Streak Broken: Kings clinch first winning season since 2005-06
Mar 16, 2023, 8:02 PM| Updated: Mar 17, 2023, 9:13 am
(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
At long last, the Sacramento Kings will end a season with more wins than losses.
Thanks to a massive night from Domantas Sabonis and a valiant effort from the team’s defense, the Kings picked up a 101-96 win over the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center on Thursday night.
The win was a historic one for Sacramento, as the franchise secured its first winning season since 2005-06–the most recent year that the Kings made the NBA Playoffs.
Even though it was the second night of a back-to-back, Sabonis and the Kings dug deep enough to pick up another gritty win as Sacramento (42-27) improved to 10-2 since returning from the All-Star break on February 23rd.
Who runs a better pick-and-roll than Malik and Domas?? 🤩 pic.twitter.com/L3om1yuvMg
— Kings on NBCS (@NBCSKings) March 17, 2023
It was deja vu for the Kings early as they quickly fell into a nine-point hole during the first quarter.
Much like their opening stretch against the Chicago Bulls just 24 hours prior, Sacramento looked a step slow on its defensive rotations as Brooklyn took advantage by starting the game four-for-four from three-point range.
Entering play on Thursday, a point of emphasis for Sacramento needed to be controlling the glass against a Nets team that ranks 29th in the NBA when it comes to rebounding the basketball. With Sabonis on the floor, one might have hoped for a big night from the center.
Instead of big, Sabonis went nuclear.
The Kings erased a nine-point deficit and locked in on the defensive end to build a 21-8 run during the final nine minutes of the first half. Sabonis set the tone by attacking Brooklyn’s interior defense, as the big man ended the first half with 20 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots over 19 minutes.
Sabonis became the first player this season with at least 20 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks in the first half of a game while joining MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo as the only players with 20 points and 10 boards in an opening half.
With Sabonis dominating the paint, Sacramento’s defense locked and held the Nets to 17 points on 26 percent shooting from the field during the second as the Kings took a 64-51 lead into the break.
Look at Domas go coast-to-coast for the and-1!! 😲 pic.twitter.com/kLiRCCnTDa
— Kings on NBCS (@NBCSKings) March 17, 2023
Sacramento maintained its double-digit lead during the third before opening up the fourth quarter in a funk on the offensive end.
Thanks to a three-minute Kings scoring drought, Brooklyn managed to trim the deficit to 94-89 with less than four minutes remaining. Under normal circumstances, this would be an ideal time for De’Aaron Fox to put on his ‘Fourth Quarter Fox’ persona, but that wouldn’t be the case on Thursday.
The Kings might have let its comfortable lead slip to a two-possession game, but they still had the Nets on the ropes. Needing a big play, Former Brooklyn forward Kessler Edwards swung an impressive pass into the corner where a wide-open Malik Monk was parked for a spot-up triple.
Monk let it fly, and once the ball settled through the net, dozens of Kings fans in attendance started chanting ‘Light The Beam’ as the clock fell to zero.
Finally, a winning season for a fanbase that has been waiting for nearly two decades.
Sacramento secured its 42nd win of the season in rare fashion, as the NBA’s top offense only scored 104 points (fourth-lowest scoring output this season) on 39 percent shooting from the field and 31 percent from beyond the arc.
According to Stathead, NBA teams held a record of 9-75 this season when shooting 39 percent or less from the field and 31 percent or worse from deep. The Kings’ win on Thursday can be accredited to timely defense and controlling the glass, where they finished the night with a 57-41 advantage.
Kess putting in work against his former team 😤 pic.twitter.com/NMadVuddoN
— Kings on NBCS (@NBCSKings) March 17, 2023
While Sabonis was Sacramento’s primary contributor (don’t worry, we’re going to get to him), Kessler Edwards profoundly impacted the winning effort.
The recently-acquired forward was aggressive on the offensive end in his return to face his former team, as the 22-year-old scored 10 points on four-of-six shooting from the field and two-of-four from three-point land while pulling down three rebounds over 24 minutes.
Edwards used his 6’8 frame and 6’11 wingspan to act as a disruptor on the defensive end against a Nets team that rosters an assortment of forward depth.
“It means a lot. I’ve been looking forward to this game since I was traded,” Edwards said postgame of his performance against Brooklyn. “The fact that I was able to come back here, get significant minutes, finish the game out with a win, it was probably one of the funnest games in my career so far, so it felt good.”
While players like Edwards, Fox (18 points), and Malik Monk (12 points) contributed on the offensive end, one player’s impact arguably acted as the catalyst during Thursday’s win:
Sabonis made history during a 24-point, 21-rebound effort as the center passed Otis Thorpe (1987-88) for the most rebounds in a single season during the Sacramento era by pulling down his 838th board of the year.
With his 21 rebounds tonight, Domas (841) passes Otis Thorpe (1987-88: 837) for the most rebounds in a single season during the Sacramento era 👑🏀 pic.twitter.com/tZj43pRrAE
— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) March 17, 2023
The double-double was Sabonis’ 56th of the season, tying Sacramento’s single-season franchise record (Tiny Archibald, 1972-73).
Over 39 minutes of action, Sabonis complimented his 24-point, 21-rebound performance with five assists and four blocked shots while shooting eight-of-14 from the field and eight-of-nine from the free-throw line.
Controlling the glass was my primary “what to watch for” topic during my preview of Kings vs. Nets, and Sabonis understood the assignment by completely bullying the Nets around the basket.
Thanks to another successful closing effort, the Kings improved to 21-13 on the road, marking the first time since the 2003-04 season that Sacramento will finish a campaign with 21+ road wins.
As clinch day approaches, wins like Sacramento’s 2-0 start to the road trip have you feeling optimistic that the Kings have what it takes to make a run in the postseason.
Following Thursday’s win over Brooklyn, the Kings extended its lead over Phoenix to five games for home-court advantage in the first round and padded its gap between the seventh-seed Minnesota Timberwolves by putting 7.5 games between themselves and Play-In territory.
With 13 games to go, you can almost see the finish line. It’s about to be a party in Sacramento–one that has been 16 years in the making.
UPDATE (March 17): Kevin Huerter is considered day-to-day after an MRI on his hamstring came back clean, per Adrian Wojnarowski.
Sacramento Kings guard Kevin Huerter is considered day-to-day after an MRI on his right hamstring came back clean, per @wojespn.https://t.co/motHzAKllG
— Sactown Sports 1140 (@Sactown1140) March 17, 2023
Original Story from March 16th
Kevin Huerter exited Thursday’s game midway through the first quarter after falling awkwardly on his right leg.
According to FOX 40’s Sean Cunningham, the belief around the Kings organization is that the guard suffered a mild hamstring strain.
Kevin Huerter is being checked out in the locker room after appearing to injure his lower leg on this play pic.twitter.com/y6uGoSo3D5
— Kings on NBCS (@NBCSKings) March 16, 2023
Huerter will undergo an MRI on Friday to determine the severity of the injury, but reports indicate that Sacramento is “optimistic” and “relieved that the injury wasn’t worse.”
If Huerter is to miss extended time, players like Terence Davis, Malik Monk, and Kessler Edwards will likely see expanded roles as the Kings close in on locking up a postseason berth.
Sacramento’s four-game road trip will continue on Saturday night when the Kings face Bradley Beal and a Washington Wizards team fighting for a spot in the Eastern Conference Play-In.
Be sure to get all of your Kings vs. Wizards coverage right here on Sactown Sports 1140 beginning at 3:30 PM PST on Game Night with Scott Marsh and Henry ‘The High Flyer’ Turner before a 5:00 PM PST tip-off from Washington D.C.
Upcoming Sacramento Kings Schedule
Saturday, March 18th – Sacramento Kings @ Washington Wizards – 5:00 PM PST
Monday, March 20th – Sacramento Kings @ Utah Jazz – 6:00 PM PST
Tuesday, March 21st – Sacramento Kings vs. Boston Celtics – 7:00 PM PST
Friday, March 24th – Sacramento Kings vs. Phoenix Suns – 7:00 PM PST
Saturday, March 25th – Sacramento Kings vs. Utah Jazz – 7:00 PM PST
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