Buddy Hield led the way in two victories for Sacramento earlier this season, averaging 28.5 points. Marvin Bagley III was also a stand out in his debut against the Mavericks last Thursday, posting 22 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 blocks.
For Dallas, Luka Doncic had been the lead scorer in the series, posting averages of 20.5 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists before tonight. He had struggled with his efficiency against the Kings however, with a FG% of 38.2 and a 3PT% of 20.0 across their previous meetings.
The two teams were also trade partners last month in a deal that swapped Harrison Barnes for Justin Jackson and Zach Randolph. Barnes has put up 14.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game since then, while Jackson has posted averages of 6.3 points and 1.9 boards. Zach Randolph was waived following the trade.
Head Coach Dave Joerger rolled out De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Nemanja Bjelica, and Willie Cauley-Stein as his starting five while Rick Carlisle gave the nod to Jalen Brunson, Luka Doncic, Justin Jackson, Dwight Powell, and Dirk Nowitzki.
The Kings pushed ahead early in this one, cruising to a 15-7 lead in the first five minutes of play. Bjelica, Barnes, and Fox each contributed a pair of buckets right out of the gate. The uptempo play established by Sacramento appeared to put the legendary Dirk Nowitzki on his heels briefly. He missed a both his shot attempts in the first quarter, turned the ball over, and committed a foul before being subbed off the floor.
The tempo slowed as the Kings leaned on play calls for Marvin Bagley to work in the post. They went to him on four consecutive possessions. The rookie committed a travel on the first one, missed a jumper on the second, hit a nearly identical jumper on the third, and passed out to a three for Yogi Ferrell on the fourth.
Despite a resurgence from the Mavericks, the Kings held a 25-23 lead at the end of the first.
Dirk found his footing in the slower paced second quarter, racking up seven points in just a couple of minutes. Nowitzki, along with an efficient scoring effort from Luka Doncic, pushed the Mavs to a five-point lead with three minutes to go in the second. Luka finished the half with 18 points on just 10 shots from the field, along with an impressive 9 boards and 5 dishes.
Hield was notably absent from his standard high-impact role. He didn’t connect on his first shot until halfway into the second quarter. When his 28-foot heave clanged off the rim at the buzzer, the Mavericks owned a 54-56 advantage.
The third quarter was dominated by points in the paint. Willie Cauley-Stein let his presence be known with a nasty dunk while Dwight Powell found success rolling to the rim on the other side of the floor. They traded body blows as neither squad could gain traction from deep. The Mavericks and the Kings were a combined 11-for-39 from the arc at the six minute mark of the third.
The triples finally began to fall near the end of the quarter, but neither team was able to separate themselves from their competition. The third quarter alone saw four ties and nine lead changes. The scoreboard read 87-89 heading into the final period.
The fourth quarter was not anything different, as the teams duked it out possession after possession. Whenever it felt like the Mavericks would pull away, the Kings did what they had to in order to keep it close. A sneaky steal and finish by Yogi Ferrell on an inbound pass tied the game at 97-97.
The game appeared to be slipping through Sacramento’s fingers around the five minute mark, when Maxi Kleber made his fourth three of the game to push the deficit to 102-110. But yet again the Kings fought back. Buddy hit a much needed three, as did Bogdan Bogdanovic, then Fox hit a pair of crucial free throws to tie the game at 112 a piece.
The Kings, who got into the bonus with six minutes left, actually took advantage of their trips to the charity stripe. Despite hovering near the bottom of the league in FT% all year, they connected on 11-of-12 in the fourth quarter.
Sacramento smothered the Mavericks with hustle and defesnive energy down the stretch. Another clutch three from Buddy along with smart decision making from Fox secured the win. The final score matched Sacramento’s biggest lead since the first quarter: 125-121.
The Kings continue their road trip in New Orleans on Thursday night. They tip off against the Pelicans at 5 pm PST.