The Sacramento Kings had missed Kevin Huerter, who had been healing up from a leg injury. Fortunately for them, Red Velvet made his return in a hugely important game and made a massive impact. In a matchup against the Phoenix Suns, who are directly below them in the standings, the Kings took home a 135-127 victory in front of their home crowd to snap a two-game losing streak. More importantly, the victory means that Sacramento only need two more victories to clinch at least the sixth seed in the Western Conference – with the assumption that everyone below them wins all of their remaining games.
Huerter had a bit of a slow start, but finished with 29 points, nine rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block. He shot 10 of 18 from the field and 6 of 12 from three, doing most of his damage in the third quarter, where he scored 16 points and was a big reason that the Kings were able to go on a 28-5 run that the Suns never recovered from.
Domantas Sabonis had himself another monster game, narrowly missing a triple-double with 27 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. Harrison Barnes rounded out the scoring with 23 points.
It was not an easy game for the Kings, by any means. The Suns led by as much as 14 points in the game and looked like they were going to close the gap in the standings, but they didn’t expect to deal with a 45-26 third quarter. They were never able to retake the lead in the fourth quarter.
Suns coach Monty Williams complained about free throw disparity after their recent loss against the LA Lakers, and this time around the Kings barely edged the Suns in free throw attempts with 32 against 29. Sacramento only shot four free throws in the first half, but the game turned after Devin Booker and Chris Paul both got called for technicals in the third quarter after antagonizing the referees.
While the win was huge for the Kings, who are looking to make the playoffs for the first time since Ron Artest led them to the postseason in 2006, they’ll also be a little worried. De’Aaron Fox left the game in the third quarter with right hamstring soreness and did not return. He likely won’t play tomorrow in their back-to-back set against the Utah Jazz. The Kings’ bench guards stepped up in his absence, though, something that Fox will appreciate.
With their destiny in their hands, the Kings will be looking forward to the final nine games of the season. Nothing’s set in stone yet, but the players, management and fans are right to start to feel optimistic.