The Kings’ defense finally came to play

Sacramento Kings v Golden State Warriors
Sacramento Kings v Golden State Warriors / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

NBA Rival’s Week promised us some of the most exciting games of the regular season, and last night’s Kings-Warriors matchup didn’t disappoint. It was a thrilling game until the last second. 

The Kings and Warriors always bring their A-Game when they face each other, and several players had huge nights. For the Kings, Harrison Barnes led the way to a 134-133 win with a career-high 39 points. De’Aaron Fox looked like his All-Star self, scoring 29 points and dishing out 5 assists. 

Domantas Sabonis and Kevin Huerter both recorded a double-double. Keegan Murray took on Stephen Curry and still scored 14 points. Davion Mitchell was big off the bench after a long stretch of not being in the rotation. 

Six different Kings players scored in double-digits. The Kings were running. Threes were raining for both teams. It was a true high-scoring, modern NBA game, and the Kings looked like they were finally playing their brand of basketball again.

Just looking at the box score (and knowing how the Kings play) no one would think that after a game like this, we’d be talking about the Kings’ defense—in a positive way. 

The Kings won this game with their defense

The Kings are not a good defensive team. We all know that. Not too long ago we saw them allow Damian Lillard to just walk into a buzzer-beater he was way too comfortable with, let the Suns come back from a 20-point deficit, and watch T.J. McConnell score 20 points without attempting a single three. 

Last night, the Kings’ defense came up big, though. All game long they struggled to contain Stephen Curry and Jonathan Kuminga, who both scored over 30 points. It looked like Curry’s genius shotmaking and Kuminga’s athleticism would be the Kings’ demise. 

With just a little under 20 seconds left in the game and the Kings up by one, Kuminga got the ball in the paint. He hit Barnes with the same spin move he scored on before. Barnes blocked his shot. 

When someone scores 39 points in a tight game, there are plenty of big moments to point to. This one might just have been the biggest. 

After that play, Huerter got fouled with a chance to put the game away. In true Sacramento Kings fashion, he missed both, giving Curry a chance to win the game. Losing to a buzzer-beater is one of the most crushing things in basketball, and the Kings avoided it by playing great defense.

Curry is the last person you want with the ball in his hands when his team is trying to win the game. So, Fox and Huerter flew at him with the double, didn’t foul, and forced the turnover to save the win. 

It is a rare occurrence to see the Kings win a game with their defense but it was a small glimpse of what Mike Brown has been asking his team to do all season long. The starting five combined for 7 steals and 5 blocks. 

They will never be a top defense with this group of players, but when everyone is locked in and plays with this very energy, they can do enough to secure a win. 

On this road trip, the Kings still have to face the Mavericks, the Grizzlies, the Heat, the Pacers, the Bulls, and the Cavaliers. None of those games will come easy, but the Kings need some wins to stay in the playoff picture. They better pack up last night’s defense and bring it on the road because they will need it.