The Kings entered their second clash in three nights against the Oklahoma City Thunder with a cushy three-game lead as the No. 3 seed.
Sacramento already secured a winning road trip with its victory Sunday night at Paycom Center. Tuesday's rematch was missing two All-Stars who happen to be their team's leading scorers, as Kings guard De’Aaron Fox and Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander were out nursing injuries.
But in a game the Kings might have lost in years prior, Sacramento dug deep and defeated Oklahoma City, 123-117, answering coach Mike Brown’s pregame plea.
“I challenged the guys before the game,” Brown said after the win. “I said, ‘We’ve got to get greedy.’ When you’re greedy in situations like this, that means you’ve got a chance to be great.”
Sacramento remained undefeated after the All-Star break with its fourth straight win. It marks the Kings’ third winning streak of at least four games this season after failing to string together four straight wins once last year.
“We could’ve said, ‘Hey, Fox isn’t playing. SGA isn’t playing. If we lose this game it’s OK because we’re 2-1 on the trip and we’re still sitting comfortably in third,’ “ Brown said. "'Go through the motions and let’s get back home.’
“But our guys, they came with a little bit of an edge tonight. They played greedy.”
Stepping up in Fox’s place was Davion Mitchell, who logged 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting while providing his usual dosage of suffocating defense. He also chipped in four assists and one rebound in his 33 minutes of action.
Mitchell has struggled offensively this season, but he came out firing in the first quarter. He nailed three 3-pointers in the opening six minutes to lift the high-flying Kings’ offense to a 44-point first quarter -- their 15th 40-point quarter this season.
“You’ve got to take your hat off for Davion,” Brown said. “He was fantastic for us offensively. He was spectacular defensively. He just set the tone and changed the game when he came back on the floor time after time after time after time.”
Mitchell finished with a plus/minus rating of plus-17. When the Thunder climbed within one point in the fourth quarter, the second-year guard put the clamps on Oklahoma City and was a key piece in the Kings’ 16-7 run to put the game away.
“I just knew I had to be extra aggressive tonight,” Mitchell told reporters after the game.
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The Kings gained a half-game in the Western Conference standings on the fourth-place Phoenix Suns, who were off Tuesday night but plan to begin the Kevin Durant era Wednesday with a matchup against the Charlotte Hornets on the road.
Durant and the Suns are coming. But the Kings -- sitting with a comfortable 3.5-game lead -- remain hungry.
“That’s what excites me about this team -- knowing what’s at stake and still coming and performing the way that they did,” Brown said. “Getting a win and finishing this trip off the right way gets me really excited about the group.”