The Sacramento Kings (12-19) faced off with the stacked Brooklyn Nets (21-12) on Tuesday night, dropping their eighth consecutive game 127-118. The Kings fought hard to close an early gap, but ultimately couldn’t overcome the NBA’s newest super team.
After ending the first quarter down by fourteen, the Kings took a brief one-point lead late in the third. Rookie point guard Tyrese Haliburton, who played forty minutes off the bench, led with inspired play at both ends. Kings leading scorer De’Aaron Fox, who struggled Sunday against the Bucks, recovered to finish with 27 points.
STAR OF THE GAME
James Harden led the way for the Nets–who have gone five games without leading scorer Kevin Durant–with 29 points, fourteen assists, and eleven rebounds. Harden finished with a triple-double, but the big story on Tuesday was his big assist total.
In Kevin Durant’s absence, Harden has taken the reins for the Brooklyn Nets. His potent scoring (29ppg w/o Durant) and his ability to facilitate (12apg) have allowed the Nets to turn around after a rough patch early in the month. The team hoped their January trade for Harden made them serious contenders to win the Eastern Conference in 2021. He now has more talent around him than ever, and his ability to move the ball redeems that hope. While the scoring was spread-out in Tuesday’s game–Kyrie Irving added 27 points–it is Harden’s team effort that makes him the star for the Nets.
The Kings are in a very ugly freefall. In fairness, however, they have played some tough opponents. Five of the eight games on this slide have come against playoff-worthy teams in the East. That’s a hard run for anyone. The last four in a row, all current playoff teams, have also been on the road. All the same, they have made some mistakes in passing and ball-handling that could have been avoided.
But they’re young, and if Tuesday’s game is any indicator, there’s a lot of room for growth. The Kings saw big contributions across the board, both from starters and off the bench. Fox and Haliburton led the team with point totals of 27 and 23, respectively. Starting center Richaun Holmes and power forward Marvin Bagley III both emerged with double-doubles in points and rebounds, adding three blocked shots between them.
The overall defensive effort was much more impressive than in recent games, despite the points allowed being on-par. The Kings as a team stole the ball six times, and added seven blocked shots, signaling a renewed vigor against the East’s offensive powerhouse. Spending more time working the half-court and controlling the ball helped. If they kept doing so, they could see rapid improvement in their paltry defensive stat lines.
Tyrese Haliburton didn’t have the biggest point total for the Kings on Tuesday, but the forty minutes he played off the bench is a good indicator of how he contributed. He was smart–he worked the half-court game and dished the ball to other players as needed. Added to that, he was aggressive; he moved the ball around and took good shots all over the floor when he needed to. Playing potent, error-free ball translates to extra minutes on the court.
His stat line belies the fact that he was the main reason the Kings challenged the Nets late in this game. Haliburton only finished with 23 points, but his nine assists and three steals helped drive the momentum in favor of the Kings for a whole quarter. He’s only twenty years old, but I will be surprised if his playing time doesn’t increase in the near future.
The Kings’ East Coast gauntlet continues:
@ New York Knicks, Thursday, February 25th, 4:30pm PT
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