Three Takeaways: Sacramento fail to overcome Golden State in the absence of De’Aaron Fox

Nov 2, 2023, 4:53 PM

Domantas Sabonis #10 of the Sacramento Kings talks to teammate Keegan Murray #13 during a timeout i...

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 01: Domantas Sabonis #10 of the Sacramento Kings talks to teammate Keegan Murray #13 during a timeout in the game against the Golden State Warriors at Chase Center on November 01, 2023 in San Francisco, 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)

For the fourth time this season, including preseason, the Sacramento Kings faced off against the Golden State Warriors Wednesday night. These teams are incredibly familiar with each other, but De’Aaron Fox being unavailable with an ankle injury added difficulties for head Coach Mike Brown.

Like previous showdowns between these two organizations, everything came down to the final possession, where Klay Thompson knocked down a mid-range jumper over Davion Mitchell to take a 102-101 lead with 0.2 seconds remaining. That left the Kings with no choice but to attempt a highly anticipated unsuccessful tip-in.

Both teams were dealing with complications. Sacramento’s star guard was sidelined, and Golden State was playing their third game in four nights, with the two prior taking place in Houston and New Orleans before coming home to Chase Center mid-week.

That combination led to a back-and-forth game featuring nine lead changes. Here are my takeaways from Sacramento’s second loss of the 2023-24 season.

1. Increased aggression from Domantas Sabonis

Golden State notoriously limited Sabonis’s playmaking ability and left him space to shoot mid-range jumpers or get downhill in the postseason. Without their other primary creator in De’Aaron Fox, Sabonis saw that coverage as an additional opportunity to contribute to the scoreboard directly. The Gonzaga alum attempted 16 field goals and 12 free throws, which made for his most combined attempts in a Sacramento jersey.

“I was just put in situations where I had to take the shot,” he said postgame. “I couldn’t really go and find another teammate, and sometimes I had to put the team on my back and make some decisions that aren’t usually what I do.”

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Unfortunately, Sabonis converted just seven of his 12 free throws in a one-point loss. Luckily for him, not many teams around the association have a defensive frontcourt like Golden State’s.

Draymond Green and Kevon Looney are elite backline defenders who are content with giving the Kings’ center jumpers to limit his playmaking ability. He ended the night with eight assists, a season-high through four games, but created a few wide-open looks for good shooters that simply didn’t fall.

2. Altering the offense without De’Aaron Fox

Sacramento knocked down 11 of their 35 attempts from three-point range, and only three players tallied more than one made triple. Davion Mitchell (3/6), Malik Monk (3/5), and Harrison Barnes (4/7) did their part. But their typical threats of Keegan Murray and Kevin Huerter went a combined 1/12 despite ending last season above 40 percent on those looks.

“I think if (Keegan and I) shoot better, that game is a different outcome,” Huerter said after Thursday’s practice. “We both know that, and we’ll be better moving forward.”

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The absence of De’Aaron Fox requires Sacramento to make offensive adjustments, particularly late in games, but they pivoted well. Despite their efforts, shots were not falling that night, and the veteran Warriors took advantage.  It’s not often that both of their elite shooters will struggle to put the ball in the basket, and the defensive improvements should expand their acceptable margin of error.

3. Encouraging defensive progress

Last season, the Kings held their opponents to 102 points or less on six occasions. They won all six games. To accomplish that against a team with multiple offensive threats like Golden State should not go unnoticed. Stephen Curry has lit them up in recent showings, but they ‘held’ him to 21 points on 7/15 shooting, 4/10 from three, on Wednesday night.

Mitchell, who started for Fox, began the game assigned to Curry, but as time went on, Sacramento mixed up their coverages. They showed the two-time MVP a 3-2 zone, blitzed, hedged, and some instances of single coverage. Eventually, second-year forward Murray was tasked with chasing through screens and containing him.

“Keegan is growing a lot on both ends of the floor,” Coach Brown said. “And I was like, ‘Hey, let’s see if we can throw some length on (Curry).’ You’re not going to stop a Hall of Famer like Steph; you just hope to make him work for it, and I thought Keegan tried to make him work for it.”

“The reality of it is this is the best job I think we’ve ever done on Steph. And he was probably off or tired, I don’t know. You’ve got to give Keegan some credit for trying to step up and making Steph work for whatever he got and you just keep it moving to the next day. But I’m proud of the effort that Keegan tried to give on that end of the floor and the results from it, we’ll just see if he can continue doing it.”

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Brown appeared frustrated after the game, or maybe disappointed was a better word. He expressed encouragement by what the group showed defensively, but leaving The Bay with a win for a bitter night. Fox should be back sooner rather than later, and their schedule lightens up this coming week. As always, for Sacramento, it’s about getting better every day.

When is the next Sacramento Kings Game?

Sacramento will conclude a three-game road trip with a two-game set against the Houston Rockets that will tip-off on Saturday night.

Following Saturday’s matchup, both teams will take a day off before running things back on Monday afternoon once again at Toyota Center.

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Rockets coverage, beginning at 3:30 PM PST on Game Night before a 5:00 PM PST tip-off from downtown Houston.

Upcoming Sacramento Kings Schedule

  • Saturday, November 4th – Sacramento Kings @ Houston Rockets – 5 PM PST
  • Monday, November 6th – Sacramento Kings @ Houston Rockets – 5 PM PST
  • Wednesday, November 8th – Sacramento Kings vs. Portland Trail Blazers – 7 PM PST
  • Friday, November 10th – Sacramento Kings vs. Oklahoma City Thunder** – 7 PM PST
  • Monday, November 13th – Sacramento Kings vs. Cleveland Cavaliers – 7:00 PM PST

** NBA In-Season Tournament Group Play

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