From the lowest lows to the highest highs. Welcome to the 2019-20 Sacramento Kings season.
It was just another manic Monday in Kingsland. After taking down Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks less than 24 hours earlier, the Kings hung around in Houston and then shocked the Rockets at the buzzer by a final of 119-118.
The road-weary Kings looked beat when Russell Westbrook took the ball right through the defense and scored a go-ahead bucket with one second remaining.
On the ensuing play, Cory Joseph scanned the court and waited patiently for Bogdan Bogdanovic to run through and then Buddy Hield.
Coach Luke Walton used his top scorers as decoys for Nemanja Bjelica, who calmly stepped to the left elbow and drilled a 33-footer as time expired.
“I was one of the options,” Bjelica told Grant Napear and Doug Christie following the win. “Great win for us. What can I say? I took a crazy shot. The ball went in. We deserve this win. And that’s it.”
Overmatched, understaffed and playing on the second night of a back-to-back against two of the best teams in the Western Conference, the Kings somehow swept a two-game set with the Mavericks and Rockets.
“We were very brave tonight,” Bjelica said. “It’s hard to play against this team and we played different and we won.”
Bjelica finished the night with 17 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals for Sacramento. He’s not used to chatting with the media in post-game media availability and now he’s been the star of the show for the second straight game.
He wasn’t the only Kings player to put up big numbers. Sacramento tied a franchise record with 20 made 3-pointers, exemplifying a total team effort.
Buddy Hield scored 26 points on 6-of-13 shooting from behind the arc. His three-pointer with 8.4 seconds remaining tied the game and set up the wild final sequence of plays.
Harrison Barnes scored 19 points, including a huge 3-pointer that gave Sacramento the lead with just over a minute to play. Richaun Holmes chipped in 16 points and Joseph went 3-for-5 from deep, not to mention playing spectacular defense against James Harden throughout the night.
Walton turned to an eight-man rotation again after finding success with a smaller group in Dallas on Sunday. That means major minutes for the starters, including Joseph, who is beat up.
[RELATED: What we learned as Bjelica, Kings stun Westbrook, Rockets]
The group responded well to the tightened rotation. They’ve now won two in a row after a disappointing overtime loss in San Antonio on Friday. They somehow salvaged a 2-2 road trip and head home at 10-13 to host the Thunder on Wednesday evening.
It wasn’t a perfect game, but the Kings continue to bounce back and they are competing well, despite an early rash of injuries.