Mike Brown buries Kevin Huerter in Kings’ win over Lakers

Mar 6, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA;  Los Angeles Lakers forward Rui Hachimura (28) moves the
Mar 6, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Rui Hachimura (28) moves the / Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

No team with LeBron James on its roster—no matter how old he is—can afford to miss the playoffs. As long as he can play, James wants to compete. Everyone knows that, but the Lakers are stuck in play-in territory for the second straight season.

They were desperate to win last night’s game against the Kings to improve their standings. After a bad loss to the Chicago Bulls at Golden 1 Center, the Kings showed some fire, however, and came away with the 130-120 win. Sacramento now owns the tiebreaker over the Lakers and is 2.5 games ahead of them in the Western Conference standings. 

It didn’t look good at first. Early in the first quarter, the Kings were down big, turning the ball over, fouling Anthony Davis almost every trip down the floor, and settling for threes that weren’t falling. Then, all of a sudden, they woke up. Everyone was locked in defensively, and De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, and Davion Mitchell all got going offensively. 

Playing what looked like Kings basketball, Sacramento efficiently chipped away at the lead. For Lakers fans, it must have been painful to watch but for Kings fans, it is comforting to know that their team isn’t the only one giving up big leads

Several players had great games. Fox scored 44 points and was active defensively. Domantas Sabonis recorded another triple-double. Monk chipped in 26 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assists, and 2 steals off the bench. Mitchell had his best shooting game from three yet, Keegan Murray tried his hardest defensively, and Keon Ellis was flying around the court with great energy. 

And yet, Kevin Huerter stood out most by his absence on the court.

Kevin Huerter watched his team win from the bench

Huerter started the game, just like he usually does, but only put up 2 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists, and 1 steal in under 12 minutes of playing time. He has only played 12 or fewer minutes three other times this season. 

Usually, he averages around 25 minutes, but last night, Coach Mike Brown didn’t like what he saw. The starting five struggled to get things going as a group, but Huerter was the first one to be taken out of the game.

About four minutes into the game, he missed a three, fouled Davis for an and-one in transition, and then turned the ball over. At the 6:46 mark, he came out for Monk. The sixth man often checks in around that time, so it’s not that unusual but Huerter did not see the court again until the start of the third quarter.

In the second half, he played a little over six minutes, not even entering the game in the fourth quarter. Brown completely buried Huerter on the bench, giving the minutes to Monk, Mitchell, and Ellis instead. 

Harrison Barnes also only played 15 minutes but scored an efficient 11 points and impacted the game in some way. Huerter, on the other hand, was invisible. With two of his main guys not playing much, Brown often went small with three-guard lineups. 

It was effective in several combinations, like Fox, Monk, and Ellis, or Monk, Ellis, and Mitchell. Fox, Monk, and Mitchell all had great scoring games but what was most notable about these lineups was that they were active defensively on the perimeter and pushed the pace. 

After the game, Brown gave special credit to Mitchell and Ellis, saying that they earned their minutes, even if it came at the expense of a starter.

Could Huerter be on the move in the offseason?

Maybe Huerter just had a bad game. Maybe he will be locked in defensively and make some threes against the Spurs. Or maybe this game was indicative of a big change coming up. 

It’s been a theme all season long. Huerter has been struggling offensively a lot while also not meeting the expectations defensively. For the Kings to take things to the next level, the roster needs a makeover, and it seems that Huerter could very well be a causality in the process.