Win the frame, win the game.
Prior to tip-off, Alvin Gentry announced that De’Aaron Fox would return to the lineup after missing four games in the league’s health and safety protocols. Fox, Marvin Bagley III and Terence Davis were not on minutes restrictions, but were hyperaware of conditioning coming off their 10-day absences.
For the Grizzlies, three new players entered protocols this morning including Dillon Brooks, who put on a clinic on December 17 in Memphis’ last trip to Golden 1 Center. Despite both rosters missing bodies, the Grizzlies opened the first frame in offensive ease as the Kings struggled to find a groove.
Two defensive stops from Richaun Holmes midway through the first seemed to be the turning point, as Haliburton orchestrated a majority of the offense sparking a Kings’ run. Damian Jones poured in nine healthy first quarter points, bringing Sacramento back into the game offensively and providing a sense of momentum swinging the Kings way heading into the second frame with a 24-20 lead.
Production from every man on the roster was essential in tonight’s match-up, as bench points and consistent defense were what kept Sacramento in the game when starting offense felt stagnant.
Harrison Barnes found success beyond the arc, shooting three three-pointers in the second extending the Kings’ lead by seven. A combined effort between Fox and Jones was sizzling to watch, and despite searing 14-5 run by Memphis to end the frame Swipa was able to build on his aggression and give Sacramento a 50-49 lead heading into halftime.
The third quarter belonged to some questionable officiating on both sides, but defensive woes and a stall in offense sent the Grizz to the line too many times for the Kings’ liking, extending to a double-digit lead and a 40 point frame on 65% shooting for Memphis.
The opening of the third caused momentum to swing in favor of Memphis, and they managed to garner a 20-point lead that Sacramento’s Davis and Haliburton cut in half heading into the final quarter.
No moral victories for this squad, despite welcoming back our franchise point guard and interim head coach, the Kings still need to solve the issues that put themselves in their own way. It seems that no matter what combination of five are on the floor in any give third quarter, they just cannot manage to win the frame.