought we tried to move the ball.”

The Kings had a tiebreaker put them in second place, but with this win, they actually gain that half game lead on Memphis. Looking around the West, the first place Nuggets ended their four-game losing streak with a win over the Pistons, and the fourth place Suns beat the visiting Magic.

Game summary (takeaways below)

Despite getting in past 3 am local time, the energy level for the Kings appeared adequate. Brooklyn’s 5 of 7 start from three, though, was erasing some decent defensive rotations. Sac, however, was struggling to hit their shots in the first period (9 of 26), and things were looking more grim with Kevin Huerter sustaining an injury around the quarter’s midway point. But Sabonis was putting in his work, Monk hit his first 2 of 3 three’s, and the Nets’ couldn’t hit everything forever (missing their last 4). By the end of the first, the game was tied at 24-all.

The game continued its tight nature into the second period. Sacramento’s offense never really unleashed itself; it was evidently present, but that field goal percentage was not moving very much and those three’s were not falling (6 of 23 at the half). The Kings did get to the line far more, and Brooklyn could not find a solution for Sabonis. In the half’s final minutes, Sac produced a 19-3 run with the help of a lot of stops to find themselves up 54-41 at the half.

At halftime, the focus must have been energy yet again because the Kings came out with some nice activity, which was lead by De’Aaron Fox. But with a 15-6 run, the Nets cut a 17-point deficit to 6 points as they found some looks at the rim as the third quarter went on. Sacramento closed it on a 6-2 run to maintain their double-digit lead at 82-71.

The fourth quarter brought on some more offensive congestion for the Kings, but they were still limiting the Nets fairly well and staying in the lead. Sacramento would ultimately put up just 19 fourth quarter points. Plus they had 7 assists in the fourth for 7 points off, but they were still getting a lot of necessary stops. After a few minutes rest, Malik Monk’s reentry into the game helped maintain a strong charge towards the finish line. In the end, the best way to put it is that they never gave this game up, coming up with a gritty victory.

Another road win, and a telling sign of maturity

If the Kings were immature and bogged down by their youth, they lose this game. If they hadn’t been well coached up until this point, they lose this game.

The talk of “measuring stick” games has come up a lot over the last few weeks with contests such as the national TV game against the Knicks, the most recent Suns game, and the Bucks game, to name a few. All of those are excellent tests that provided them with clairvoyant looks in the mirror, and all of those showed just how good the Kings can be come playoff basketball.

But there’s something about this one that feels like the most telling test and the best “measuring stick” game. Not only was it the second of a road back-to-back after the team landed in the wee hours, but the Kings faced immediate adversity that lasted the whole game: their offense was not blasting off. And it was compounded by the loss of Huerter.

Look at the final score; 101 points for the Kings is not a lot. It was the third lowest scoring game of the season for the NBA’s best offense. Prior to this one, Sacramento is 1-8 when they score 106 or less points.

The other victory in such a low scoring game came against the Cavaliers on the road in December. Recall that in that game, Fox did not play, the Kings won it late with a 19-0 run to close the game, and like this Nets game, held the opponent under 100 points.

“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 after that win over the Cavs.

He had a similar assessment after Thursday’s win, apparently proud of their relentlessness and never-quit attitude.

“The guys just found a way off of a back-to-back when we got into the hotel at 3:30 in the morning, and like I said, we could’ve mailed it in early, but they just kept fighting and fighting and fighting,” Brown said, adding that “it’s exciting” to add to the win column in this manner.

Later on he noted that the team is “going to have to win games like this come playoff time.”

Malik Monk’s gusts of life

Watching this game, one of the things that stood out was whenever Monk came onto the floor. That’s because he provided a lift, which with it being the second of a road back-to-back is a huge deal.

Sabonis is an engine that never stops running, and Fox can grab control of a game, but sometimes Monk’s impact makes itself known immediately and without warning like a gusty push suddenly filling a valley.

Even if one didn’t watch the game, it says a lot that Malik Monk had the best +/- of anyone at +18. He continued his excellent play, which has been rolling since the beginning of the seven-game road trip that began at the end of January with two games in Minnesota.

He’s a sudden impact player.

Within moments of coming in against the Nets, he and Sabonis got in their two-man game as Monk fed the big man on a roll where Brooklyn had little success (in the first half) stopping him. Additionally, he hit a three, got an offensive rebound by tipping the ball to Kessler Edwards who went to the rim, and then he hit another three that gave the Kings their first lead.

That first entrance into the game helped the Kings kick it up a gear. They weren’t running anywhere close to full speed, so that was crucial.

His entrance in the third quarter was also pivotal since he came in after Brooklyn cut the deficit to single digits. He was moving the ball around, contributing heavily to the team’s pace, and providing defensive activity.

Best of all, though, was the shift he conjured after a few minutes rest in the fourth quarter. He came back in around the seven minute mark when the Kings were up 89-82 (the Nets began the period with an 11-7 advantage). 

He immediately got to the line, and on the next possession, hit Sabonis with a beautiful pass. A bit later he hit another three and followed it up with some nice defense on Mikal Bridges. Here, he did a nice job of staying in front, benefitting from nice help from Sabonis. And here, it was nearly identical, but Monk took care of things mostly on his own.

Coach Brown noted that Brooklyn was trying to get that switch so that the 6’3″ Monk would be on the 6’6″ Bridges.

“Malik did a great job of just trying to sit down and not foul and just make him take a tough shot,” Brown noted.

To nobody’s surprise, it earned Monk the DPOG chain.

Monk has been playing some great basketball over the last month and a half, and this victory was a great look at how much he can change things for this team on both ends of the floor and in a variety of ways.

Huerter’s right hamstring

Just past the halfway point of the first quarter, Kevin Huerter drove to the rim and upon landing, his right leg landed on Nic Claxton’s foot, causing him to fall backwards on his bent right leg. After he finally got up as Mike Brown called time, he moved with a significant limp.

The Kings communications team got word out in the middle to the second period that it was a “right leg injury.” Adrian Wojnarowski was right behind them with more information via his sources, which indicated that it was a hamstring injury.

Fans will have to await the results of Friday’s MRI to receive further information.

TD working off the rust

The Kings have had tremendous luck in the health department, but the Huerter injury could force him to miss time. Anyone who’s watched a sport—any sport—for a decent amount of time knows hamstrings are sensitive injuries.

Luckily for Sacramento, their surplus luxury is Terence Davis, who is a rotational player on most teams. As he has done a few times this season, he’ll be the replacement starter.

As seen on Thursday, Davis did not look in rhythm. Like most players, he succeeds when he’s already loose and since he’s been out of the lineup for about a month, he’ll have some rust to shake off. He went 0 for 2, and while his activity was high, his defense looked a bit rusty as well.

To his benefit, he’s gotten some minutes these last two contests, first with the absence of Lyles and then with Huerter’s hamstring. So look out for what he might do on Saturday in Washington.

But Mike Brown noted that he’d have no problem starting Kessler Edwards—adding that this is a good time to experiment a little—so nothing will be handed to Davis, which is probably how the former undrafted player likes it.

Murray continues working towards history

Keegan Murray came into this Nets game tied at tenth all time with former Net Kerry Kittles for rookie three-pointers made in a season. After going 3 for 6 on the night, he moved up to eighth on the list, surpassing Kyle Kuzma and former Blazer Rudy Fernandez (who both made 159). What’s more, he’s now just five made behind Steph Curry’s 165 made three’s.

Donovan Mitchell holds the rookie record having hit 187 in 79 games during the 2017-18 season, meaning Murray is 26 made three’s behind him. 

The Kings play another 13 games, so the fourth overall selection will have to average exactly 2 made three-pointers per contest for the remainder of the season. On the season as a whole, Murray is averaging 2.4 made three’s per outing.

Barring injury or other external factors, he looks more than on his way to breaking the record. Even if he has a few 0-for’s go up on his game log, he’s a talented enough shooter to make up for that as he’s shown all season.

Recall that in January, Murray tied Luka Doncic for reaching 100 career made three’s in the second fastest time frame. And more recently, Murray surpassed Bogdan Bogdanovic for the most made three’s by a rookie in franchise history.

All season, he’s been climbing the ladder, and he looks poised to make it to the top.

Lyles’ return

There was no need to explore different lineups in this game. 

If Trey Lyles’ lone impact on the team is to prevent Kings fans from watching Metu and Alex Len play on the floor together, then get that man an extension.

In reality, it’s far more than that. Other than just allowing for the rotations to settle back to normal—even with Huerter’s injury due to Terence Davis’ place on the roster—he continued doing what he typically does.

In about 18 minutes, Lyles went 4 of 8 from the field, 2 of 3 from three, for 11 points with 6 rebounds to go along with it.

The previous game really illustrated his immense value for this team, and with this win—even if he didn’t overtly tip the balance—underlines it.

Going forward

Sacramento will get a well-earned day off, but they’ll swiftly be back in action on Saturday to take on the Wizards in DC.

Washington plays in Cleveland on Friday, the night before. In eight games this month, they’ve gone 3-5. Moreover, in their previous seven home games, the Wizards are 2-5.

When the Wizards were in town around Christmas time, not only did Sabonis sustain his thumb fracture, but they came in and had a nice road victory against the Kings. Mike Brown’s team will look to get back at them and extend their road winning streak to seven in a row.

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dan Smith
Dan Smith
12 days ago

You really called the get off game by TD, him & Domas were huge against the Wiz. It’s always good to see the Kings can slug it out and win these lower scoring games. It’s promising to know they can bring the rebounding and defense when need be…LIGHT THE BEAM!!!