They’re Back: Huerter, Murray find offense as Kings top Thunder

Nov 10, 2023, 9:42 PM | Updated: 10:40 pm

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

It’s not a secret that Kevin Huerter and Keegan Murray have struggled to open up the 2023-24 season.

Entering play on Friday night, the Sacramento Kings’ sharpshooting duo had combined to shoot 33 percent from the field and 26 percent from three-point land.

With both Huerter and Murray struggling, the absence of De’Aaron Fox (ankle sprain) has loomed large as Sacramento has lacked stability on the offensive end.

It was only a matter of time before the Kings’ duo broke through and found the bottom of the net, and it just so happened that both players would break through in unison at an ideal time.

Huerter scored a season-high 28 points, Murray had a 24-point, 11-rebound double-double, and Sacramento opened up their NBA In-Season Tournament schedule with a 105-98 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in front of a sold-out Golden 1 Center.

The Kings (4-4) have won consecutive games for the first time this season following a rough stretch that saw the ‘Beam Team’ lose four of their past five contests.

While it wasn’t a complete effort on the offensive end for Sacramento (41% from the field and 27% from deep), big nights from Huerter, Murray, and Domantas Sabonis (17 points, 12 rebounds, 13 assists) put the Kings in a position to beat an up-and-coming Thunder team.

“We shoot 41 percent from the field and 27 percent from three. That’s a loss for us last year,” head coach Mike Brown said of his team’s effort following the win.

Although the three-point struggles continued to plague Sacramento, the Kings went six-of-13 (46%) from deep during the fourth quarter to stave off Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s big closing effort (21 second-half points).

It wasn’t a complete effort, but Sacramento is slowly finding its footing on offense as key members of the rotation begin to tap into their true form.

Huerter & Sabonis Set The Tone Early

Kevin Huerter had his strongest game of the young season on Wednesday as the sharpshooter rediscovered his three-point stroke during a 17-point outing against the Portland Trail Blazers.

If you were wondering how Huerter would follow up his breakout performance in his next appearance, it didn’t take long to get an answer.

‘Red Velvet’ was Sacramento’s focal point on offense during the first quarter as Huerter scored 15 points on six-of-eight shooting from the field and three-of-five from beyond the arc as the Kings jumped out to an early double-digit lead.

With Huerter knocking down looks from the perimeter and cutting without the ball, life was made easy for Domantas Sabonis, who also had an active start to this one.

Sabonis scored 10 points, grabbed five rebounds, and handed out four assists–all off of baskets made by Huerter.

The All-NBA center put a cherry on top of a solid first quarter for the Kings by posterizing rookie big man Chet Holmgren, who also attended Sabonis’ alma mater, Gonzaga University.

Huerter and Sabonis outscored a struggling Thunder offense by themselves, with Sacramento taking a 34-20 lead into the second quarter.

Thanks to the strong start, the Kings were able to use the 14-point cushion to their advantage for the remainder of the game. Oklahoma City outscored Sacramento 78-71 during the final three quarters, but to no avail, thanks to a fast start in the first.

Huerter went on to finish the game with a season-high 28 points (11-of-19 from the field) to go along with nine rebounds, and three steals over 33 minutes.

Keegan Gets It Going

With Huerter knocking down looks early, it was Keegan Murray’s turn to break out of his shooting slump.

The reigning NBA All-Rookie First-Team forward had his highest-scoring game of the season on Friday, and that isn’t the only area in which Murray made an impact during the win.

Murray posted his first double-double of the season (fifth of his career) during a 24-point, 11-rebound performance while shooting eight-of-17 from the field and three-of-ten from three-point range.

Not only did Murray have a much-needed breakthrough performance, but he also delivered the best poster dunk of his young career.

During the second quarter, Murray followed Domantas Sabonis’ footsteps by delivering a rim-rattling jam over Thunder center Chet Holmgren as the Kings’ bench lost its mind.

Murray has improved his rebounding this season, something that he was inconsistent at during his rookie year. Over eight games this season, Murray has finished with 5+ rebounds in seven games.

We know what Murray can bring on the offensive end when he’s on, but improving his rebounding ability has been a solid addition to his skill set.

A Big Night For The Bench

Oklahoma City made things interesting down the final stretch of the third quarter and into the early minutes of the fourth, but Sacramento’s bench shut things down before the game got out of control.

Sasha Vezenkov, who was subbed in for Kessler Edwards following some defensive miscues, came up clutch with two triples during the final period to help the Kings keep the Thunder at arms-reach.

Davion Mitchell also contributed with a big triple that capped an 11-3 run to open up the fourth, a run that proved to be the difference as Sacramento held on in crunch time.

Malik Monk, who finished Wednesday’s game with a career-high ten assists, passed out eight dimes against Oklahoma City. Monk’s eight-assist night marked the first time in his career that he has handed out eight assists in consecutive games.

The Sixth Man of the Year candidate also finished with 12 points on five-of-12 shooting during the winning effort.

Sabonis The Triple-Double Machine

Domantas Sabonis makes it look easy.

According to the Kings, Sabonis has 15 career triple-doubles with Sacramento, passing Chris Webber (14) for the second-most triple-doubles in franchise history.

The All-Star finished the night with 17 points, 12 rebounds, 13 assists, and two blocks over 38 minutes. Over eight appearances this season, Sabonis has posted a double-double in seven games.

NBA In-Season Tournament Standings – West Group C

Sacramento (1-0)

Minnesota (1-0)

Golden State (1-0)

San Antonio (0-1)

Oklahoma City (0-2)

For more information on how the NBA In-Season Tournament works, click here.

Injury Report

De’Aaron Fox (right ankle sprain) missed his fifth-straight game on Friday night. There is no clear timetable on Fox, who appeared to be closing in on a return to action the last time we heard from the guard last week, as it seems the Kings will take it slow with their All-Star guard.

Trey Lyles (left calf strain) missed his eighth-straight game and has not appeared in a game this season. Lyles is also without a clear timetable but was working his way into game shape the last time the media was given an update on the forward.

When is the next Sacramento Kings Game?

Sacramento will conclude its homestand on Monday night when they face Donovan Mitchell and the Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden 1 Center.

After facing Cleveland, the Kings will embark on a ten-day, six-game road trip that will take them away from Northern California until after Thanksgiving.

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

Upcoming Schedule

  • 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
  • Sunday, November 19th – Sacramento Kings @ Dallas Mavericks – 4:30 PM PST
  • Monday, November 20th – Sacramento Kings @ New Orleans Pelicans – 5:00 PM PST
  • Wednesday, November 22nd – Sacramento Kings @ New Orleans Pelicans – 5:00 PM PST

** NBA In-Season Tournament Group Play

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