One Takeaway: The Sacramento Kings didn’t show up to play in Houston, again

Nov 7, 2023, 11:19 AM | Updated: 11:46 am

Fred VanVleet #5 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball around defender Kevin Huerter #9 of the S...

HOUSTON, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 06: Fred VanVleet #5 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball around defender Kevin Huerter #9 of the Sacramento Kings during the first half at Toyota Center on November 06, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

After an uncharacteristic blowout loss in Houston on Saturday, the Sacramento Kings had their chance for redemption thanks to a quick turnaround. Without De’Aaron Fox (right ankle) and Trey Lyles (left calf), a repeated lack of discipline and consistent energy led to another deflating defeat, with a final tally of 122-97.

Their league-leading offense in the year prior, with an average of 120.7 points per game, hasn’t surpassed 101 points in their three previous showings. Coach Mike Brown started his press conference with reporters in Houston by saying, “They kicked our behind, starting with me. (Rockets’ head coach) Ime [Udoka] kicked my behind and on down the line.”

Truthfully, nobody is blameless in a one-sided showing like that. The coaching staff could be better, while players lacked effort and heart from tipoff. Keon Ellis, Kessler Edwards, and a few moments from other deep bench pieces were lone moments where a spark could be felt, but it was too little too late by then.

1. Nobody has stepped up in the absence of De’Aaron Fox

Fox’s 31.3 point average through three games isn’t simple to replicate, but that’s far from his only trait the Kings were missing on Monday night. There was a lack of a calming presence when needed, where usually Fox could take matters into his own hands and even the tides, null the opposition’s building momentum.

As a result, Sacramento fell early and never seemed to have a chance from there. One of their primary offensive staples is pace, making quick but not hurried decisions in the open and half-court. The offense only felt close to normal — outside of the closing group — when Malik Monk was penetrating the paint and hitting the roll-man or spraying out to shooters.

Fox’s former college teammate’s paint touches became essential for the Sacramento Kings with their star guard sidelined, but they were inconsistent, and Monk found himself in foul trouble quickly.

Where was a quarter of Harrison Barnes adding a handful of free throws? He ended the game with three points on 1/6 from the field. Davion Mitchell, who started at point guard, managed just five points on 2/11 shooting and appeared uncomfortable orchestrating the offense.

Keegan Murray hasn’t proven ready for added offensive responsibility. However, he had moments of creating space but failed to recognize them quickly — having this film to review should be beneficial for the second year forward.

Sabonis, Sacramento’s lone All-Star on the floor, simultaneously tallied eight points, eight rebounds, five assists, and four turnovers. Yet, what may be the most surprising was the center attempting just four field goals and three free throws in 30 minutes of action.

Sunday’s matchup marked his 100th game with the organization and tied his fewest attempts while also being his lowest point total since being acquired via trade. No, he’s not a natural scorer. He’s a pass-first player, which is a skill set that most of his team’s offense revolves around, but when the moment calls for it, he’s got to find ways to contribute to their offense directly.

Houston was packing the paint and making life difficult while Sabonis attempted to direct traffic, with moments of clear frustration directed toward his teammates. He was their clear focal point, but All-Stars are expected to find ways to make adjustments, and Sabonis failed to do so.

You could keep going down the list. Sasha Vezenkov couldn’t get it rolling from three and isn’t exactly an impactful defender. JaVale McGee found some success as a lob threat but managed four fouls in ten minutes.

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“The tough part about it was that our spirit got deflated, and we didn’t have anybody out on the floor that could bring it back up,” Brown said. “So, that also was tough to watch.”

All the talk leading into these games, which Fox was deemed as likely to miss, was that no one player could replace his production. Instead, they’d been calling for a collective effort. Well, they seemed to have collectively gotten worse after two consecutive, brutal games against the Rockets’ team (who might be better than many anticipated) when they were expected to have a notable advantage.

They have to get back to playing Kings basketball. Run with pace in the open and half court, space the floor effectively, and maintain consistent and effective ball and player movement. On the defensive side of the ball, they continue to embrace the physicality that has been tirelessly asked of them while keeping their hands back to avoid fouls.

Outside of some optimism about Keon Ellis and Kessler Edwards, practically nothing was encouraging from the Sacramento Kings’ performance on Monday night.

The concern is warranted, but their record through six games (2-4) is identical to where it was last season, and that squad managed to finish third in the Western Conference (48-34). There’s still plenty of basketball left to be played.

When is the next Sacramento Kings Game?

The Sacramento Kings will return home for a three-game homestand that tips off on Wednesday against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Keegan Murray will come face-to-face with his twin brother and rookie forward Kris Murray for the first time as NBA players when Portland arrives at Golden 1 Center.

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Blazers coverage, beginning at 5:30 PM PST on Game Night before a 7:00 PM PST tip-off from downtown Sacramento.

Upcoming Sacramento Kings Schedule

  • Wednesday, November 8th – Sacramento Kings vs. Portland Trail Blazers – 7 PM PST
  • Friday, November 10th – Sacramento Kings vs. Oklahoma City Thunder** – 7 PM PST
  • Monday, November 13th – Sacramento Kings vs. Cleveland Cavaliers – 7:00 PM PST
  • Wednesday, November 15th – Sacramento Kings @ Los Angeles Lakers – 7:00 PM PST
  • Friday, November 17th – Sacramento Kings @ San Antonio Spurs – 4:30 PM PST

** NBA In-Season Tournament Group Play

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