Kings shake off rough start, beat Pistons to begin roadtrip

Jan 9, 2024, 6:42 PM | Updated: 6:49 pm

DALLAS, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 19: Domantas Sabonis #10 of the Sacramento Kings walks off the court after...

(Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images)

(Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images)

Instead of following up Sunday’s 33-point loss with another disappointing showing, the Sacramento Kings flipped the switch at the right time during Tuesday’s game in Detroit.

The Pistons, owner of the NBA’s worst record, didn’t look like a team primed for a top lottery spot as they put the Kings in a 20-point hole early.

Thanks to big nights from Domantas Sabonis, Keegan Murray, and the rest of Sacramento’s offense, the Kings overcame the early deficit en route to a 131-110 win at Little Caesars Arena.

It might not have been the best overall showing out of Sacramento (22-14), but the Beam Team needed to get back in the win column as they started a five-game road trip that includes a back-to-back in Detroit before facing Charlotte on Wednesday.

Kings vs. Pistons Takeaways

Getting Hit Early

It’s been a trend that has been all too familiar with the Kings during losing efforts this season:

An opponent gets hot early, builds a big lead, and never looks back. We saw it happen on Sunday as Sacramento fell behind by double-digits early against New Orleans, and we saw it on Tuesday in Detroit.

Not only did the Pistons start things off on the right foot, but they also caught fire from the field as the Kings struggled to slow down a red-hot Detroit offense.

Behind a seven-of-ten start from three-point land and 19-of-25 (76%) start from the field, the Pistons led by as many as 20 points while scoring 47 points during the first quarter–the most points that Detroit has scored in a single quarter this season.

It was a nightmare start for Sacramento, especially coming off the heels of Sunday’s 33-point loss. Instead of coming out with a sense of urgency, the Kings got punched in the mouth by a Pistons team that was also without two key players in Cade Cunningham (knee) and Isaiah Stewart (toe).

Once the dust settled, Sacramento was starting at a 47-29 deficit heading into the second quarter as only one question took shape:

Would the Kings respond?

Hitting Back

The answer to that question would be a definitive ‘yes.’

Thanks to a huge first half from Domantas Sabonis (22 points on 10/11 shooting) and Keegan Murray (13 of his 15 first-half points in the second), Sacramento flipped the script on Detroit before the halftime break.

After allowing the Pistons to get whatever they wanted on offense in the first, the Kings turned up the intensity by forcing Detroit into six turnovers and 2o percent shooting from the field (including 18% from three).

While Sacramento struggled to find the bottom of the net from deep early, they shifted gears and committed to attacking the paint against a Pistons interior defense that entered play ranked 26th in points in the paint allowed per game (54.1).

By the end of the first half, the Kings had scored 56 points on 28-of-34 (82%) shooting in the paint as they erased a 20-point lead and took a 68-65 lead into the break.

While it certainly wasn’t an ideal start, Sacramento didn’t let the game spiral out of control thanks to a change of pace on offense and a heightened sense of urgency on the defensive end.

The Kings didn’t allow a single made Pistons field goal from the 7:56 mark in the second quarter until the 9:14 mark of the third quarter–10:51 of game time.

After trailing 57-40 during the second quarter, Sacramento went on a 43-11 run before Detroit called a timeout during the third quarter with the Kings leading by 15 points.

Sacramento was rolling, and it seemed as if it was their turn to build a big lead and run away with this one for good… right?

Closing Time

Of course, for the Sacramento Kings, it’s never easy.

The Pistons battled back and tied things up at 101-101 with 9:34 to go, meaning that fans were in store for another potential close finish. With the game hanging in the balance, it would typically be De’Aaron Fox’s time for his usual fourth-quarter heroics–but this time, Fox got help from some of his teammates.

Keegan Murray had one of the best showings of his career on Tuesday night as the forward scored eight of his 32 points during the fourth quarter. Murray finished the night 13-of-17 from the field and five-of-nine from deep over 35 minutes.

This wasn’t your average game from Murray, who scored most of his points off-the-dribble and on the attack instead of spotting up for looks on the perimeter.

With Murray and Domantas Sabonis leading the way (more on Domas in a moment), Fox’s 10 points in the fourth helped put things away late as the Kings outscored the Pistons 33-15 in the final period.

Sacramento set season-highs in assists (39) and points in the paint (82) en route to shooting 57 percent from the field and 39 percent from three-point range.

After the first quarter, the Kings outscored the Pistons 102-63 during the final three frames. It wasn’t a perfect win, but Sacramento found its form and dominated down the stretch.

Dominant Domas

Domantas Sabonis can’t be stopped.

The All-Star center racked up a season-high 37 points–the most that he has scored in a Sacramento Kings uniform–on his way to another triple-double performance.

Over 38 minutes of play, Sabonis went 16-of-21 from the field while pulling down ten rebounds, handing out 13 assists, and swiping three steals. The 27-year-old became just the fifth player in NBA history to drop a 35-point triple-double on 75 percent shooting, joining Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, Clyde Drexler, and Wilt Chamberlain.

Sabonis posted a double-double for the 19th-straight game, giving him 32 on the year (most in the NBA) while delivering his fourth triple-double over the past six games.

According to the Kings, this marks the first triple-double with 35+ points by a Kings player since Mitch Richmond had 38 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists vs. Detroit on Jan. 22, 1997.

Sabonis also became the fourth player in franchise history with a 35-point triple-double, joining Oscar Robertson (59), Jack Twyman (1), and Richmond (1).

All-Star stuff from an All-Star player.


  • De’Aaron Fox finished the night with 26 points on 10/19 shooting, four assists, and two steals
  • Malik Monk added 20 points off the bench on 9/15 FG
  • Trey Lyles returned from a one-game absence that was due to a right ankle sprain (6 PTS, 32 MIN)
  • Kevin Huerter was placed back into the starting lineup following a five-game stint on the bench (4 PTS, 29 MIN)
  • Sacramento is now 20-2 when Keegan Murray has scored 20+ points during his NBA career.
  • The Kings shot 31/38 (81%) at the rim on Tuesday.

When is the next Sacramento Kings game?

Sacramento will play its second game in as many days on Wednesday when they complete the back-to-back against the Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center.

The Kings will hope to avenge last week’s disappointing loss to Charlotte, which saw Sacramento fumble a late lead en route to being outscored 10-0 during the final 90 seconds. Thanks to 34 points from Terry Rozier, the Hornets claimed a 111-104 win.

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Hornets coverage, beginning at 2:30 PM PST on Game Night before a 4:00 PM PST tip-off from North Carolina.

YouTube video

Upcoming Schedule

  • Wednesday, January 10th – Sacramento Kings @ Charlotte Hornets – 4:00 PM PST
  • Friday, January 12th – Sacramento Kings @ Philadelphia 76ers – 4:30 PM PST
  • Sunday, January 14th – Sacramento Kings @ Milwaukee Bucks – 4:00 PM PST
  • Tuesday, January 16th – Sacramento Kings @ Phoenix Suns – 6:00 PM PST
  • Thursday, January 18th – Sacramento Kings vs. Indiana Pacers – 7:00 PM PST

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