After two discouraging losses to the Houston Rockets, Kings fans still filled Golden 1 Center Wednesday night, and they were finally treated to a win. Not a pretty win but a win all the same, and it marked a step in the right direction.
In the previous two games without De’Aaron Fox and Trey Lyles, the Kings looked like the polar opposite of the team we got so used to last season. Sluggish, slow, deprecated, and without the right energy. They just couldn’t get anything going, and Coach Mike Brown responded by making some changes to his rotation.
It was a way of rewarding guys who showed effort in the last two games as well as a chance to put some force behind Monday’s postgame comments. “Nobody’s position on this team is sacred,” he told reporters, and we saw glimpses of that last night.
Keon Ellis took Davion Mitchell’s spot in the starting lineup, and Kessler Edwards and Alex Len came off the bench while Sasha Vezenkov, JaVale McGee, and Colby Jones didn’t see the court at all. Chris Duarte only played 10 minutes.
These changes may not be permanent, but they sent a message: if you don’t compete, defend, and push the pace, Mike Brown will find someone else to do it.
Knowing that these are not just empty words should make everyone work harder and play their best basketball.
The Kings got the win, but it was far from perfect
Considering how the Kings looked against Houston, last night’s game was a relief. There’s still plenty to complain about, however.
The Portland Trail Blazers are much better than expected, but they were without Scoot Henderson, Anfernee Simons, and Robert Williams III. Plus, Malcolm Brogdon left the game with an injury after only five minutes on the court.
The game should not have been so close, even without Fox. If the Kings want to be a playoff team, they have to be able to separate themselves from teams like Portland and Houston.
The Kings weren’t able to do that, however, and two of the main reasons for it were fouls and turnovers. As a team, the Kings committed 24 fouls and 21 turnovers. They have to take better care of the ball, especially when their shots aren’t falling, and every possession counts.
Defensively, many of the same issues we have been talking about for a while now reared their ugly heads. The Blazers got into the paint way too much, shot 50.6 percent from the field, and scored 23 points off of turnovers. Besides that, Kessler Edwards was the only player in a Kings jersey who stood any chance of slowing down Jerami Grant.
He tore apart the Kings’ defense, and it is tough to beat a team when you give up 38 points to a single player as well as 18 points apiece for their second and third scoring options. That’s a lot of points but many of the contenders in the West have even better pieces.
If you can’t stop Jerami Grant, Shaedon Sharpe, and Deandre Ayton then how do you compete with Bradley Beal, Devin Booker, and Kevin Durant or Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr.? There’s still a lot of work to do, but getting a win last night was important to keep up the team’s spirits. Besides, there were lots of good things as well.
This game could be a first step in the right direction
The Kings are not safe yet. They still don’t look like the team they want to be, and they have some tough matchups ahead of them that need to be won first. Nevertheless, this game marked a step in the right direction.
In the first game against Houston, the Kings did not play well, and the Rockets wiped the floor with them. Their response was to play even worse the next time around. Last night, they finally competed and played with good energy.
A lot of that came from the bench. Domantas Sabonis redeemed his forgettable performance against the Rockets and Alperen Sengun by putting up 27 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block. For pretty much the first time since Fox went down, he looked ready to be that second All-Star. Harrison Barnes actually put up some numbers, and Kevin Huerter is finally starting to find his shot.
The spark they needed so much came from the bench, though. Malik Monk tore apart Portland’s defense and attacked the paint; Davion Mitchell finally showed everything we wanted to see from him with Fox out, Kessler Edwards defended well, and Alex Len was a real presence in the paint.
After playing stagnant, slow, and depressing basketball in Houston, the Kings finally got to the rim and ran fast breaks. They finished Monday night’s game with 11 fast break points and 50 points in the paint while allowing the Rockets 14 and 50 points respectively.
Last night, they won both categories, scoring 18 fast break points and 58 points in the paint. That is a step in the right direction. Now, the Kings just have to capitalize on that, get their shots to fall, and play their brand of basketball that won them so many games last season.