The Sacramento Kings (21-25) won a nail-biter on Saturday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers (17-29) 100-98 on a three-point buzzer-beater from Harrison Barnes. It was a tight, low-scoring defensive affair, with both teams combining to force 25 turnovers. The teams traded leads, and the Cavs were up by as much as eight points early in the fourth quarter.
The Kings took a late lead, but nearly gave up the win on a goaltending call against Richaun Holmes. The foul earned Collin Sexton the basket, putting the Cavs up 98-97 with 1.6 seconds remaining on the clock. In a last-ditch play, De’Aaron Fox inbounded the ball nearly the length of the court to Harrison Barnes, who sank the winner as time expired.
Collin Sexton, who last played Monday night against the Kings, scored 26 points in his return, leading the Cavaliers. Like most of the Cavaliers’ roster, he couldn’t find his stroke, going 11-for-24 and shooting only 20% from three-point range. Second-year point guard Darius Garland added 18 points, above his season average of 16.5, while power forward Larry Nance, Jr. contributed 17.
STAR(S) OF THE GAME
HARRISON BARNES was the highlight-reel hero of the night. He took the inbound at the last second and put up a beautiful three-pointer that hit nothing but net. Remarkably, it was his only made three-pointer all night, and one of very few he had made in recent games. Additionally, he produced another steady stat line of 16 total points and eleven rebounds. Having his veteran presence is a major factor in the Kings’ burgeoning belief in their own potential.
DE’AARON FOX continued to be amazing for the Kings. He added 36 points to his recent successes, bringing his total over the last four games to 147 points. Twenty of the points against the Cavaliers came in the fourth quarter alone, which allowed the Kings to overcome an eight-point deficit early in the fourth.
RICHAUN HOLMES had 14 rebounds and five blocked shots to spark the defensive effort for the Kings. His production of late has been the catalyst for the Kings’ reduced points allowed per game over their last six outings. Their season average had been over 120 before Marvin Bagley III exited the starting lineup. But in the six games since, that number has dropped to 109.2ppg allowed. That is good enough to put them in the top seven in the league in defense.
Three of the new trade acquisitions made by the Kings saw minutes early against the Cavaliers. Forwards Terence Davis and Maurice Harkless and guard Delon Wright all got significant time. None of them broke the bank in terms of statistical prowess, one thing was noticeable: The energy level on defense was instantly elevated.
Between the four bench players who played (including Chimezie Metu, who has been slowly gaining more minutes lately), they contributed 15 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists. None of them besides Delon Wright played for more than twenty minutes against the Cavs.
But the fact that any of them played at all two days after being traded was remarkable. They stepped in and contributed instantly with no buffer time. They were thrown into the fire and provided a defensive spark that inspired the Kings to recover from an early deficit and keep the game close. If this is what happens on day one, it will be something to see a few weeks down the line.
The Kings had a lot of trouble, especially early, hanging onto the ball. They gave up 18 turnovers to the Cavs as a team and were fortunate that their defensive efforts kept the game within reach. If the Kings are to become a legitimate contender for a playoff spot, then improving their ball-handling has to become a priority. The better teams in the league will use their mistakes to wipe the floor.
Southbound for a twofer at the Alamo…
@ San Antonio Spurs, Monday, March 29th, 5:30 PM
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