It’s a progression in the NBA. First learn to compete. Then learn how to win.
Over the last few games, the Kings have competed well, but struggled with that final step. Close losses to the Hornets twice, the Hawks and Trail Blazers had the Kings reeling. Maybe they gleaned something from those failures?
Against the NBA’s leading scorer in Bradley Beal and former MVP Russell Westbrook, Sacramento held a nine-point lead heading to the fourth, but the Washington Wizards didn’t go away.
Learning from their previous mistakes, the Kings battled down the stretch, hit their free throws, and thanks to a big shot from De’Aaron Fox in the final seconds, somehow came away with the 121-119 victory at Capital One Arena.
Here are three takeaways as the Kings found a way to get a win on the road to move to 16-24.
Battle at the point
Fox looked up to Westbrook growing up, calling the Wizards star his favorite player, along with Kevin Garnett. Their career numbers through four seasons are almost identical, which is a very good sign for the Kings.
In their matchup on Wednesday night, Fox not only picked up the win, but he was the better player. He torched Westbrook and the Wizards for 28 points, seven assists and a season-high five steals.
Westbrook put up numbers, but like most nights in his career. He shot 6-for-17 from the field on his way to a 26-point, 10-assist, 14-rebound triple-double, but his team came up short once again.
Rookie moves into starting lineup
Tyrese Haliburton has been biding his time, waiting for an opportunity to step into the Kings’ starting lineup on a full-time basis. With Marvin Bagley out of action for a month or more, Haliburton is going to get that chance.
The rookie shined playing alongside Fox in the backcourt. He scored 10 points in the first quarter and then started to get his teammates going.
Haliburton finished the game with 17 points on 5-for-12 shooting and chipped in four assists. He’s still on a minutes restriction and Luke Walton maxed him out at 32 for the game.
Everyone scores, everyone wins
Walton has settled into an eight man rotation for much of this season. Against Washington, he pushed it to nine and received contributions from every player that stepped on the court.
Fox and Haliburton put up big numbers, but so did starters Richaun Holmes, Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield. Walton even received solid production from the bench unit of Cory Joseph, Nemanja Bjelica, Hassan Whiteside and Justin James.
Joseph led the second unit in scoring with 14 points. Bjelica struggled with his shot, but grabbed six rebounds. Whiteside finished with six points, six rebounds and two blocks and James added six points and a couple of really nice passes.
The Kings have a depth issue and they need contributions from everyone. Against the Wizards, they got it.