Four Takeaways: Kings embrace their pace and physicality, extended win streak to four

Nov 16, 2023, 12:27 PM | Updated: 12:27 pm

LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers controls the ball against Keegan Murray #13 of the Sacra...

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 15: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers controls the ball against Keegan Murray #13 of the Sacramento Kings in the third quarter at Arena on November 15, 2023 in Los Angeles, 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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

After an emphatic 125-110 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, the Sacramento Kings have extended their winning streak to four games.

Sacramento went into Wednesday night with a full roster aside from Trey Lyles (left calf), while the Lakers were without Gabe Vincent (left knee), Jared Vanderbilt (left heel), and Jalen Hood-Schifino (right patella) on their second night of a back-to-back.

Throughout the win streak, we’ve seen the Kings play their preferred brand of basketball: physical, fast, and together. When they are clicking on all cylinders, not many opposing teams can keep up with their high-powered offense and grueling pace, especially if Sacramento has a rest advantage, as was the case Wednesday.

Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox helped set that tone from the opening tip and never looked back. Here are my takeaways from a night where Los Angeles never held the lead.

1. Starting hot

Ten minutes of game time had passed, and the Kings were already looking at a 20-point advantage. Everything was working for them early on.

Harrison Barnes, Kevin Huerter, and Keegan Murray were knocking down triples – the Kings finished quarter one 6/12 from beyond the arc. The Lakers seemed unable to keep up with their speed and rotate in adequate time to slow down one of the league’s best offenses.

“We got out to a great start,” Huerter said to reporters in Los Angeles postgame. “We established ourselves offensively, got out in transition, played fast, established it really well in the first quarter. I don’t think we maintained it great in the rest of the game, but it just shows what we’re capable of when we’re playing at that level.”

The Kings managed four offensive rebounds and four steals while holding the Lakers to 39.1 percent from the field through 12 minutes of action. Playing an older team on the second night of back-to-back left an opportunity to capitalize on the rest advantage early on, and they did just that. All of the crucial details were prioritized and utilized.

Huerter managed 10 points in the quarter, but All-Star center Domantas Sabonis stole the show early on. In 10 minutes and 33 seconds of play, he tallied 10 points on 5/9 shooting, eight rebounds (three offensive), four assists, and two steals. Sacramento’s stars kept their foot on the gas as time continued.

2. The Kings of the Kings

Sabonis and Fox set the tone from tipoff and rarely looked back. Anytime the Lakers made a run to trim the deficit, one of Sacramento’s stars would find a way to make a play on either end of the floor. Let’s start by looking at their final scorecards.

  • Domantas Sabonis: 29 points on 13/19, 16 rebounds, seven assists, three steals, and one block
  • De’Aaron Fox: 28 points on 10/22, five assists, five rebounds and four steals

What more can you ask? How about some impactful defense that goes beyond the stat sheet? Oh yeah, they did that too.

“I’m just happy that we got the win,” Sabonis said. “We just played our basketball. How we play is fast, moving the ball, and just trying to outrun them, and it worked really well for us tonight.”

It felt like Sabonis and Fox could get whatever they wanted for most of the night, particularly in the paint — which is extremely impressive considering the rim defender Anthony Davis is.

It doesn’t appear Fox’s ankle injury is currently limiting him at all, at least noticeably, and Sabonis has maintained an increased aggression since attempting four total field goals in their second game against the Houston Rockets.

While it’s not this black-and-white, teams go as far as their best players can take them, and the Kings’ pair of All-Stars have been playing at an impressive level as of late.

3. Kevin Huerter continues to find his groove

After a slow start shooting the ball mixed in with some defensive lapses, there was public concern surrounding Kevin Heurter’s role with the Kings. Yet, in not-so-shocking fashion, one of the league’s best shooters has been knocking them down at an elite rate recently.

In Sacramento’s first five games, Huerter averaged 6.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.6 assists on honestly atrocious (albeit small sample size) 28.9/20.0/75.0 shooting splits. The most recent five showings in which he’s managed double-digit points each game have been an entirely different story.

In those five, he’s tallied 21.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.4 assists on much improved 55.1/48.9/87.5 shooting. Sometimes, that’s just the nature of the game with players who heavily rely on their outside shots. They can’t go in every night, but it certainly feels like they have been as of late.

“It feels great. We see how hard (Huerter, Murray, and Barnes) work every day getting shots up,” Sabonis said. “We see how much they care, and it definitely showed tonight.”

YouTube video

There may have been an aspect of playing themselves into proper conditioning, given the physicality and pace being asked of them every single possession for 48 minutes. Whatever it was, Murray, Barnes, and especially Huerter have been doing their parts to contribute to winning basketball on both ends of the floor.

4. Maintaining consistent physicality and pace

The Kings forced Los Angeles into 23 total turnovers, with 20 counting as steals for Sacramento. Those turnovers were converted into 30 points for the Kings Wednesday night, and their efficiency in converting after live-ball mishaps was impressive.

Per Kings’ PR, Sacramento finished with 20 steals for the fifth time in franchise history and the first time since Jan. 11, 2001.

Specifically, Keegan Murray’s defense has been phenomenal for the past few games. He’s been assigned to a wide variance of opposition from All-NBA guards Stephen Curry and Donovan Mitchell to 6’8″, all-time scoring leader LeBron James, and remained effective throughout.

“Keegan got the defensive player of the game. His defense was really, really good,” Coach Brown said postgame in Los Angeles. “He had five deflections. He had a verticality. He tried to take a charge… he was good.”

Defensive progress is the Kings’ path to substantial improvement this season. After sitting 24th in defensive rating last season, they currently rank 13th among the association.

Fox, Keon Ellis, and Davion Mitchell (when he’s out there) have pressured ball-handlers at the point of attack.

Murray has embraced a wide variety of challenging covers, excelled, and displayed his potential versatility on that end.

Huerter and Malik Monk are making proper rotations, sacrificing their bodies at times, and prioritizing the glass after shots go up.

Sabonis’s disciplined verticality has allowed him to take another jump as a rim protector.

Everyone seems to be slowly buying into the physicality and discipline that Sacramento’s coaching staff has tirelessly advocated. The proof is in the pudding, with four straight wins for the Kings, who have worked their way back to sixth in the competitive Western Conference race.

Upcoming Schedule

  • Friday, November 17thย โ€“ Sacramento Kings @ San Antonio Spurs** โ€“ 4:30 PM PST
  • Sunday, November 19thย โ€“ Sacramento Kings @ Dallas Mavericks โ€“ 4:30 PM PST
  • Monday, November 20thย โ€“ Sacramento Kings @ New Orleans Pelicans โ€“ 5:00 PM PST
  • Wednesday, November 22ndย โ€“ Sacramento Kings @ New Orleans Pelicans โ€“ 5:00 PM PST
  • Friday, November 24thย โ€“ Sacramento Kings @ Minnesota Timberwolves** โ€“ 5:00 PM PST

** NBA In-Season Tournament Group Play

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