The Sacramento Kings found success against Washington by repeating one simple playcall

Dec 19, 2023, 6:13 PM | Updated: 6:17 pm

De'Aaron Fox #5 of the Sacramento Kings celebrates with Harrison Barnes #40 after making a three-po...

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 09: De'Aaron Fox #5 of the Sacramento Kings celebrates with Harrison Barnes #40 after making a three-point basket in the third quarter against the Denver Nuggets at Golden 1 Center on March 09, 2022 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 Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

At halftime Monday night, the Sacramento Kings held a 66-56 lead over the Washington Wizards. By the end of quarter three, their lead had ballooned to 112-91, a healthy 21-point margin, with 12 minutes remaining thanks to success found with one set.

The Kings have emphasized abusing mismatches this season, which was a primary influence in their play call. With the Wizards switching defense, Sacramento aimed to get post-up opportunities for Harrison Barnes, where he’d have a size advantage on either Tyus Jones or Jordan Poole.

They went to an empty-side pick-and-roll for nearly seven minutes, meaning the two players directly involved in the initial action are the lone contributors on that side of the floor to limit options for help defenders.

While this was not the first time it was run in the repetitive stretch, it’s a prime example. De’Aaron Fox brings the ball up the court and signals for Keegan Murray to make his way to the weakside while Harrison Barnes simultaneously makes his way toward Fox to screen Jones, the on-ball defender.

Fox intelligently dragged his new defender, Kyle Kuzma, to the center of the floor to maintain space for Barnes to seal Jones off en route to the basket. As Fox lobs an entry pass, Poole made an ill-advised steal attempt, leaving an easy layup for the North Carolina product.

Their next offensive possession was in semi-transition, where Domantas Sabonis converted a post-up attempt over Daniel Gafford. Then, it was back to the aforementioned set. Again, Fox strolled to the right wing, and Barnes made his way over to set a screen.

Jones, anticipating the screen, placed himself on Fox’s left shoulder. A quick in-and-out move from the All-Star guard caused Jones to freeze momentarily, leaving a one-on-one situation between Fox and Kuzma, resulting in free throws. Any guesses on what the Sacramento Kings elected to run their next time down the floor?

“That’s NBA basketball,” Fox said postgame. “If you can’t stop something, continue to run it, run it, and run it until they stop it once or twice in a row. We were able to execute it.”

The Sacramento Kings were back at it no more than 30 seconds after the previous clip. Once again, Fox sets up Jones for the incoming Barnes screen and his minimal spin move was enough to get Washington to switch.

Daniel Gafford waited around the nail to deny a direct entry pass this time. In response, Fox swung the ball to Sabonis, leaving Corey Kispert with help-side responsibilities as Jones fronted Barnes. Deni Avdija points, presumably to alert his teammate to their defensive responsibility, but a simple down screen from Keegan Murray on Kispert’s man, Kevin Huerter, made all the difference.

It caused Kispert to close the gap on Huerter, leaving the opportunity for Sabonis to make a high-low entry pass to Barnes, who converts an and-one after Avdija’s late rotation. Washington was visibly frustrated with their coverage.

“We didn’t even get to the backside of the action,” Coach Brown said. “We were able to exploit their defense on the frontside of the action. They kind of messed up the switch with HB and Foxy time and time again and when they did switch they tried to front and we were able to throw over the top to HB. He did a great job sealing his guy. He made the right play after the right play after the right play, so that was a lot of fun to see. I don’t know how many times in a row we ran it, and it was successful. So, great execution by our guys in looking at not just what the final part of the play is supposed to be but looking at all options on the play.”

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During the free-throw attempts, Washington subbed their lengthy 6’6 rookie Bilal Coulibaly into the action to check Fox and limit the size advantage post-switch. It didn’t matter. Fox continued to recognize and capitalize on their defense, who were anticipating the play call, and took matters into his own hands when appropriate.

The Wizards stopped fronting Barnes post-switch in the initial action and managed to get two stops, the second coming at the 5:17 mark of quarter three. From there, the Kings went in another direction as Fox subbed out at his usual time.

For nearly half their most successful quarter, the Sacramento Kings found success rinsing and repeating that action. They tallied 46 points in the third, largely thanks to their success in repeatedly executing a simple action.

Against high-caliber teams, that success rate will rarely be maintained, but the group deserves credit for taking advantage of what the opposition presented to them.

When is the next Sacramento Kings game?

Sacramento will continue its six-game home stand on Wednesday night against a Boston Celtics team that has looked like an NBA Finals favorite so far this season.

Boston will be on the second night of a back-to-back after facing the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco on Tuesday night.

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Celtics coverage, beginning at 5:30 PM PST on Game Night before a 7:00 PM PST tip-off from Golden 1 Center.

Upcoming Schedule

  • Wednesday, December 20th – Sacramento Kings vs. Boston Celtics – 7:00 PM PST
  • Friday, December 22nd – Sacramento Kings vs. Phoenix Suns – 7:00 PM PST
  • Saturday, December 23rd – Sacramento Kings vs. Minnesota Timberwolves – 7:00 PM PST
  • Tuesday, December 26th – Sacramento Kings @ Portland Trail Blazers – @ 7:00 PM PST
  • Friday, December 29th – Sacramento Kings @ Atlanta Hawks – 4:30 PM PST

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