No practice, no problem: The newest Sacramento Kings were thrown into the fire and their defensive impact was apparent in Saturday’s win over Cleveland.
Offensive firepower can only take you so far if you can’t match the effort on the defensive end, and Kings’ General Manager Monte McNair kept this in mind as he navigated through the NBA trade deadline. By the end of Thursday, Sacramento had traded away both Corey Joseph and Nemanja Bjelica, with Terence Davis, Delon Wright, and Moe Harkless arriving in return.
With these transactions, McNair added defensive depth to a promising young roster that has seen its fair share of momentous wins and demoralizing losses. The Kings have seen themselves multiple times on the brink of securing a play-in spot for the postseason, only to watch themselves slip in the standings. At one point Sacramento had lost nine straight games, their longest streak since the 08-09 season, capped off in a loss that saw the Knicks drop 140 points.
Sacramento saw themselves drop in the Western Conference standings, mirroring their drop to the bottom in regards to defensive ranking. The Kings had to get better on that end, and Thursday’s transactions were a step in the right direction. And if Saturday’s end result was a (small) but significant sample size, then those moves seem to have paid off.
The Kings’ 100-98 win will undoubtedly be noted for Harrison Barnes’ game-winning three-point shot, but Sacramento’s newest additions made an immediate impact in a game where they were thrown into the fire.
Terence Davis, Delon Wright, and Moe Harkless played 17, 22, and 11 minutes respectively, but they were all valuable minutes for a team that wants to get better on the perimeter. Fox’s 36 points and clutch heroics were superstar-esque but equally important is trusting your players when the star is on the bench. In a game that was close until the final buzzer and saw the Kings turn the ball over 18 times, the effort of the new faces was instrumental in never letting the game slip away.
With Sacramento just a game behind the Warriors for the 10th spot, every game here on out is critical if the Kings want a chance at a play-in opportunity. Having veteran role players that know how to win and want to win is vital to sealing games that are within reach. Saturday’s win over Cleveland was just a small taste, but an impressive sight for a group of players that are just building chemistry.
With 26 games left in the season and six wins in their last seven outings, Sacramento has the opportunity to build momentum at the right time. With these new additions coming into the fold, the Kings may have the spark they need to propel that forward.