Last night was a rollercoaster. The first instance of the Kings’ five-game road trip started off with a hint of disaster.
After being embarrassed by the Pelicans (again), the Kings should have been angry. They should have come out looking to destroy the Detroit Pistons and leave no room for doubt that they are still a good team.
Instead, they gave up 47 points in the first quarter to one of the worst teams we have ever seen in NBA history that was playing without its best player. Too many times this season, the Kings just gave up when they were down by that much. Luckily, that didn't happen last night because it would have led to probably the most embarrassing loss of the season.
For once, the Kings rallied and turned the game around in the second quarter to secure the 131-110 win. Still, that first quarter left a bad taste in every Kings fan’s mouth as it exemplified everything the team has been struggling with this season. Their offense didn’t look quite right, they lacked fight, and the defense was pretty much non-existent.
Sabonis had a huge night, making franchise history
After that appalling first quarter, the Kings did what they should have done right away. They won the rebounding battle, scored more fastbreak points, and dominated the paint, putting up 82 points in it.
Leading the charge was Domantas Sabonis, the only King who played to win right from the start. Putting up 37 points on 16-21 shooting from the field, 10 rebounds, 13 assists, and 3 steals, he recorded his ninth triple-double of the season. He is now trailing Nikola Jokic by only two triple-doubles for the season.
At the same time, this makes him only the fourth player in franchise history to record a 35-point triple-double. The others are Oscar Robertson, who did it a whopping 59 times, Jack Twyman and Mitch Richmond, who each did it once.
Without Sabonis, the Kings would not have won this game. He needed help, however, and finally got it in the second quarter.
The Kings’ core was in full effect last night
De’Aaron Fox still looks tired or a little banged up but he still continues to play and rallied to put up a respectable stat line after a slow start. Together, the core of Fox, Sabonis, Keegan Murray, and Malik Monk combined for 115 of the Kings’ 131 points and 28 of the team’s 39 assists.
They showed their potential as a group, and especially youngster Murray, who posted a team-high +32, showed why the Kings don’t want to trade him. Other than that, the Kings’ rotation is still characterized by question marks, however.
Trey Lyles and Alex Len were good off the bench, providing a solid backup frontcourt, and Juan Toscano-Anderson did many of the little things the Kings needed in his first extended run this season.
On the other hand, Harrison Barnes had no impact in the starting lineup, and Kevin Huerter missed all of his six three-point attempts. His five assists, five rebounds and defensive effort were a welcome sight, however.
Chris Duarte went from starting to not playing at all, and Sasha Vezenkov and JaVale McGee didn’t play either after running with the second unit in the previous game. Keon Ellis, Davion Mitchell, and Kessler Edwards all played less than five minutes.
Against a better team that can cause problems, especially if two of your starters barely contribute to the scoring column. It also underlines the need for a (or maybe even several) move(s) if the Kings really want to take that next step.