Kings vs Rockets Reaction & Takeaways – April 1, 2022
Damian Jones’ career-night fuels Sacramento’s comeback win on Friday
When the Sacramento Kings set out to begin a five-game road-trip on March 23rd, it looked as if the team was set to move fully into tank-mode.
Instead of falling flat and climbing the NBA Draft lottery standings, the Kings will return home on the heels of a 4-1 stretch as they capped off the road-trip with a 122-117 win over the Houston Rockets on Friday night.
Not only did the Kings erase a 19-point deficit during the win, they did so behind a career-performance from center Damian Jones, a near-triple-double from Donte DiVincenzo and double-doubles from Davion Mitchell and Chimezie Metu.
At this point in the season for a team like Sacramento, it’s about seeing what you have on your roster, and boy did we see what some of these guys have in the tank.
Sure, the Kings are all-but guaranteed to finish with the seventh-best odds in the lottery. Sure, winning four-of-five at this point in the season could be seen as “meaningless”.
But don’t tell that to these players.
For guys like Jones, Metu, and DiVincenzo, players that are either entering free-agency this summer of have non-guaranteed deals for next season, these games absolutely matter.
Four games remain in the regular season, but before we move into Sunday’s game against the Golden State Warriors, let’s dive into this one first:
Failure To Launch–or Defend–In The First
One word that the Kings have been allergic to for years continued to rear its ugly head in the first quarter once again on Friday night:
There aren’t enough words to describe how awful Sacramento’s defense has been this season, but the first quarter during Wednesday and Friday night’s games should speak for themselves.
After allowing 39 points to Houston on Wednesday, the Kings surrendered 41 points to a Rockets team that is averaging 109.3 points per game this season.
No need to beat a dead horse, but it’s fair to say that the Sacramento defense (29th in opponent points per game and 25th in defensive rating this season) will give me nightmares this offseason.
A Double-Double For Off-Night
Although Davion Mitchell had his worst night from the field in weeks, the rookie guard still found a way to make things happen for his teammate.
Sure, Mitchell struggled to get his shot going, finishing the night three-of-13 from the field–but good point guards find ways to keep their offenses rolling, and that’s exactly what Mitchell did on Friday.
The ninth-overall pick in last summer’s draft saw his streak of 20+ points and 7+ assists come to an end, but the 23-year-old secured his first-career double-double, scoring 11 points to go along with a career-high 10 assists during 39 minutes of action.
Seven turnovers aren’t ideal, but the fact that Mitchell, a guard that hasn’t been a proven distributor for most of the season, has been able to dish out 7+ assists in six-straight games is fairly impressive for a rookie.
Alvin Gentry told the media post game that he thought Friday night was an example of Mitchell “trying to do too much,” adding that the team will ensure Mitchell gets more rest and some time off of his furious workout regimen before taking the floor for the final four games.
Damian Jones did WHAT?!
Nope, it wasn’t an April fools joke.
Damian Jones had an absolutely masterful performance on Friday, posing 17 points (seven-of-nine from the field), a career-high 17 rebounds and a career-high six blocked shots over 31 minutes.
It was a historic night for the 26-year-old, who became just the second Kings player in franchise history (since 1946) to finish a single game with 17+ points, 17+ rebounds and 6+ blocked shots.
The only other occurrence was when DeMarcus Cousins exploded for 24 points, 21, rebounds, 10 assists, and six blocks back on April 1, 2015 against–you guessed it–the Houston Rockets.
Jones, an impeding unrestricted free agent this summer, if providing his stock with an emphatic boost as we approach the offseason.
If Sacramento hopes to retain the big man, they are likely to have some competition once free agency opens up this July.
Donte Does It All
When you look at what Donte DiVincenzo can bring on his best night, Friday gave a pretty solid look at what the talented guard is capable of when things are clicking.
DiVincenzo stuffed the stat-sheet against Houston, drilling three of his six three-point attempts to finish the night with 19 points, nine rebounds, nine assists, three steals, and two blocks over 30 minutes.
Not only did DiVincenzo provide the Kings with, well everything, he came up clutch during the closing seconds of the game by drilling a game-sealing jumper to put Houston away.
The 25-year-old will be a restricted free agent this summer, but it’s no secret that Sacramento has big plans for DiVincenzo. Games like tonight show you why McNair and the front office traded for the talented guard not once, but two times over the past two seasons.
Speaking of Kings that are benefiting from extended looks, Chimezie Metu is a player to keep your eye on during the final week of play.
Metu got hot in the fourth quarter, scoring eight-straight unanswered points during the opening 90 seconds of the period to give Sacramento a 94-91 lead with 10:37 to go.
The 25-year-old finished the night with 18 points on eight-of-13 shooting while also pulling down 13 rebounds (career-high) over 27 minutes.
Metu’s $1.9 million contract for 2022-23 isn’t guaranteed, meaning that the USC product will be playing for a spot on next season’s roster during the final four games of the regular season.
A lengthy, young wing with scoring ability like Metu is something that McNair and the rest of the Kings front office will have to take into account when evaluating the roster this offseason.
- De’Aaron Fox (hand soreness) has not played since injuring his right hand on March 16th vs Milwaukee. Last week, Alvin Gentry told the media that Fox’s hand is still “blue around the palm” and added that the team will not rush the guard back into action this season.
- Domantas Sabonis (left knee bruise) will be reevaluated once the team returns from their five-game road trip. Sabonis suffered no structural damage to his left knee and is expected to make a full recovery. More on Sabonis here.
- Richaun Holmes will miss the remainder of the season due to personal reasons. More on Holmes here.
- Terence Davis will be re-evaluated at the end of the season after undergoing successful surgery to repair a right wrist ECU tendon injury.
Get your tickets, while you can Kings fans: only two home games remain.
Sacramento will finally return home on Sunday to face a Golden State Warriors team that will be without two-time MVP Steph Curry.
Golden State has won all three matchups against the Kings this season (four-straight games dating back to 2020-21), with the most recent matchup being a 126-114 Warriors win back on February 3rd at Chase Center.
You can find all of your Kings vs Warriors coverage right here on Sports 1140 KHTK beginning at 3:00 pm PST on The Nick Cattles Show before a 7:00 pm PST tip-off from downtown Sacramento.
Upcoming Sacramento Kings Schedule
- April 3rd vs Golden State Warriors
- April 5th vs New Orleans Pelicans (Final home game of the season)
- April 9th @ Los Angeles Clippers
- April 10th @ Phoenix Suns (Final game of the season)