By Morris Phillips
SACRAMENTO–Even if the games run ragged, the Kings are winning them.
Clearly times have changed… anyone remember December 2004 with Peja, C Webb, and Mike Bibby at Arco?
That was the last time the Kings had this encouraging a start to a season after 22 games. How long ago was that? Well, for one, Vlade Divac was already gone in 2004, and since he’s materialized (as Kings GM) and disappeared a second time. Doug Christie was present in 2004 but subsequently gone, then re-emerged as a member of the Kings TV broadcast team, and now a member of Mike Brown’s coaching staff.
That’s a lot of comings and goings, but the lengthiest playoff drought in North American sports can be like that.
Brown’s arrival, a healthy roster, and (slightly) better defense are keys to the home team’s emergence, but a genuine belief might be even bigger.
“They’re connected,” Brown said after Sunday’s 110-101 win over the road-weary Kings. “They’re trying to play for each other, and when you get that with a talented group and two All-Stars in Fox and Domas, and a lot of guys who can step up, including Sixth Man of the Year (hopeful) Malik Monk, you get some nice wins.”
At 13-9, the Kings have won three straight and 11 of 16, and those anxious moments that saw fans get those negative thoughts (again) during the recent three-game skid have subsided. Seeing the team win in person at Golden 1 certainly does more than seeing them struggle on the road while watching them on television. That’s for sure.
The Kings weren’t great on Sunday 24 hours after they wasted the Clippers in Los Angeles. They missed shots–30 of 43 from distance–and after building an 18-point, second quarter lead saw it evaporate in the third.
In part, the visitors, led by Zach LaVine’s 41 points, weren’t keen on returning to Chicago with a losing record on their road swing. But a sixth game in 12 days wasn’t going to put them in position to be at their best, especially when they’ve been far from that in dropping 10 of 14.
You know that team won’t go away,” Fox said. “They have some guys that can really go get it. They did that tonight, and we were just trying to throw different looks at them, but I think in the fourth quarter, we were able to get stops when we needed them.”
Seven Kings scored in double figures, but no one had more than Monk’s 20 off the bench. The balanced scoring fit the uneven performance in that if you don’t have a couple of standouts to help you cruise, it’s okay to find your way with a determined committee.
That and the first triple-double from Sabonis, who had 11 points, 17 rebounds, and 10 assists, the first time the Kings’ center has achieved that milestone since he was traded to Sacramento. And he did it when some other big body on another team might have rested in a back-to-back scenario.
“I don’t really believe in resting,” Sabonis said before the game. “What we’re paid for as professional athletes (is to) perform. But, yeah, the West is packed. If other teams want to rest players, it’s to our advantage to go out there and take that win.”
The Kings have two days off before they take on the Bucks in Milwaukee on Wednesday.