SACRAMENTO KINGS

Suns hold off Kings to increase lead in West standings

Feb 13, 2024, 10:02 PM | Updated: Feb 14, 2024, 7:51 am

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 13: Royce O'Neale #00 of the Phoenix Suns attempts to control a rebound...

(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

As we close in on the All-Star break, games will begin to have a heightened level of importance for the Sacramento Kings.

Tuesday’s game in Phoenix was one that Sacramento needed to have if they wanted to secure the regular season series against the Suns and control any tiebreaker scenarios.

Instead, it was Phoenix that came out on top as the Suns delivered a 130-125 win over the Kings to tie the season series at two games apiece while increasing their lead for the sixth and final Western Conference playoff spot to 1.5 games.

It was a battle of a showdown between these two Pacific Division foes, but Kevin Durant (28 points) and the Suns did just enough to escape with a big win for a Phoenix squad that has won 13 of its past 17 games.

For Sacramento (30-23), the loss is costly as they have fallen to the eighth spot in the West, with the surging Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors getting closer with each passing day.

Kings vs. Suns Recap & Takeaways

As concerns surrounding De’Aaron Fox’s play continued to grow, the All-NBA guard made a statement during the first half of Tuesday’s action.

Fox, who had not scored more than 19 points in his past four games, racked up 17 first-half points to help Sacramento’s offense get off to a strong start in the first quarter. It wasn’t just Fox locked in early either, as Domantas Sabonis and Malik Monk erupted for big first-half performances to put the Kings in a strong spot early.

Sabonis continued his first-half dominance with a monster first two quarters of play, scoring 19 points (seven-of-ten shooting), five rebounds, eight assists, and three blocked shots over 19 minutes.

Last but not least, Malik Monk–Sacramento’s top scorer from the past two games–picked up where he left off on Sunday by scoring 14 points over his first 14 minutes of playing time.

In a shoot-out of a first half, the Kings entered the halftime break with a 67-64 lead thanks to a red-hot showing from the offense (59% FG), but the Suns’ 7-0 run to end the second quarter trimmed a double-digit deficit to three with plenty of game to play.

With 24 minutes remaining, it seemed as if whichever team cooled down first would be the one to take the loss.

Sacramento flirted with running away for good after opening up the second half with a 9-1 run that extended their lead to double-digits, but Phoenix hit back at the end of the third quarter just in time to take a slim 94-92 lead into the fourth.

After starting the game on fire from the perimeter, the Kings’ offense cooled off in the third (2/10) while the Suns took advantage of an over-aggressive Sacramento defense. The Suns continued to attack the paint and get to the line, while Sacramento relied on the hot hands of Sabonis, Fox, and Monk.

With Trey Lyles (illness) and Sasha Vezenkov (ankle) out of action, the Kings were forced to run a small-ball lineup during the opening minutes of the fourth, and Phoenix took advantage by opening the period with a 9-2 run that put Sacramento on the ropes.

The Kings responded with a 12-0 run of their own to tie things up, and both teams traded buckets for most of the fourth from then.

With the game on the line late, the Suns knocked down tough look after tough look while Sacramento squandered several opportunities–some at the free-throw line, as well.

Keegan Murray’s dead-ball foul was put the nail in position, and the Kings’ failure to coral a loose rebound off a missed Phoenix free-throw drove the nail into the coffin as Sacramento couldn’t execute when they needed to most.

Losses like these are tough to swallow. The Suns are a good team, and this wasn’t a loss that saw the Kings perform poorly–the three-point line is a different story (29%).

Overall, Sacramento got huge performances from Fox and Sabonis, a big night from Monk, and… that’s about it. Kevin Huerter had moments early, and Harrison Barnes knocked down some tough looks late, but outside of the Kings’ big three, no other player scored more than ten points.

This was a loss against a quality opponent, and that’s okay, because those happen throughout an 82-game season. However, the losses that loom large on the minds of Sacramento fans–Detroit, Charlotte, Portland–could prove costly if a handful of games act as the difference between an NBA Playoff berth, Play-In appearance, or quite possibly qualifying for postseason basketball as a whole.

With less than a half of the season to go, the Kings hold the fifth-hardest remaining strength of schedule in the NBA.

Teams beneath them in the standings, like Golden State (25th) and the Los Angeles Lakers (11th), have easier paths to the postseason, meaning that games will only get more important from here on out.

The stakes are high for Sacramento, and now they will have to fly to Denver to face the reigning champs on the second night of a back-to-back.

Notes

Domantas Sabonis posted a monster triple-double during the loss: 35 PTS | 18 REB | 12 AST | 14/22 FG

Sabonis became the 11th player in NBA history to post 50 triple-doubles, as the big man also racked up his 36th consecutive double-double during the loss.

De’Aaron Fox bounced back from a rough four-game stretch to finish the night with 40 points on 14/31 FG (5/12 3PT), nine rebounds, six assists, and three steals.

Malik Monk scored 20+ points for the fourth-straight game: 22 PTS | 6 AST | 33 MIN

Injury Updates

Sasha Vezenkov will sidelined for an extended period due to a Grade 3 right ankle sprain. Vezenkov suffered the injury during practice on Saturday. The Kings announced on Tuesday that Vezenkov will be re-evaluated in four-to-six weeks.

Trey Lyles missed Tuesday’s game due to an illness. Lyles is considered day-to-day.

When is the next Sacramento Kings game?

Sacramento will play a tough second night of a back-to-back on Wednesday night against the Denver Nuggets as they will look to head into the NBA All-Star break on a winning note.

Last Friday night, the Kings routed the Nuggets by a final of 135-106 behind a triple-double performance from Domantas Sabonis (17 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists).

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Nuggets coverage, beginning at 4:30 PM PST on Game Night before a 6:00 PM PST tip-off from the ‘Mile High City.’

YouTube video

Upcoming Schedule

  • Wednesday, February 14th – Sacramento Kings @ Denver Nuggets – 6:00 PM PST
  • NBA All-Star break – February 15-21
  • Thursday, February 22nd – Sacramento Kings vs. San Antonio Spurs – 7:00 PM PST
  • Sunday, February 25th – Sacramento Kings @ Los Angeles Clippers – 6:30 PM PST
  • Monday, February 26th – Sacramento Kings vs. Miami Heat – 7:00 PM PST
  • Wednesday, February 28th – Sacramento Kings @ Denver Nuggets – 6:00 PM PST

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