See, I thought finals were stressful but then I came back to watch some Kings basketball. But I learned literally last week that there are two types of stress: eustress and distress. I experienced both in this game. The Sacramento Kings were down 48-29 at one point in the second quarter. They only scored 16 in that same quarter. They ended up winning the game after being blown out in the previous two games. They scored 37 in the fourth quarter. This team is different.
It wasn’t the best first quarter for the Kings. Rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. was having his way early, knocking down a three and sending Nemanja Bjelica back to Minnesota with a massive poster dunk. Jackson had twelve points on 5/6 shooting with two rebounds and a block in just nine minutes. Shelvin Mack came off the bench for the Memphis Grizzlies and gave them seven solid points. The Grizzlies did hold an early 17-8 lead, but the young (or semi-old) backcourt of De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield got the offense going to make it a game again. Then, two threes from Marc Gasol and Mike Conley opened the game up to 30-20. The quarter would end with a signature Kosta Koufos hook to make it 32-24. Justin Jackson was 3-3 for six points off the bench as well.
The second quarter was worse for Sacramento. Missed shot after missed shot, even if there were open looks and the Grizzlies were getting their way. That’s been the storyline for the past few losses. Bjelica continued to miss threes as he finished the half 0-6 from three. Hield was also struggling, shooting 2-11 in 20 minutes. Iman Shumpert gave the Kings the scoring they were so desperately rummaging for. He scored all of his 11 points in the 2nd, with two threes. Willie Cauley-Stein grabbed eight rebounds, more than his entire total in the previous game against Oklahoma City. The Kings shot 14-48 from the field and were 5-21 from three. Memphis shot 22-41 overall and 8-13 from three. Jaren Jackson Jr. and Mike Conley each had 12 points. Kyle Anderson had eight points on 4-4 shooting in 17 minutes. The half ended 53-40 in favor of Memphis.
Sacramento rallied multiple times in the third quarter to give some hope heading into the fourth. Bjelica made his first two threes of the game but the biggest problem was on defense. They couldn’t stop Conley, who had 23 points (7-10 from three) in 24 minutes. Every little Kings run was halted by a Conley three. After going down by double-digits again, Sacramento went on another run to end the quarter down 74-65. Bogdan Bogdanovic went up to eight points after a quiet first half.
This all led to such a fun final quarter. Bjelica got his revenge and sent Jaren Jackson Jr. back to Michigan State and the Kings cut the Memphis lead to four. However, Memphis responded like they did all night and extended the lead back to nine. Another twist, the Kings came back into the lead and eventually took the lead and held on for the win. Hield was absolutely fantastic in the quarter, scoring 16 of his 28 in the quarter and also went on his own little run to get Sacramento back in it. Fox came up with a clutch steal that gave the Kings a lead after he made two free throws. Cauley-Stein came up with some big rebounds and also converted with two big free throws. Hield’s final two free throws ended the game and the Kings snapped a rough two-game skid with a big victory at home. 102-99 is the final score after a 37-point fourth quarter.
Buddy Hield had a rough shooting night but caught fire in the fourth quarter. 28 points and eight rebounds was Buddy’s stat line tonight. They don’t win this game without his energy in the fourth.
De’Aaron Fox is just so good. He shot 4-11 from the field for 14 points, but contributed with eight assists and a career high of five steals! I am now on the Doug Christie train of seeing Fox as a first team All-Defense player. He’s insane.
I have to give credit for Nemanja Bjelica here. Besides a rough 0-6 start, he finished 4-7 from the field in the second half for 11 points. He also grabbed six rebounds to go with three assists, one steal and two blocks. That poster on JJJ was sweet, sweet revenge. Plus JJJ never scored after the first quarter and left Sacramento with a loss!
Willie Money Watch
Willie had a much better rebounding performance (13) with some big ones down the stretch, too. He also deserves credit for making two big free throws down the stretch to extend a small Kings lead. He scored 12 points (5-9) and also had four assists in 37 minutes of action.
Bogdan Bogdanovic finished the game with 14 points on 3-9 shooting and four assists in 27 minutes. He was rough at times but the recognition to find Willie for a lob late in the fourth was a reason why he is so beneficial to the team.
Yogi Ferrell didn’t score in his 11 minutes of action, but did finish with four assists. That 180-spin to hit Kosta Koufos for a layup was a beauty.
Sacramento was out-rebounded by double-digits at one point (20-9), but narrowed the gap to 44-42 at the final whistle.
Sacramento had 25 assists to the Grizzlies 24.
The Kings shot 37% from the floor, but still walked away with the win. Incredible. They were also 21-29 from the charity stripe.
The Game in One Sentence
Sacramento scored 16 in a quarter and still took a win over a really good defensive team.
The Kings will be home this Sunday to take on the New Orleans Pelicans at 3:00 PM PST.