Jazz to host Kings in continuation of wild series
If the past repeats itself, NBA fans are in for a treat when the Sacramento Kings visit Salt Lake City on Monday night to take on the Utah Jazz.
The two teams, who've provided a couple of the best stories in the league this season, played a pair of riveting games when they met twice in a four-day period almost three months ago.
Interestingly, Sacramento and Utah will face each other again twice in a five-day period this week.
Sacramento won the first pair of games by a total of three points. In the first meeting, Kevin Huerter drained a 3-pointer with 9.2 seconds left in a 126-125 Kings home win on Dec. 30.
Four nights later, De'Aaron Fox was the hero. He hit a driving layup with 0.4 seconds remaining and scored 22 of 37 points in the fourth quarter of a 117-115 win at Utah. A dramatic shot at the buzzer by Lauri Markannen was overruled upon replay after originally being called good.
With only 12 games left for each team, these two games are important for the Kings (43-27) and Jazz (34-36).
Sacramento entered Sunday tied for second place in the Western Conference standings with Memphis, and the first-place Denver Nuggets are still within reach. The Kings have won 11 of 13, including seven consecutive on the road, to maintain their momentum since All-Star Weekend.
The Kings, of course, are hoping to make a splash in their first postseason appearance since 2006.
"I think it's just our backs against the wall," said Sacramento's Keegan Murray, who scored 19 points in a 132-118 win at Washington on Saturday. "We knew this was going to be a tough stretch for us. A lot of really good teams we had to play, a lot of wins that we had to get. I think we have just been playing 100 percent every single game and just see how the tables turn."
Domantas Sabonis led the Kings again with 30 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds, overcoming the physical style the Wizards used against him.
"He's getting hit in the head, getting knocked on the ground and he just keeps coming and coming and coming," Kings coach Mike Brown said. "Extremely efficient on 12 shots (from the field). How do you get 30 on 12 shots? That's ridiculous. I got to keep reminding guys that he is an All-NBA guy."
The Jazz's All-NBA candidate, Markkanen, scored 28 points with 10 rebounds in Utah's come-from-behind win over the Boston Celtics Saturday. Utah trailed by 19 points in the first half and six in the final three minutes before finding a way to win.
It's those types of games that Jazz coach Will Hardy believes will be beneficial to the long-term growth of his young players.
Talen Horton-Tucker scored the go-ahead bucket with 35 seconds left, and then rookie Walker Kessler blocked the Celtics' game-winning layup in the last seconds after missing a pair of critical free throws a moment earlier.
"You can't simulate that. That stuff is so big for the growth of our team and our young players," Hardy said. "To be in the moment and be responsible for executing to try and win the game, that's important for us. It's also really important for us moving forward."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 19, 2023