Sacramento found success playing their brand of basketball in back-to-back wins

Mar 14, 2024, 1:45 PM | Updated: 2:55 pm

LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers goes for a loose ball against Keegan Murray #13 and Harr...

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 13: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers goes for a loose ball against Keegan Murray #13 and Harrison Barnes #40 of the Sacramento Kings in the first half at Golden 1 Center on March 13, 2024 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Sacramento Kings have been one of the toughest evaluations of the 2023-24 NBA season, with emphatic wins over top-tier opponents and head-scratching losses to teams sitting at the bottom of the standings.

Their two most recent home back-to-back against the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers fit into the former, two convincing tallies in the win column.

It came by playing their brand of basketball: fast, physical, and together. They have attempted to identify with that trio of adjectives all season long. The recent wins prove how dangerous they can be when executing those aspects.

After the All-Star break, Sacramento ranked in the bottom five in defensive rating before the back-to-back, while the Bucks and Lakers featured top-tier offenses. Defeating Milwaukee 129-94 Tuesday night marked just the sixth time the Kings held a team under 100 points this season, with all six being victories.

With the Lakers coming into Golden 1 Center Wednesday, Sacramento head coach Mike Brown and his staff highlighted that they had conceded an average of 116 points in games directly after holding opponents to a double-digit total/

Sure enough, they successfully limited the LeBron James and Anthony Davis-led squad to 107 on the night while recording 120 of their own.

“Coming into the game, we talked about putting together two games in a row and, obviously, our struggles this year with back-to-backs,” Harrison Barnes said after Wednesday’s win over the Lakers. “So, for us, I think, to come out and play 48 minutes, stay poised throughout the whole thing, get a win, was huge.”

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Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James are two of, if not the best two, transition scorers in the association, but the Kings limited their opportunities by showing a wall and simultaneously closing out to shooters effectively.

The Bucks scored 42 points in the paint and went 7/39 from three. Los Angeles managed 46 points in the paint and 14/32 from beyond the arc.

Closeouts have been a hot topic this season, with plenty of behind-the-scenes work on the fundamentals of an effective closeout based on the caliber of the shooter taking place at the practice facility.

“Our season lies with what we do defensively,” De’Aaron Fox said. Keon Ellis, who started in the absence of Kevin Huerter (right leg contusion) against the Lakers, and Davion Mitchell were essential contributors.

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Their constant ball pressure, active hands, and deflections disrupted opposing offenses and led to simplified opportunities in transition. James, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, had just eight points through three quarters of play. Antetokounmpo found ways to score but struggled to get his teammates involved, evidenced by his identical amount of assists and turnovers (4).

In both instances, Sacramento’s impressive third-quarter defense played a significant factor.

  • Q3 vs. Milwaukee: SAC (20), MIL (22): -2
  • Q3 vs. Los Angeles: SAC (28), LAL (17): +11

“Being a team that can come out of halftime and be a great third-quarter team is huge for anybody because you can be up or down, and you can extend the lead or bring the lead back coming out of the half,” Fox said. “For a while, while I was here, the third quarter was terrible for us, so it’s great being able to do that, but we have to be able to do that consistently.”

The one negative to their defense came from opponent free-throws, with the Bucks attempting 35 while the Lakers managed 22. Their combined 57 attempts were 29 more than the Kings tally in those showings, but it’s the cost of playing physical defense.

Offensively, it was a flashback to last season’s team in California’s capital. In the back-to-back, the Kings shot a combined 45.7 percent (37/81) from deep, with spray threes being attempted left and right.

Brown has shared that his team aims for roughly 40 triples a night, with half of them ideally coming off of sprays. “I keep saying it,” Brown said. “If we touch the paint, and we get off it like that, with the way we shoot, that’s a HORSE shot.”

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In recent games, primarily against the Miami Heat and Houston Rockets, turnovers and subsequent poor transition defense made Sacramento’s defense increasingly difficult. Yet, against the Bucks (8) and Lakers (14), the Kings combined for just 22 turnovers.

These performances have made the 2023-24 Sacramento Kings a tough evaluation. One thing is clear: when the Kings play their best brand of basketball (fast, physical, and together), they can compete with anyone in the association.

The importance of ‘spray threes’ in Sacramento’s free flowing offense

When is the next Sacramento Kings game?

Sacramento will continue its six-game homestand on Saturday night when they face All-Star guard Jalen Brunson and the New York Knicks at Golden 1 Center.

Last season, the Kings secured a 122-117 win over the Knicks at home in front of a national audience on TNT. Domantas Sabonis posted a triple-double (24 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists), while De’Aaron Fox’s 24 points helped Sacramento close things out in crunch time.

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

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Upcoming Schedule

  • Saturday, March 16th – Sacramento Kings vs. New York Knicks – 7:00 PM PST
  • Monday, March 18th – Sacramento Kings vs. Memphis Grizzlies – 7:00 PM PST
  • Wednesday, March 20th – Sacramento Kings @ Toronto Raptors – 4:30 PM PST
  • Thursday, March 21st – Sacramento Kings @ Washington Wizards – 4:00 PM PST
  • Saturday, March 23rd – Sacramento Kings @ Orlando Magic – 4:00 PM PST

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Sacramento found success playing their brand of basketball in back-to-back wins