Resting Key Players Allows Opportunity to Evaluate Others in Loss to Golden State

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 07: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors reacts after shooting a three-point shot against the Sacramento Kings during the first quarter at Golden 1 Center on April 07, 2023 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. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Without Domantas Sabonis, De’Aaron Fox, Kevin Huerter, and Malik Monk, the Kings fell to the Warriors at home, 97-119.

Golden State shot over 50% from the field and over 44% from three and won in spite of a 24-turnover night. At full strength, they handled the Kings, who, unlike the Warriors, know their fate within the final Western Conference standings. Even with the idea that the Kings had nothing to play for, there was plenty of opportunity to watch and evaluate other guys that otherwise don’t get as much of an opportunity.

The leading scorers for the team were Trey Lyles and Chimezie Metu, who both added 8 rebounds. Harrison Barnes played his 81st game and scored 13 while fellow starter Keegan Murray added 9 with 4 boards. Starting the game, Terence Davis scored 10 on 25% from the field, Alex Len had 5 with 6 rebounds, and Davion Mitchell scored 5 with his defensive output. Additionally, PJ Dozier and Kessler Edwards looked impressive in the expanded minutes, both finishing in the positive in the +/- column.

The Warriors benefitted from Klay Thompson’s 29 points and Steph Curry’s 25 (with 7 rebounds and 6 assists) as the Splash Brothers combined for an efficient 8 of 15 from deep. Old friend Donte DiVincenzo was a joy to watch–as he was late last season in purple–scoring 18 with 6 rebounds and 9 assists. Kevon Looney grabbed 16 rebounds, Draymond Green posted 5, 5, and 5, and Jonathan Kuminga had 15 points off the bench.

The outcome to this game came as no surprise, but the players that logged minutes for the Kings brought a great showing of effort even as they ebbed and flowed in terms of production.

As has been the case as of late, the top four spots in the conference are set. Golden State moves up to the fifth spot after the win, and a Lakers win over Phoenix keeps them in seventh with the Clippers in between at sixth with a back-to-back to close the season. The Pelicans won as well on Friday, but sit in eight behind the LA teams. Minnesota is in ninth at 40-40 while Oklahoma City clinched a play-in spot with Dallas’ loss to Chicago.

Game summary (takeaways below)

It was an ugly first two minutes for Sacramento, committing a pair of turnovers and surrendering a second chance three-pointer, prompting an early timeout from Mike Brown. Out of a timeout, they scored, but Golden State began draining three’s thriving in the fast pace while the shorthanded Kings looked sloppy and disjointed. The problems were mostly on offense where they couldn’t create anything without forcing it, helping facilitate the Warriors rhythm. On the other end, allowing 11 second chance points didn’t help either. After one, Sac was down 16-32.

The offense looked far more fluid to start the second, as a pair of Kings three’s forced a Steve Kerr timeout. Sacramento began the quarter steam rolling Golden State 19-4 in roughly the first half of the period, cutting the lead down to 1 point with the play of Trey Lyles, PJ Dozier, and Richaun Holmes. The Warriors weathered the storm in spite of 7 turnovers in the second (Sac only scored 2 points off 12 first half turnovers), but the game was competitive with the halftime score punched in at 48-53.  

Even quicker than his timeout in the first quarter, Mike Brown called one 32 seconds into the third, going to Terence Davis after Donte DiVincenzo got an open three. Golden State pushed ahead on the scoreboard as they hit 9 of their first 12 shots. They got the lead to 20 points, but the Kings cut it back to single digits with an 11-0 run. The Warriors finished the third on an 8-3 run to lead 86-73.

The Kings could not mount a counteroffensive in the fourth and the Warriors eventually stretched their lead back out to 20 points. From there, the game was essentially finished.

Resting up

Domantas Sabonis, De’Aaron Fox, and Kevin Huerter were all sat out in this game for rest. Malik Monk was a late scratch with a lower leg soreness, but it’s likely the intent was for him to rest as well.

“Sitting those guys was my decision,” Mike Brown said pregame, noting that he came to that conclusion after shoot-around.

Did Mike Brown give his buddy Steve Kerr a gift?

Maybe, but the primary intention is clearly based on what’s strategically practical.

With the third seed locked up and about a week out from the playoffs starting, it’s the perfect opportunity to start resting guys. Sabonis never misses games, only sitting out two prior to this with the first being for the diagnosis of his avulsion fracture and the other being related to illness; he could use the rest. Fox does so much and moves so much that rest always feels like a good idea. Huerter’s legs will want to be fresh for the postseason, and there’s no use chancing anything with Monk even though the lower leg thing is probably nowhere near being serious or even mild.

It’ll be interesting to see if it’s the same four sitting out on Sunday or if more will join them.

Thinking about the backup 5 in a series against Golden State

Three different centers played in this game. Alex Len started, Chimezie Metu came in as relief, and Richaun Holmes got minutes in both halves as well.

Based on their performances, a question comes up about the backup center in a scenario–which is much more likely now–where Sacramento faces Golden State in the playoffs.

Broadly speaking, the answer is not clear based on the game. Len continued looking solid, but it was the first time in the last seven games where there were moments where he was easily exposed, which is not unfathomable against a smaller, high-movement team like Golden State. Metu had a horrible start to the game, looking overly ambitious, but really had an effective second half. And Holmes had some decent moments as well as subpar one’s, but overall, did not convincingly make a case for himself next to the other two.

Starting with Holmes quickly, he did notably hit a three-pointer, displaying some stretch ability, but down near the restricted area, he went just 3 of 9. He missed everything here, smoked a put back dunk, and sometimes looked a little uncontrolled. Defensively, he only had two fouls, but one moment stands out. In the second quarter, Jonathan Kuminga was run off the perimeter so he drove, causing Holmes to slide in, which he did in a delayed fashion, forcing him to go up hastily where he fouled the shooter. It was good foul in the sense it was hard and forced a miss, but had he done his work earlier, he could have gone straight up and disrupted the shot. Overall, all of that points to a guy who is considerably out of rhythm.

Moving back up to Len, he was doing his work on the boards (5 offensive rebounds), playing great defense–both with his contests and activitymaking the right pass, and showcasing some offensive touch.

While the continuity of his impact was evident, the concept of matchups came to mind during one stretch, which indicated the potential for Golden State presenting a tougher matchup for the big man.

At one point in the second, Len had no chance of staying in front of Steph Curry on a switch as the superstar finished at the rim. Rarely if ever do big centers switch in this defense, but the chances of it being a necessity increase against that particular offense; and in that situation, Len is in his most exposed state. 

Not long after that switch, Len had to crash to the rim to help TD defend Curry on pick-an-roll and proved entirely susceptible to fouling Curry, which he did as his big body moved erratically to defend the inside.

Obviously, it was just that stretch were any “exposing” happened, and in all, Len played a solid game. But the question remains as to whether there is a better matchup.

Chimezie Metu’s first half would say no, but his second half says otherwise.

The issue with the first half–as was the issue with a lot of guys early in the contest–was the over-aggressive offense. In that first quarter, Metu exacerbated the lack of flow on offense, trying to play outside himself (see here, here, and here, which all occurred within 45 seconds of each other). It’s not unfounded that he would try that with four of the Kings five best players out, but it’s that exact thing that has lost him the backup center earlier in the season. 

Credit to him, though, as he had a much better second half by letting things come to him. He did take two shots off the dribble, but they came after he’d cycled through his reads, and better yet, he looked good finishing them. (However, at one point, he missed 4 straight free throws.) Defensively, he didn’t stand out, per say–though he looked okay defending a driving Jordan Poole here, lending credence to his switchability–but he noticeably posted a +3 in the second half compared to Len’s -13. 

The question about who’d get minutes in the backup 5 should Sac face the Warriors in the playoffs remains to be seen for now? Who do you think?

PJ Dozier looked good

Kings fans haven’t seen much of PJ Dozier, and early after the all-star break, when Mike Brown was seeking out a defender on the wing to use off the bench, the former Nugget lost out to Kessler Edwards, who has looked and continues to look like a useful piece.

Friday night was a great chance to get a look at Dozier and for the lanky guard himself to show what he’s capable. In short, he might have been one of the more impressive Kings player on the night, and had he shot better that would have been a certain.

Of course, he did well in other areas, helping observers forget his rough 3 of 10 night.

Dozier entered the game late in the first quarter and in the second he made his presence known, drawing a tremendous charge early in the period. Not long after, he exhibited a great feel for the kind of pace Mike Brown likes to see, decisively going to the basket and passing it off to Holmes, who put it through. And he made Golden State’s overaggressive weak side defense pay, hitting a wide open three

In the second half, he continued playing wholeheartedly on defense, drawing some fouls with his effort to stick onto guys and fight through screens and even securing stops on the boards. 

But he also showed an ability to pass as well, which was likely tied to the fact that the Kings only had one point guard active given the injury to Matthew Dellavedova. As the primary ball handler, he beat some excellent ball pressure from DiVincenzo to drive at the rim, draw help from Looney, and lob one up for Metu, who was lurking in the dunker’s spot. In another instance, Dozier did a decent job of forcing help from Draymond with Poole on him and hit a cutting Metu, who earned a trip to the line.

Will Dozier be a playoff weapon? No, not with the way Kessler Edwards continues to play and not with the tightened rotations come playoff time. However, he gave Kings fans and the coaching staff something to chew on.

Going forward

Now comes game 82, the final contest of the regular season. It will be Sunday afternoon in Denver.

Expect the same thing in terms of rest for that game. Most likely, the same names won’t suit up, and it’s probable that others may be included in that lot–maybe not Harrison Barnes, who could play his 82nd game, which is probably a feat he personally admires–given the Nuggets may do the same. Not to mention all the altitude-related nuisances of the beautiful Rocky Mountains add to the rationale behind the rest.

The top four in the West are set and seemingly have been for a while, so it will be another opportunity for guys who see little to no minutes to show what they got.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Kings Talk
Kings Talk

Kings Talk – A Cap City Crown Podcast on the Sacramento Kings

Kings Talk: Episode 67

On this episode of Kings Talk presented by Cap City Crown, Tony and John discuss who has the best shot at winning the third backup center role, Mike Brown’s first real interview of the offseason, […]

The post Kings Talk: Episode 67 appeared first on Cap City Crown.

Kings Talk: Episode 67
Kings Talk: Episode 66
Kings Talk: Episode 65
Kings Talk: Episode 64
Kings Talk: Episode 63
Kings Talk: Episode 62
Notify of

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

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

[…] Dellavedova last season. Dozier has shown some abilities as a primary ball handler; in fact, in some late-season games with guys resting and with Dellavedova’s finger injury, Dozier played point guard and looked […]


[…] [ April 9, 2023 ] Resting Key Players Allows Opportunity to Evaluate Others in Loss to Golden St… […]

Dan Smith
5 months ago

Surprising to hear the Kings are rolling out the big guys for the Denver game. But can’t say I disagree with the choice, I’m a fan of staying sharp and ready…if they sat another game, it means they would go from Apr.5 the last they game they played against the Mavs till April 15/16 without game action. That’s too long of a gap in my opinion, you could become rusty with that much of a break. But it’s always a toss up…if someone gets injured in a meaningless game, then you have a major problem. And the fans will be outraged also lol
The question of the backup center should be based on the matchup, I agree with you. If they get the Warriors or any type of uptempo, motion based team…I would honestly go with Mezie. If it’s the Clippers with Zubac & Plumlee then I would use Len.
Excited to see who the Kings get in the 1st round, but as much as the Kings themselves and fans think they can take the Warriors..I’m seriously crossing my fingers it’s the Clippers or Pels, or anyone else even, haha.