The Sacramento Kings were a surprise third seed in the Western Conference last season and they did it by having the best offense in the league. Their ball-movement heavy offense, anchored by the lightning quick De’Aaron Fox and bruising Domantas Sabonis, was an entertaining brand of basketball that made them a must-watch on League Pass and earned them 22 nationally-televised games for the 2023-24 season compared to less than a handful in the previous campaign.
They got off to a fast start in their first game, taking a 130-114 victory on the road against the Utah Jazz in a highly entertaining game that showed off their high-octane offensive prowess. Faced against another young team in the Jazz, the Kings kept their foot on the pedal for most of the game, unafraid to get out on the break to get quick buckets or shoot 51 three-pointers.
Harrison Barnes played the hero for the Kings on opening night, scoring 33 points on 11 of 16 shooting, including making his first eight field goal attempts.
Sabonis also had a solid game with 22 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, a steal and two blocks. His playmaking and ability to get boards will continue to be big for the Kings this season.
Fox struggled from the field, going 6 of 18 overall and 1 of 7 from three to finish with 18 points, five rebounds, six assists, a steal and a block. Plenty of those threes came late in the game though, with it already almost out of reach. Still, he’ll be wanting to work on making those open shots when they matter. Even with struggles from the field, Fox used his quickness and intelligence to blow by defenders and force them to foul him, which led to free throw opportunities that kept the Jazz from regaining control of the game.
Fox was solid on defense throughout the evening, and one of his steals ended up with a memorable dunk for former Kentucky teammate Malik Monk.
Monk, who finished the game with 10 points and seven assists, also shot a shoddy 2 of 9 from three. Some of their newcomers also showed why they’ll be important for the Kings offense, including former EuroLeague MVP Sasha Vezenkov and Chris Duarte – who shot 3 of 4 from beyond the arc.
Concerns over the Kings defense still exist and aren’t overblown. The Jazz were able to go on a number of runs to get the game close again, but the Kings were able to outgun them. That will not necessarily be the case against better teams, as the Golden State Warriors proved as much in their epic seven-game series in the first round of the 2023 playoffs.
Win or lose, the Kings are certain to entertain. They’re going to shoot themselves out of a fair number of games this season, so they’ll have to learn how to win without the three-pointer as well. What’s guaranteed is that when they’re firing on all cylinders, they’ll be one of the best teams to watch this season.
They take on the Warriors next in their home opener and that game should produce a lot of fireworks. The last time the two teams met at Golden One Center, Steph Curry summoned his very best and dropped 50 point to silence the home crowd. You better believe that the Kings and their fans haven’t forgotten. There’s also the small matter of the preseason game that saw Curry hit a game-winning three in a fourth quarter where neither coach was willing to bench their starters.