The importance of the possession game for the Sacramento Kings postseaon success

Apr 17, 2024, 3:00 PM | Updated: 3:32 pm

Keegan Murray #13 of the Sacramento Kings shoots over Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warrior...

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 16: Keegan Murray #13 of the Sacramento Kings shoots over Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors in the second half during the Play-In Tournament at Golden 1 Center on April 16, 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 were forced to slightly alter their identity since Malik Monk and Kevin Huerter went down in March. They emphasized winning the possession battle to maintain offensive stability and embraced their defensive physicality.

Logging the sixth-best defensive rating (108.8) in the final 15 games aided in their final placement of 14th (114.4), a notable improvement from last season’s 24th ranking (116.0). That formula proved effective in Tuesday’s 118-94 play-in victory over the Golden State Warriors.

Keegan Murray started the game on Stephen Curry, a matchup that the second-year forward has grown accustomed to and significantly contributed to his defensive confidence. Keon Ellis displayed his disruptiveness and comfort in embracing the moment. De’Aaron Fox was a pest. Domtantas Sabonis was effective. Mike Brown and his staff got creative with matchups.

At the same time, Golden State didn’t do themselves any favors. Both sides factored into their 17 turnovers, leading to 20 Kings’ points. Lacksadasical mishaps have been an Achilles heel for the Warriors since their historic championship run began years ago when Fox was in high school, and Sacramento capitalized on that shortcoming.

“We ended up scoring 116 points [against Golden State], but in the playoffs and all that, we’re not always going to score 116 points,” Brown said postgame. “In the playoffs, you’ve got to be able to defend, and you’ve got to win the possession game, and I give our guys credit.”

“If we continue to do that (spray threes), the sky is the limit for us offensively. Where we have to make sure we are good night-in and night-out is in the possession game and defensively.”

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Keon Ellis played a significant part in Sacramento winning that battle. After recording less than six minutes against the Warriors in his entire career prior, he logged three steals, three blocks, and just three fouls in 39 minutes of run.

“Everybody’s seeing [Ellis] develop right in front of their eyes,” De’Aaaron Fox said.

After this season’s expiration, Ellis is owed roughly $4.4 million over the next two years. His continued development (and Murray’s) bodes well for Monte McNair’s future roster construction of the Sacramento Kings.

The Alabama alum impacted another crucial aspect Brown mentioned: the possession battle. Ellis, Trey Lyles, Alex Len, Davion Mitchell, and Harrison Barnes each managed two offensive rebounds. Murray logged three, while Fox and Sabonis each pulled down one.

As a team, they ended the night with 15 offensive rebounds, directly leading to 25 second-chance points. Winning the possession battle includes offensive rebounds, turnovers, and free-throw attempts.

So, despite Golden State attempting eight more free throws than the Kings, Sacramento managed 45 total points strictly from points off turnovers and second-chance buckets. The Warriors had a mere seven second-chance points and ten points off Sacramento’s six turnovers — leaving a significant advantage for Brown’s squad.

Going into halftime with a narrow four-point advantage, Fox said maintaining control of the possession battle was at the front of their mind at the start of the third.

“Continue to win the possession game,” Fox said. “If you continue to try to do that [win the possession game], and you continue to try to pound the offensive glass and get yourself extra possessions, and we did that.”

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“I think we did that throughout the entire night,” Fox continued. “We were able to cause turnovers, get out in transition. Obviously, Mike (Brown) talks about the possession game a lot, and I’m pretty sure we dominated the possession game tonight. It was good for us.”

Coach Brown said the formula for the Sacramento Kings will remain the same going into Friday’s play-in matchup in New Orleans. If they can play fast, physically, and together while gaining an advantage in the possession game, they should have favorable odds against the Pelicans for the final playoff spot in the West.

When is the next Sacramento Kings game?

Sacramento will need one more win on Friday night to keep their season alive and clinch a first-round playoff berth, but the New Orleans Pelicans will stand in their way as the two teams will meet for the sixth time this season.

The Pelicans have won all five head-to-head meetings against the Kings this season, including a 135-123 triumph on April 11th at Golden 1 Center.

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Pelicans coverage, beginning at 5:00 PM PST on Game Night before a 6:30 PM PST tip-off from New Orleans.

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Upcoming Schedule

  • Friday, April 19th – NBA Play-In – Sacramento Kings @ New Orleans Pelicans – 6:30 PM PST

NBA Postseason Schedule

  • Tuesday, April 16th-Friday, April 19th – NBA Play-In Tournament
  • Saturday, April 20th – NBA Playoffs (First Round) begin

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