Sabonis, Kings erase late 19-point deficit to stun Nuggets

Dec 29, 2022, 12:30 AM

| Updated: 1:01 am
SACRAMENTO, CA - DECEMBER 28: Domantas Sabonis #10 of the Sacramento Kings celebrates a dunk agains...

(Photo by Kavin Mistry/Getty Images)

(Photo by Kavin Mistry/Getty Images)

Wednesday night’s game between the Sacramento Kings and Denver Nuggets went down to the very last possession, as a sellout crowd at Golden 1 Center held its breath during Nikola Jokić’s game-winning attempt at the buzzer.

The two-time MVP’s three-point attempt missed everything as 17,985 fans in attendance erupted in celebration of a thrilling 127-126 win for a Kings team that was getting battered for most of the night.

Domantas Sabonis, who missed Tuesday’s 113-106 loss against the Nuggets, returned with a purpose in the finale of the two-game set, scoring 31 points, grabbing 10 boards, and handing out five assists during the win.

Sacramento (18-15) needed a bounce-back performance, and their All-Star center was a massive part of why the beam will be lit into the early hours of Thursday morning.

It wasn’t all fun for Sacramento on Wednesday night.

Denver set the tone early, much like the Kings did on Tuesday when they jumped out to an early 20-point lead before the halftime break. In this game, the Nuggets would control the pace as Sacramento’s defense had no answer for Jokić (20 first-half points) and a Denver offense that shot 63 percent from the field and 54 percent from beyond the three-point line.

Quite frankly, the Kings were lucky to be within 75-62 at the break. If it weren’t for De’Aaron Fox’s 14-point effort in the second quarter, things could have been a lot uglier as Denver’s 19-point lead was trimmed to 13 with one half of basketball remaining.

If Sacramento was going to pull off a comeback win, they would need to lock in on the defensive end and pick up the pace offensively. Both would happen during the most crucial moments in the game.

Sacramento trailed 100-81 with 3:26 remaining in the third quarter, as it appeared the Nuggets were on their way to completing a two-game sweep in effortless fashion. With their backs against the wall, Malik Monk helped pace a 13-5 run to cut Denver’s lead to 105-94 heading into the fourth.

With Monk, Fox, and Sabonis all locked in offensively, the Kings needed to string together stops if they wanted to make things interesting.

The defensive effort from Sacramento was notable during crunch time, and players like Davion Mitchell–the recipient of tonight’s Defensive Player of the Game chain–and KZ Okpala were the driving forces behind the Kings’ intense defensive presence during the fourth quarter.

After allowing Denver to shoot 62 percent from the field over the first three quarters, Sacramento’s defense held the Nuggets to just 21 points on 38 percent shooting during the final 12 minutes of play.

With the defense locked in, Fox flipped the ‘clutch time’ switch as the guard scored 15 points on six-of-seven shooting from the field during the fourth, hitting big shot after big shot during the final three minutes. Fox scored six points on a perfect three-of-three shooting performance during the final 3:30 of play. One of those baskets–a pull-up with 1:18 to go–gave the Kings their biggest lead of the night at an ideal point in the night.

One of the night’s biggest plays came with the score tied at 124-124 with less than a minute remaining, as Trey Lyles tapped out a loose rebound to Sabonis, who scooped up the pass for the go-ahead bucket with 55 seconds on the clock.

Was Lyles out of bounds during the play? Maybe. Maybe not. As we all have witnessed this season, Sacramento has been on the odd end of some Two Minute Reports. If anything, this could be an evening of the scales it is revealed that Lyles didn’t establish position in bounds before tapping the pass to Sabonis.


After Monk knocked down one of two free throws, it would come down to one stop for Sacramento. With 0.7 seconds on the clock, the Kings applied plenty of pressure to Jokić as his final shot had no chance.

The missed game-winning attempt delivered a moment of relief to fans in attendance, but nobody felt more relief than the players on the floor and coaches on the bench.

“They fought really hard and they defended at a playoff level,” acting head coach Jordi Fernández said of the late defensive effort from his group. “That’s what the atmosphere was out there and we don’t come back and get this win if those guys don’t do that job that well.”

Sacramento will finish a six-game home stand on Friday night, and the win over Denver gives them a chance to finish the stretch of games with a 3-3 record before departing on a brief road trip.

Splitting a set of games against the best team in the Western Conference isn’t too shabby, especially when you take Wednesday’s finish into account.

The Kings were getting taken advantage of on the defensive end all night long, but when they needed to buckle down defensively, they did just that to secure the win. That’s what we call “progress”.

Three Kings Score 30+ Points

Some history took place for the Kings on Wednesday night, as three players scored 30 points or more for the first time in franchise history since 1979.

Malik Monk (33 points), De’Aaron Fox (31 points), and Domantas Sabonis (31 points) became the first trip in the Sacramento era (1985-present) to do so as the trio accounted for 95 of the team’s 127 points.

The explosive performance was a much-needed outing for Monk, who entered play having averaged 9.8 points and 4.2 assists per game on 33% FG and 15% 3PT over his past five games. Monk took to social media following Tuesday’s loss in which he scored just eight points on three-of-10 shooting, stating that he needed to do better.

He did just that during the win, establishing a season-high in points scored while handing out three assists over 31 minutes.

Fox scored 31 points (12-of-21 from the field) and dished out 13 assists to secure his fifth double-double of the season, with most of his damage coming during the fourth quarter. The speedy guard has scored 10+ points during the fourth quarter in three-straight games.

Lastly, Domantas Sabonis–the player that everyone had their eyes on during the win–secured his 11th-straight double-double during the victory, as the big man finished the night with 31 points, 10 boards, and five assists.

Playing with a fractured right thumb, Sabonis had his hand taped up and played with tons of heart during the win, something that Fox spoke about following the game.

“He literally has a broken thumb,” Fox said postgame of his teammate. “He goes out there and fights, rebounds. He still went out there and it shows his toughness. He wants to win.”

The big man said postgame that he feels fine after returning to action, adding that he even had to tell his teammates to stop asking about how he was feeling. Sabonis says that his injury is one that he will likely have to manage for the remainder of the season, but added that he feels confident that he will be able to continue playing at a high level while managing the pain and recovery process.

Sabonis and Fox became the first set of Kings teammates to post 30-point double-doubles in the Sacramento era. Not a bad night for the Kings two franchise stars.

Davion Gets The DPOG Chain

Davion Mitchell received the Defensive Player of the Game chain. The defensive-minded guard was a menace late in the game as he pressured Nuggets guards Bones Hyland, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Ish Smith into several tough defensive possessions during the second half.

Injury Report

  • Domantas Sabonis (avulsion fracture of the ulnar collateral ligament of the right thumb) was active for Wednesday night’s game after sitting out on Tuesday.
  • Mike Brown (Health & Safety protocols) was placed into the NBA’s protocols on Tuesday and will remain away from the team until he is cleared to return.

Sacramento Kings Postgame Show

Check out our Sactown Sports Kings Recap Show on the Sactown Sports 1140 YouTube channel!

Sactown Sports Kings Recap Shows will be happening all season long, immediately following each Kings game!

Next Game

Sacramento will hope to finish the six-game home stand on a high note when they face the Utah Jazz on Friday night at Golden 1 Center.

Get your Kings vs. Jazz coverage on Sactown Sports 1140 starting at 5:30 pm PST on Game Night before action tips off at 7:00 pm PST from downtown Sacramento.

Upcoming Sacramento Kings Schedule

Friday, December 30th – Sacramento Kings vs. Utah Jazz – 7:00 PM PST

2023| Happy New Year! | 2023

Sunday, January 1st – Sacramento Kings @ Memphis Grizzlies – 5:00 PM PST

Tuesday, January 3rd – Sacramento Kings @ Utah Jazz – 6:00 PM PST

Wednesday, January 4th – Sacramento Kings vs. Atlanta Hawks – 7:00 PM PST

Saturday, January 7th – Sacramento Kings vs. Los Angeles Lakers – 7:00 PM PST


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