When you play the Houston Rockets, you have no choice but to get creative. Sacramento Kings head coach Luke Walton threw the kitchen sink at the league’s second-highest scoring offense and it all came down to one shot.
Russell Westbrook, who was a handful the entire night, took it coast-to-coast to put Houston up by two with one second remaining.
Without enough time to even take a dribble, Cory Joseph inbounded the ball to Nemanja Bjelica, who was all alone on the left elbow. The Serbian sniper drilled a 33-footer as time expired to give Sacramento an improbable 119-118 win.
Here are three takeaways as the Kings hung around in Houston and shocked the Rockets to move to 10-13 on the season.
For the second night in a row, Bjelica came through for Sacramento. Walton ran his offense through the 31-year-old forward for much of the night, but it’s unlikely the final play was called for him.
Once he got the ball, he calmly set up and sent a laser screaming at the hoop. It looked good from the moment it left his hand and after a quick review, the shot was deemed good.
Bjelica finished the night with 17 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals. He’s earned a spot in the rotation when Marvin Bagley comes back later this week.
Make it rain
Sacramento and Houston have had plenty of 3-point shootouts and Monday night’s game was no exception.
Led by Buddy Hield’s six makes from downtown, the Kings made 20 of 45 attempts from behind the 3-point line. Six players hit multiple 3-balls, including a 3-for-5 performance from Joseph. None was bigger than Bjelica’s game-winning hoist.
Houston leads the league in 3-point attempts (46.1) and 3-point makes (15.7) on the season. Against the Kings, the Rockets managed to hit 17 of their 50 attempts from deep.
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Keep him off the line
The Kings have struggled to play defense without fouling much of the season, but in back-to-back games, they seemed to figure a few things out.
After yielding just five free-throw attempts to Luka Doncic on Sunday -- well off his 9.7 attempts per game on the season -- Sacramento did the same thing to James Harden.
Harden, who averages 12.8 makes from the line on 14.8 attempts this season, hit the Kings for just eight attempts on the evening. The Kings stayed close to Harden, but moved their feet and avoided reaching in.
The 6-foot-5 shooting guard still managed to post 27 points, but that is well below his league-leading average of 38.5 points per game. Without a bunch of extra points at the line, Harden looked mortal, at least for one night.