Mike Brown buries Kevin Huerter again in Kings’ loss to the Knicks

Milwaukee Bucks v Sacramento Kings
Milwaukee Bucks v Sacramento Kings / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

Last night, the Kings got the full New York Knicks basketball experience. Physical, gritty, and shaped by tough defense. That was last night’s game at Golden 1 Center, as the Kings and the Knicks turned the time back to 90s basketball. 

With some key players out, the Knicks have found an identity to keep them afloat. They play physical defense and clog the paint, forcing opponents to adjust the way they play. It worked well against Sacramento. 

New York was in full control of the game, setting the tone and pace right from the start. The Kings battled. De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis, Keegan Murray, Harrison Barnes, and Malik Monk all scored in double-figures, but it was not enough. 

Fox and Murray were both inefficient, Sabonis disappeared in the second half, and too many players were passive offensively. The Kings lost the battle in the paint, scoring fewer points and grabbing fewer rebounds, even though the Knicks were without Mitchell Robinson and Julius Randle.

Defensively, the Kings couldn’t slow down Jalen Brunson, who finished the game with 42 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals, and 1 block. On the other end of the floor, Sacramento was visibly bothered by New York’s physicality, shooting only 35.3 percent from the field and 27 percent from three. 

The offense just wasn’t flowing, and it was not enough to grit out the win. 

Mike Brown went away from Kevin Huerter again

Kevin Huerter started the game, as he usually does, but only played 16 minutes, which is almost 10 less than his average. Obviously, we shouldn’t forget that he just returned to the lineup after dealing with a leg injury. Maybe he wasn't ready to play his usual minutes or maybe the coaching staff didn’t want to risk a bigger injury so late in the season. 

Both are possibilities, but we have seen this happen before. Just a few games ago, Mike Brown buried Kevin Huerter in the Kings’ win over the Lakers and the Spurs, going with more defensive-minded options instead. 

Offense is Huerter’s strong suit, and if he is not active on that end of the floor, he  often struggles to impact games. Last night, he only took three shots and missed all of them in his 16 minutes. Keon Ellis got the nod instead, playing almost 30 minutes and closing the game. 

Three shots are not really a lot to allow Huerter to find his rhythm, especially after being out with an injury, but it seems that defense is the bigger issue. Ellis had a bad, blown defensive possession at the end of the game—which sometimes just happens if you put a former two-way player in his first full NBA season on the other team’s best player—but he is just a better defender overall. 

He navigates screens incredibly well, doesn’t back down, and has quick hands. On top of that, he is shooting 39 percent from three and looks like he is developing into the kind of 3-and-D player Brown would like to see around his stars. 

After the game, Brown told reporters that he thought his squad’s defense was solid and that they have been doing what he has been asking for all season long these past few games. 

Kevin Huerter has been the poster child for the Kings’ defensive shortcomings ever since training camp started and unfortunately, the team’s defensive improvement seems to be going hand in hand with his shortened leash. 

The more the season progresses, the more it seems like Huerter’s time in Sacramento might be coming to an end soon. He is still here, however, and if he were able to find his offense to close out the season, it would be a real game-changer for the Kings. 

Someone who has been a 38 percent three-point shooter over his six seasons in the NBA doesn’t just lose his touch. 

Next. 6 Players who might play their last game in a Kings’ uniform soon. 6 Players who might play their last game in a Kings’ uniform soon. dark