SACRAMENTO KINGS

Kings defeat Clippers, inch closer to top-six in West playoff race

Apr 2, 2024, 9:37 PM | Updated: 10:07 pm

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 02: Keegan Murray #13 of the Sacramento Kings shoots over Terance Ma...

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Throughout the 2023-24 season, the Sacramento Kings have lost several games to teams they “should have” beaten.

Costly losses against the Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards, and Charlotte Hornets–among others–have hurt the Kings’ place in the standings as we close in on the postseason.

While Sacramento has suffered some disappointing losses, they have also picked up some notable wins this season, but none of those triumphs have been as timely as Tuesday’s win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Thanks to a group effort that saw five players score 14+ points, the Kings picked up a 109-95 win over Los Angeles that capped off a five-game homestand with one of the most significant victories of the year.

For Sacramento (44-31), a win over the fourth-seed Clippers helped them in a few ways when you look at the current state of the Western Conference standings.

Thanks to the Dallas Mavericks’ loss against Golden State, the Kings are now just one game behind the fifth-seed Mavs and sixth-seed New Orleans Pelicans with seven games remaining.

On a night that Sacramento needed to show up, they did in a big way to keep pace in the playoff race.

Kings vs. Clippers Recap & Takeaways

Following Monday’s practice session, Sacramento head coach Mike Brown told reporters that the team’s recent adversity would increase opportunities for others–especially on the offensive end as the Kings navigate the final stretch without Malik Monk (knee) and Kevin Huerter (shoulder).

Fresh off of his 25-point showing against the Utah Jazz on Sunday, Keegan Murray picked up right where he left off during the first quarter against Los Angeles as the sophomore forward continued to showcase his uptick in aggression on the offensive end.

Murray jumped out to a quick start in the first quarter by scoring nine of his 11-first-half points–but he wasn’t the only player to step up for Sacramento before the halftime break.

The Kings’ second unit, consisting of Davion Mitchell (14 first-half points), Trey Lyles (nine first-half points), and Alex Len (five rebounds and three blocks during the first half), helped Sacramento open the second quarter on a 20-4 run that put the Clippers in a 16-point hole.

As balanced as the Kings’ scoring attack was early, Los Angeles used big first-half performances from Norman Powell (14 points) and Paul George (13 points) to keep things close as Sacramento took a 56-51 lead into the second half.

Any momentum the Clippers had near the end of the first half became a distant memory once the page turned to the third quarter.

The Kings locked in on both ends of the floor in the third, opening up the period on a 22-11 run that pushed the lead back to double-digits–and they didn’t stop there.

After scoring seven points during the first half, Sacramento got Domantas Sabonis involved in the third, as the big man scored 11 of his 22 points in the quarter. Along with Sabonis’ contributions, Keegan Murray consistently attacked the basket and delivered a poster jam that sent Golden 1 Center into a frenzy.

Los Angeles’ offense went cold in the third period, scoring just 19 points on 37 percent shooting from the field as the Kings stretched its lead to 21 points heading into the fourth quarter.

The final stretch was ugly for both teams, but it didn’t matter for Sacramento, as their lead never fell below double digits for the remainder of regulation as ‘Light the beam’ chants rang out with more than one minute remaining on the game clock.

Bench play was key for the Kings on Tuesday, as Sacramento racked up 39 bench points during the win behind solid efforts from Trey Lyles, Davion Mitchell, and Alex Len (seven rebounds and three blocks over 11 minutes).

Lyles, who returned on Sunday after missing nearly three weeks due to a knee sprain, finished the night with 15 points, four rebounds, and five assists over 26 minutes, while Mitchell added 14 points on four-of-seven shooting from three-point range.

With Sixth Man of the Year favorite Malik Monk (knee) set to miss the remainder of the regular season and a potential first-round series, the Kings are in the process of finding a new identity without their third-best scorer. Having Lyles back in the fold is huge for Sacramento’s second unit, and Mitchell’s improved three-point shooting (42 percent since the All-Star break) gives Mike Brown options off the bench to aid the starting five.

Of course, Sacramento will also need more from its starters, and Murray continues to show that he is ready for a bump in volume.

Murray followed up his 25-point showing against Utah with 19 points against Los Angeles. While the former fourth-overall pick wasn’t as efficient as he usually is (8/18 FG), Murray shot five-of-six inside the paint during the win.

Domantas Sabonis is another player who will have to be more aggressive in attacking the basket, and that’s precisely what the All-NBA talent did on Tuesday.

Sabonis finished with his third 20-point, 20-rebound double-double of the season (tied for the NBA lead), scoring 22 points, grabbing 20 rebounds, and passing out nine assists over 35 minutes.

The 27-year-old continued his impressive streak by posting his 58th straight double-double–his league-leading 71st of the season.

Last but not least, De’Aaron Fox continues to prove that he can make a difference even when he’s not locked in shooting the basketball. Fox went six-for-20 from the field, but still finished the night with 20 points and seven assists without turning the ball over once.

The road to the postseason will be rocky without Monk and Huerter, but it would be premature to count this team out.

With Fox, Sabonis, Murray, and a revamped bench unit stringing together back-to-back double-digit wins, Sacramento will hit the road for a four-game trip looking to continue its push for a top-six spot in the West.

Notes

  • Sacramento shot just 12/42 (28%) from deep on Tuesday, improving to 6-11 (.352) when shooting under 30% from 3PT range.
  • The Kings’ win over Los Angeles also brought them within three games of the fourth seed and gave Sacramento a regular season tie (2-2) vs. the Clippers.
  • Sacramento outscored Los Angeles 46-30 in paint scoring and held the Clippers to 36% shooting inside of they key.
  • Entering play on Tuesday, the Clippers held a record of 28-5 (.848) when shooting over 40% from 3PT. Los Angeles finished the loss having shot 11/27 (40%) from deep.
  • The Kings out-rebounded LA 56-38 while pulling down 20 offensive rebounds.

Injury Updates

Malik Monk (right knee) will be reevaluated in four weeks after suffering a right knee MCL sprain last Friday night vs. Dallas.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Kevin Huerter (left dislocated shoulder and labral tear) will miss the remainder of the season. Huerter will undergo surgery and is slated to be ready for the start of the 2024-25 season.

When is the next Sacramento Kings game?

Sacramento will travel to the East Coast for a four-game trip that begins on Thursday night against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

The Kings and Knicks battled it out at Golden 1 Center on March 16th, with New York doing enough to scrape out a 98-91 win in a game that saw Sacramento nearly post a season-low in field goal percentage (35%) while also struggling from deep (27%).

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Knicks coverage, beginning at 3:00 PM PST on Game Night before a 4:30 PM PST tip-off from New York City.

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Upcoming Schedule

  • Thursday, April 4th – Sacramento Kings @ New York Knicks – 4:30 PM PST
  • Friday, April 5th – Sacramento Kings @ Boston Celtics – 4:30 PM PST
  • Sunday, April 7th – Sacramento Kings @ Brooklyn Nets – 4:30 PM PST
  • Tuesday, April 9th – Sacramento Kings @ Oklahoma City Thunder – 5:00 PM PST
  • Thursday, April 11th – Sacramento Kings vs. New Orleans Pelicans – 7:00 PM PST

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