SACRAMENTO -- In almost every game this season, the Kings have faced a turning point. There is a moment where they face adversity and either crumble under the pressure, or fight back.
In Sacramento's 116-111 win over the Boston Celtics at Golden 1 Center on Wednesday night, the wheels began to fall off the Kings' bus in the middle of the third quarter.
Trailing by 11 points at the 5:30 mark of the quarter, coach Luke Walton had seen enough. He called a timeout to regroup with his team on the sidelines.
It worked wonders.
De’Aaron Fox turned up his aggression and while he couldn’t find his way to the rim, he did find rookie Tyrese Haliburton on back-to-back possessions for a pair of triples to cut into the Celtics' lead.
“We were getting open shots, we weren’t making them,” Walton said in a postgame video conference. “And then it felt like we stopped trusting the pass and the rhythm. And then he stepped up and knocked a couple down and that kind of rebooted us again.”
In a span of 40 seconds, Haliburton cut the Celtics lead from 11 to five and triggered a 10-0 run. It was the turning point in the game, and the Kings finished the third with a fury and took momentum into the fourth quarter instead of wilting.
“He’s one of those players that kinda just feels what the team needs, whether it’s playmaking, whether it’s a big steal, a 3-point shot,” Walton said of Haliburton.
Haliburton didn’t stop there. With his team struggling to stay in the game, he finished off the third quarter with a circus finish off a Buddy Hield miss to cut the Celtics lead going to the fourth. He finished the quarter with 10 points, including the putback as time expired.
“I’m just trying to make a play,” Haliburton said. “That’s got to be who I am -- is coming out and just bringing energy, making plays.”
The 20-year-old out of Iowa State continued his strong play down the stretch. He hit another two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter as the Kings battled the Celtics. He was impactful and disruptive on both ends of the court, which is why Walton and Haliburton's teammates trust him in big situations.
“He made some big threes in the third and fourth quarter,” Fox said. “He’s a great player and he’s continuing to get better game-by-game. Even if he doesn’t outscore himself the next game, he’s done something better. It’s not always about putting the ball in the basket.”
A day after winning Western Conference Rookie of the Month, Haliburton looked like he had a spring in his step. While he downplayed the award, he scored a career-high 21 points on the night and helped the Kings in an impressive victory over a very tough opponent.
“I went to sleep like normal, woke up and got ready to hoop, I don’t really pay attention to that stuff,” Haliburton said. “It’s cool. My mom called me, teammates congratulated me, but I just care about winning games.”
The Kings are surging thanks to improvements up and down the roster, but Haliburton's play continues to stand out. After a brutal 5-10 start to the season, they’ve rattled off five wins in six to move within a game of .500.
As long as Haliburton keeps this up, his priority will become the Kings' reality.