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Kings find defense, physicality in win over gritty Knicks

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SACRAMENTO -- The New York Knicks are not an offensive juggernaut, but they are still a gritty team that came into Friday night’s matchup against the Kings at .500 and riding a three-game win streak.

Early in the night, the Knicks tried to push the Kings around, especially on the glass where they held a 33-26 rebound advantage and a 19-2 advantage in second chance points heading into halftime.

When the two teams came out of the locker room after the intermission, there was a different feel to the game. Hoping to snap a four game losing streak, Sacramento looked ready for the task at hand and they found a new gear.

“Not only did we match, but I thought we were the more physical team in the second half,” Luke Walton said following the Kings’ 103-94 win.

Trying to avoid a fifth straight loss, the Kings came out and turned up the intensity. They made some adjustments to their schemes, but the biggest change came in the force and energy they were exerting on the court.

“Anytime you play a [Tom] Thibodeau coached team, you know they’re going to play hard, you know they’re going to play physical, so you have to meet that challenge early,” Harrison Barnes said.

With New York playing on the second night of a back-to-back, the Kings used their speed to turn up the pace of the game, but they also got after it on the defensive end.


As a team, Sacramento set a new season-high in blocks with 14. Richaun Holmes led the way with six and rookie Tyrese Haliburton added a new career-high with four blocks.

Even when the Knicks got inside on the Kings, every shot was challenged. For one night, the Kings, who have been historically bad on the defensive end through the first 15 games, showed that they were tired of getting pushed around.

“For a lack of a better term, we’ve kind of been punked the last couple of games,” Haliburton said. “Teams coming out, being overly physical with us. Getting us out of our rhythm offensively and defensively, they’re capable of getting wherever they want to get to.”

It wasn’t a thing of beauty, but in the second half, the Kings outrebounded New York, held them to just 18 points in the third quarter and did the little things that it takes to win at the NBA level.

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Sacramento held the Knicks to just 38.3 percent from the field and 22.7 percent from long range. Those are both season bests.

“I think our half court defense was good, so we didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot tonight,” De’Aaron Fox said.

It’s just one game, but there was a lot to like about the effort from Sacramento. It was their best defensive performance of the season, but they need to have it carry over into the upcoming games or it’s just a one off.

“We take it game by game, but for now, this is a step in the right direction,” Barnes said. “And it’s on us as players to continue to bring the effort that we did tonight into the next game.”

The Kings have had very little practice time since the start of the season on December 23. That won’t be the case in the upcoming days.

RELATED: Upcoming Kings-Grizzlies games postponed

With the Memphis Grizzlies being forced to postpone their matchups against the Kings on Sunday and Monday, Sacramento now has a four day break to really hone in on some of their issues, especially on the defensive end.

The Kings will resume their schedule on Wednesday when they take on the Magic in Orlando. Hopefully they can carry some of the good feelings from Friday night’s victory on the road with them.