As the old adage goes: "It's not how you start, but how you finish."
And for the Kings in their 133-116 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night at Golden 1 Center, that saying rang very true.
After starting the game down 24-9 halfway through the first quarter, it appeared as if the Kings (33-25) would be upset by the short-handed Trail Blazers (28-31) in the first game after the 2023 NBA All-Star break.
However, behind All-Star guard De'Aaron Fox, Sacramento shook off a poor start to outscore Portland 124-92 to kick off the home stretch of the 2022-23 NBA season.
"I think our bench came up big for us today," Fox said to Kayte Christensen and Mark Jones on "Kings Postgame Live." "They really changed this game around for us.
"Our bench came up big for us tonight and then when we came back in, we did what we were supposed to do."
Coming out of the gate, it seemed as if the Kings' starters still were recovering from the All-Star Break, even against a Trail Blazers squad missing All-Star Damian Lillard and versatile forward Jerami Grant.
Fox, in particular, was suspiciously quiet, dishing out one assist in his 4:43 of action in the first quarter. In the first 12 minutes, Sacramento's bench scored 20 of the team's 29 points, helping keep Portland's lead to only eight points, 37-29.
"I give our guys credit because they went out and righted the ship as the game went along," Kings coach Mike Brown said postgame. "And any win you can get at this point in the year is a really, really good team win, if not a great team win."
From the second quarter onward -- in just 21 minutes of action, excluding the first period -- the 25-year-old scored 31 points with three rebounds and three assists. In doing so, Fox became the first player in Kings history to score 30 or more points in five straight games.
It was not just Fox that did damage against the Trail Blazers.
The Kings had seven players score in double figures, with Terence Davis (20), Domantas Sabonis (18), Malik Monk (15), Harrison Barnes (15), Keegan Murray (10) and Kevin Huerter (10) joining in on the fun. Overall, the Kings' bench outscored the Blazers' bench 49-44.
Of note, Sabonis recorded his seventh triple-double of the season as he grabbed 18 rebounds and dished out 10 assists to go along with his 18 points. Sabonis broke a tie with Rajon Rondo for the most triple-doubles by a Sacramento player in a single season since 1985.
However, the 26-year-old is focused on the Kings playing their best as the season winds down.
"It started today -- every game matters," Sabonis told reporters postgame. "All the little things we talked about all year, this is where we really got to lock in and we got to start trying to do them consistently in these 24 games so when playoff time comes, we're not even thinking about it, we're just doing it."
Sabonis added that everyone on the Kings, from the coaches to the players, has to be locked in if Sacramento wants to make noise in the playoffs.
"We got to be able to speak our own language on the court and everybody understands each other," Sabonis concluded.
While Sacramento's offense took care of Portland on Thursday, Fox knows that defense will have to be the Kings' calling card if they are to get to where they want to be in the playoffs.
"But for us, like I said, I say this a lot, we know what we can do offensively -- we're one of the best teams offensively in the league," Fox told Christensen. "So for us to get where we want to go, we have to be able to do it on the defensive end."
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With the Kings beating the Trail Blazers, Sacramento's task of maintaining a top-four seed in the reloaded Western Conference is off to a good start.
And on the road to the playoffs, it is not how teams start, it's how they finish and the Kings showed they can turn things around when needed.