Three games into the regular season and the Sacramento Kings are starting to establish themselves as a scoring juggernaut. After a 131-120 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, they might be more than just a young team having fun sprinting up and down the court.
It’s early, but Sacramento is playing an exciting brand of basketball. There will be plenty of nights when things go wrong, but they also have a chance to shock some people.
Here are two positives and two negatives from the Kings’ first win of the season.
One of the bigger unknowns coming into the season showed up Sunday evening and helped pin a loss on the Thunder. Inserted into the starting lineup to match up with OKC, Iman Shumpert went off for a 26 points on 9-of-13 from the field and four makes from long range.
The scoring burst is the largest for Shumpert since Jan 2, 2014, when he dropped 27 points on the Spurs as member of the Knicks. He’s missed plenty of games due to injury over his career, including 68 games last season, but the veteran wing is finally healthy and appears ready to contribute.
Oklahoma City seemed caught off guard by the scoring explosion from both Shumpert and the rest of the Kings team. While he can’t be counted on for big offensive numbers like this on a regular basis, Shumpert can help the Kings as a leader and a defender.
The Kings’ schedule is brutal to start the season. They play 7-of-10 on the road against plenty of playoff teams. There wasn’t a surefire win in sight, including Sunday’s game where Sacramento was a 10-point underdog.
Seven players scored in double-figures for the Kings and another two scored eight or more. Sacramento shot 54.9 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from behind the arc. This was the third straight game that the Kings shot over 50 percent from the field and they are averaging 125.7 points per game through three contests.
Winning doesn’t cure all, but it is important for a young team to get rewarded on occasion. If the Kings continue to put up points and they figure out how to play a little defense, this might become a more regular occurrence.
In the opener, Sacramento turned the ball over just nine times as a team. In Friday’s loss to the Pelicans, that number jumped to 13 and against the Thunder, the Kings gave it up a total of 20 times, which helped lead to 29 fastbreak points for OKC.
The Kings have gone young and young players make mistakes. De’Aaron Fox turned the ball over four times on the night, but he also scored 22 points and dished out 10 assists. Marvin Bagley struggled to hold onto the ball as well, giving it away four times in 23 minutes.
Sacramento is playing at a crazy pace. Mistakes will happen, but they need to value the ball.
So far this season, the Kings are not a very good rebounding team. The issue was huge early in the game against OKC, with big man Steven Adams pulling down eight of the Thunder’s 16 rebounds in the first quarter.
Like the turnover issue, rebounds often led to points for the Thunder. For the game, OKC outscored the Kings 29-7 on second chance points. It’s and alarming disparity that could have cost the Kings a win.
The Thunder outrebounded the Kings 51-46, including 18-12 on the offensive end. The rebounding differential led to 104 shots for OKC, compared to just 91 attempts for the Kings.
Bagley and Willie Cauley-Stein led the Kings with seven rebounds each, but the team needs more from every player on the court.