SACRAMENTO -- Build a lead. Give it back. Build a lead. Give it back.
That was the theme of Thursday night’s battle between the Kings (21-33) and the Memphis Grizzlies (28-26) at Golden 1 Center. Sacramento seemed to have control of the game on multiple occasions, but they never put Memphis away. It almost cost them a very important victory.
Down by as many as 18 in the third and 15 in the fourth, the Grizzlies made it a game late, but Buddy Hield hit free throws and the Kings held on for the 129-125 victory.
Rookie Ja Morant finished strong and Jaren Jackson Jr. got hot from the perimeter to lead Memphis, but it was De’Anthony Melton off the bench that kept the Grizzlies in the game.
Here are three takeaways as the Kings snap their two-game skid and move to within six games of the Grizzlies in the standings.
Harrison Barnes was showing signs of life before the All-Star break, but his performance early on Thursday evening was just what the Kings needed from their starting small forward.
Barnes knocked down his first five shots, including four 3-pointers in a wild 14 point first quarter. He kept it going in the second quarter, finishing the half with 22 points on 8-of-10 from the floor and 6-for-6 from 3-point range.
If Barnes can come close to hitting the 3-ball as he did against Memphis, it opens up everything for the Kings. He finished the game with 32 points on 11-of-17 from the field and 7-of-11 from behind the arc.
Battle at the point
Morant is the next big thing. Well, unless De’Aaron Fox gets there first.
The two young guards went at each other and the Kings’ speedster came out on top. Fox posted a 26-point, four-assist performance and led his team to victory.
Morant countered with 19 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter. He added two assists but also turned the ball over five times.
What Morant has done as a rookie is impressive, but Fox’s maturity and defensive pressure late was a huge factor in this game.
After joining the team at the NBA trade deadline, Jabari Parker made his debut with the Kings on Thursday. He looked every bit the part of a player who’s seen action in one game since Christmas.
Parker missed five of his shots in the first half and took just two points into the intermission. He bounced back in the second half, finishing the night with four points, two assists and four rebounds. He even played a little center when Harry Giles picked up an early fourth foul.
If Parker can round into shape, he gives coach Luke Walton another lively scorer off the bench. If he can’t quickly play himself into NBA game shape, the Kings may need to focus on other options.