The Kings were unable to extend their lead in the first round of the NBA Series against the Warriors in Game 3 on Thursday, but history may be on their side as they head into Game 4.
Other than starting 0-4 to the 2022-23 NBA regular season, the Kings have avoided any upset skates all season. They held themselves accountable and made the appropriate adjustments and corrected it in the next games and beyond.
After losing their first playoff game, the Kings’ composure and confidence will not change in Game Four on Sunday at the Chase Center. Sacramento coach Mike Brown explained why his players can keep their balance all year long.
“Their competitive spirit is at a high level, which means they know, ‘Okay, we let this guy get away with it or we let those two get away with it, so let’s get back to doing what we do at a higher level. Let’s bring it up even more next time we hit the ground, Brown said after Saturday’s practice. “And a lot of times it’s not necessarily about the shot, it’s just our level of intensity. Our sense of urgency. Our level of physicality.
“All of those things, the little things, while winning the possession game usually lead us to do well next time and hopefully that’s what happens tomorrow.”
Domantas Sabonis, who finished Thursday’s game with 15 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and two rebounds, echoed what his coach said. When asked if he felt his teammates were shy going into Game 3, he said “Absolutely not” and indicated he was ready to turn the page on the loss and shift his focus to Sunday.
Sabonis said, “I think a lot of players recover quickly. No one likes to play two bad games in a row. Individually and as a team, we had to flip the switch quickly.”
Aside from the four straight losses to start the season, the Kings’ next loss came to the Miami Heat on November 2. They bounced back in their next game with a 126-123 overtime victory over the Orlando Magic.
Going further down the list, they fell to Golden State by three points on November 7 and then responded with a seven-game winning streak that kept their victory beam lit over the Golden 1 spot for nearly two straight weeks.
This has been the flow of the season for Sacramento, who are in their first playoff game since 2006.
And if there’s one person who knows anything about poise, it’s Kings’ freshman Keegan Murray. The 22-year-old striker has had his struggles over the entire series, but he believes in himself – and so does the team.
“Yeah, I mean I’m fine,” Murray said, “I feel like in the last game I went out strong and ended up in bad trouble early on.” “So my confidence is good, I have people around me who trust me. So my mentality going into Game 4 is to stay aggressive and feel like my time will eventually come.”
Murray averages just 3.3 points on underwhelming 3-of-13 (23.1 percent) shooting from the field and 1-of-8 (12.5 percent) from behind the arc — breaking the NBA rookie record with three points this season.
He’s not the only one struggling from Central City either. Collectively over the first three games of the series, the Kings have shot 13 of 117 from 3-point range — that’s just over 11 percent. They finished the season shooting a 3-ball percentage of 36.9 percent, and they know they can match that in the postseason.
“I feel like [the physicality] “It didn’t affect our shooting, we still get open shots, we just don’t convert,” Murray said. It’s happened all year round this year and we know eventually the tide will turn on that and we’re continuing to take the same shots that we’ve been taking all season and we know eventually they will come along.
“Obviously we know we can shoot better on that end of the floor, that’s been a focus for us, but we know if we don’t shoot well we need to stop at the other end. We know your lead is 2-1 It’s something you might want to run in this series, so we’re lucky to be in this place, but we know we need to take advantage of that offensive end.”
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But Murray is ready to change that. He is patient and ready for the playoff.
“I feel entitled,” Murray said. “But obviously, with the flow of the match, I feel like I can play a lot better than I have so far.”
Only time will tell, but if the Kings’ future is anything like their past this season, they’ll be in good shape.
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