The Kings couldn’t extend their first-round NBA playoff lead against the Warriors in Game 3 on Thursday, but history could be on their side heading into Game 4.
Other than an 0-4 start to the 2022-23 NBA regular season, the Kings have avoided any alarming slippages throughout the season. They held themselves accountable, made the appropriate adjustments, and corrected them in subsequent matches and beyond.
After their first playoff loss, the Kings’ season-long composure and confidence won’t change for Game 4 on Sunday at Chase Center. Sacramento coach Mike Brown explained why his players have been able to keep a cool head all year.
“Their competitive spirit is at a high level, which means they know, ‘OK, we let this one get away or we let those two get away, so let’s get back to doing what we do it at a higher level. Let’s bring it even more the next time we’re on the floor,” Brown said after practice Saturday. “And a lot of times it doesn’t even necessarily have to do with taking shots, it’s just our level of intensity. Our sense of urgency. Our physical level.
“All of those things, little things, while winning the possession game, generally allow us to do a good job next time and hopefully that’s tomorrow.”
Domantas Sabonis, who finished Thursday’s game with 15 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and two rebounds, confirmed his coach’s comments. When asked if he felt his teammates were timid at the start of Game 3, he replied “definitely not” and noted that he was ready to move on from the loss and focus on Sunday.
“I think a lot of guys bounce back quickly,” Sabonis said. “Nobody likes to play two bad games in a row. Individually and as a team, so we have to flip the switch quickly.”
Aside from the four straight losses to start the season, the Kings’ next loss came against the Miami Heat on November 2. They bounced back in their next game with a 126-123 overtime win over the Orlando Magic.
Going down the list, they fell to Golden State by three points on Nov. 7, then responded with a seven-game winning streak that kept their winning beam lit atop the Golden 1 Center for nearly two consecutive weeks.
It’s been the rhythm of the season for Sacramento, which is making its first playoff appearance since 2006.
And if there’s one guy who knows anything about balance, it’s Kings rookie Keegan Murray. The 22-year-old forward has struggled throughout the series, but he has confidence in himself and so does the team.
“Yeah, I mean I’m fine, I feel like the last game I came out aggressive and ended up having some foul issues early on,” Murray said. “So my confidence is fine, I have people around me who have confidence in me. So my mentality going into Game 4 is to keep being aggressive and I feel like my time will eventually come.
Murray is averaging just 3.3 points on a disappointing 3-of-13 (23.1%) shot from the field and 1-of-8 (12.5%) from behind the arc – where he broke the record of NBA rookie’s all-time 3-pointer this season.
He’s not the only one struggling from downtown, either. Collectively through the first three games of the series, the Kings are shooting 13 of 117 from 3-point range — that’s just over 11%. They finished the season shooting 36.9 percent 3-ball, and they know they can match that in the playoffs.
“I feel like (physical) hasn’t affected our shooting, we always get open shots, we just don’t convert,” Murray said. “It’s been happening all year round this year and we know the tide will eventually change and we’re just continuing to take the same shots that we’ve always taken throughout the season and we know that they will eventually enter.
“Obviously we know we can shoot better at this end of the pitch, that’s something we insist on, but we know that if we don’t shoot well we have to stop at the other end. We know being up 2-1 is something you’d want to get into this series, so we’re lucky to be in that spot, but we know we have to capitalize on that attacking end.”
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Murray, however, is ready to change that. He remains patient and ready for his breakout playoff game.
“I feel like I’m due,” Murray said. “But obviously with the way the game is going, I feel like I can play a lot better than what I have so far.”
Only time will tell, but if the Kings’ future resembles their past this season, they’ll be in good shape.