Three takeaways: A historic night from Domantas Sabonis and finding ways to score

Jan 30, 2024, 1:03 PM

Domantas Sabonis #10 of the Sacramento Kings looks to pass against the Dallas Mavericks in the firs...

DALLAS, TX - JANUARY 27: Domantas Sabonis #10 of the Sacramento Kings looks to pass against the Dallas Mavericks in the first half at American Airlines Center on January 27, 2024 in Dallas, Texas. 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 Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Three games into their season-long seven-game road trip, the Sacramento Kings faced off against the Memphis Grizzles — sort of. Domantas Sabonis has a record-setting night on the glass, and the Kings found other ways to score as they struggled from three against a Grizzlies team without eleven players due to injury.

Ja Morant, Steven Adams, Desmond Bane, Marcus Smart, Luke Kennard, Brandon Clarke, John Konchar, Jake LaRavia, Vince Williams Jr., Derrick Rose, and Ziaire Williams were all sidelined. And shorthanded Grizzlies played in Indiana the night prior.

Yet, despite their recent absences, Memphis had found ways to win games — before their loss to the Pacers, they had won three straight against Orlando, Miami, and Toronto.

Meanwhile, Sacramento was aiming to extend their three-game losing streak to four. After a questionable start and in a closer game than they would’ve hoped, the Kings managed to do just that. Here are three takeaways from Tuesday night’s 103-94 win.

1. Finding ways to score with threes not falling

The Kings missed their initial 12 threes, with their first long-range conversion coming at the 9:28 mark of the second quarter. They were primarily good looks and shots they were happy to live with. But, sometimes, shots just aren’t going to go down at their usual rate.

“It felt like we were getting good looks,” Kevin Huerter told reporters in Memphis postgame. “It felt like the ball was moving. We were playing the right way. So, it was only a matter of time unless we were going to go on a historically really bad shooting night.”

“Our offense is a lot of ball movement and a lot of player movement. As long as we continue to get those shots and play the right way, we’re fine living with the results,” he continued. “The first quarter, we didn’t make them, and really, the whole game, we didn’t make them, but we were made enough to come away with the victory.”

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Instead of waiting for those looks to fall, they found other ways to put up points.

Eleven offensive rebounds led to 17 second-change points. The Kings also managed 16 fast break points, 56 points in the paint, and 22 points off Memphis’s 14 turnovers.

De’Aaron Fox converted seven of ten from inside the arc and was the only Sacramento player to attempt a free throw — where he was 6/10.

It helps that after the 12 misses, the Kings went 11-of-27 (40.7 percent) from three.

While they took advantage of the Grizzlies’ mistakes, the Kings were far from flawless. Nineteen turnovers is their third-highest tally of the season in that regard.

“We didn’t do a good job taking care of the basketball,” Mike Brown said. “You give Memphis a lot of credit. They’re long. They’re athletic. Taylor (Jenkins) does a good job with those guys, especially defensively, and they got their hands on our ball a couple of times, which created turnovers.”

Defensively, the Kings turned it around after a concerning opening stint.

2. Three-quarters of sound defense

Memphis scored 33 points in the opening quarter on 48 percent from the field, including 7/10 from three. With Santi Aldama being 3/4 from deep at that point, Sacramento’s coaching staff relayed a change in coverage for Aldama.

Coming into the night, he was not labeled as a ‘hot’ player, meaning he warranted shorter closeouts and was acceptable to help off of. Well, he earned a change in label and coverage mid-game. The same conversation occurred regarding Matthew Hurt, who was playing his first NBA game.

“Those guys are itching at an opportunity, and they stepped up tonight to try to take advantage of it,” Brown said. “We, as the game went along, started to turn up our defensive intensity, trying to limit them to one shot and then try to get out and run.”

In the remaining 36 minutes, Sacramento held their opponents to 61 points on 32.7 percent from three and 6/26 from three.

Throughout their four-game winning streak, the Kings have had a 113.1 defensive rating, twelfth in the NBA during that stretch. They’re up to 115.9 (18th) on the season, albeit that number still heavily fluctuates every few games.

The tough start may be a cause for concern, but they displayed a larger sample size of encouraging defense while recovering from initial shortcomings.

3. Record-setting night from Domantas Sabonis

Twenty-six rebounds. Domantas Sabonis ended the night with 26 rebounds, 20 points, and five assists while missing just one of his eleven shot attempts.

He joined Wilt Chamberlin as the only player with 20+ points, 25+ rebounds, and 5+ assists while shooting 90 percent or higher in a game. Chamberlin did it on six occasions.

No Sacramento player has pulled down as many rebounds in regulation as Domantas Sabonis did Tuesday night — in 2001, Chris Webber recorded a ridiculous 51 points and 26 rebound performances in an overtime loss to Indiana.

“It’s pretty cool,” Domantas Sabonis said of setting the Sacramento-era record. “There’s been a lot of greats, a lot of great bigs, hall of farmers on this team, so to get that done is a really cool accomplishment.”

The 6’10 joked postgame that his teammates’ missing open shots helped lead to his six offensive rebounds. His nightly energy and apparent desire to win have helped the Kings tremendously this season. That mindset was apparent when he was asked about it postgame.

“It’s the passion for the game,” he said. “We love this game. You love your job, right? Exactly, you know. We get to play this every night. I’m just excited to go out there and have this opportunity. It’s going to end one day, and I’m going to be watching and be like, ‘Damn, I wish I was out there.’”

Domantas Sabonis is on pace to repeat as the league-leading rebounder with a league-best 13.0 per night. 19.9 points, 13.0 rebounds, and 7.9 assists while shooting 61.9 percent from the field — elite production.

“Domas just had a monster night,” Brown said. “That’s why he’s an All-Star. That’s why he’s in the MVP conversation.”

While MVP is another story, Sabonis continues to strengthen his case for a fourth All-Star appearance, which would include a return to Indiana, where he played for five and a half seasons.

When is the next Sacramento Kings game?

Sacramento’s seven-game road trip will continue on Wednesday night when the Kings face the Miami Heat.

Last season, Sacramento split the two-game season series with Miami, as the home team claimed each matchup.

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Heat coverage, beginning at 3:00 PM PST on Game Night before a 4:30 PM PST tip-off from South Beach.

Upcoming Schedule

  • Wednesday, January 31st – Sacramento Kings @ Miami Heat – 4:30 PM PST
  • Friday, February 2nd – Sacramento Kings @ Indiana Pacers – 4:30 PM PST
  • Saturday, February 3rd – Sacramento Kings @ Chicago Bulls – 5:00 PM PST
  • Monday, February 5th – Sacramento Kings @ Cleveland Cavaliers – 4:00 PM PST
  • Wednesday, February 7th – Sacramento Kings vs. Detroit Pistons – 7:00 PM PST

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Three takeaways: A historic night from Domantas Sabonis and finding ways to score