The Brooklyn Nets have been rolling, that’s no secret. Since the cherry-picked date of November 23, the day after a brutal overtime loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn is not only 6-1, but sporting the NBA’s very best net rating. The schedule didn't inspire fear — the only two above .500 teams Brooklyn faced were the two Florida teams, each injured and on a back-to-back.
Still, the Nets didn’t just play who was in front of them; they frequently dominated.
But Brooklyn wasn’t going to get the benefit of the schedule for long. Their trip to Sacramento to face the Kings on Monday night was just the first of a five-game West Coast swing against potential contenders (and the Utah Jazz). The Nets entered SacTown with a 12-9 record, certainly cause for smiles within the fanbase. But their stay out West has the power to either change the outlook or really keep the good vibes going.
It still does, but Brooklyn will need to pick it up over the final four games of their road trip. Monday night was anything but good vibes for the Nets, as they watched 3-pointer after 3-pointer fall in from above. Brooklyn didn’t stop the Sacaramento’s offense, but who knows if they even could have, as the Kings set a franchise-record for made 3-pointers.
Final score: Sacramento Kings 131, Brooklyn Nets 118
The Brooklyn Nets have surprised many this season, though their record is fairly unassuming A top-flight offense and a bottom-third defense is not what many pundits, myself included, expected. Yet, the start to Monday night’s contest in Golden 1 Center is what many of us pictured as training camp got underway.
Brooklyn’s offense struggled in the first half — they shot just 12-of-30 inside the arc, with nobody and everybody to blame at once. Mikal Bridges missed a few layups and turned it over three times, and Cam Thomas shot just 1-of-7 to score just three points. Spencer Dinwiddie led the way with 11 points, but even his production largely came at the line; he shot just 3-of-10 from the floor.
Jacque Vaughn credited Sacramento’s defense for “their ability to kind of climb into us. The aggressiveness on the basketball, away from the basketball, plugging gaps, making our angles a little bit tough to read, was really good. I think you saw that definitely in the first half from some of the turnovers, deflected balls.”
The Nets shot well from three, but not on high volume — just 5-of-12. Sacramento, on the other hand, couldn’t miss from deep, and fired them up at will. The Kings were 11-20 from three in the first half, and most of their makes weren’t the result of any sort of defensive breakdown; they were just feeling it:
Malik Monk did what he does, scoring 14 off the bench. Domantas Sabonis even added a three on his way to 11/9/5.
Given all that, you’d think the Nets were dead in the water; not so fast Brooklyn locked in against one of the league’s most fearsome offenses, and forced the Kings to shoot a pitiful 8-of-26 from two.
Sabonis accounted for four of the Kings’ eight turnovers, and the Nets, led by Day’Ron Sharpe, a +7 in the first half, and Dorian Finney-Smith (two blocks), Brooklyn walled off the paint:
Dorian Finney-Smith again with a huge block. He is really hooping tonight: pic.twitter.com/rb6vCeishN— Lucas Kaplan (@LucasKaplan_) December 12, 2023
Really, Brooklyn’s front-court of reserves kept them in this one. Sharpe’s two points and six boards didn’t lead off the page, but his defensive effort was commendable. Royce O’Neale and Finney-Smith didn’t light the world on fire, but made timely shots to prevent the Kings from blowing it all the way open. They each scored ten first-half points.
As a result, Sacramento built a 15-point lead in the second quarter, but watched it fall to 54-48 by halftime. It was anybody’s game.
Brooklyn appeared to be taking control multiple times in the third quarter, cutting the lead to 71-67 on Thomas’ first 3-pointer of the night. But the Nets couldn’t pair big-time buckets with momentum-shifting stops. The black-and-white cut the lead to two possessions four different times in the period, only to immediately surrender a Kings basket.
Then, the dam broke. The Kings turned the 3-point shooting dial to 100, and the Nets’ offense fell flat for a second too long. Keegan Murray and De’Aaron Fox poured it on, combining for 29 points in the period, opening the lead to 98-85 entering the fourth quarter. It was what we may have expected from Kings-Nets coming into tonight, a 44-37 period in favor of the home team.
The game appeared over. Not only was Sacramento shooting a ridiculous 57.5% from deep after three quarters, but the Nets were fumbling every opportunity to snag momentum, whether missed layups or untimely turnovers.
Down 107-90 with just under nine minutes left, the push finally came. Mikal Bridges led the way, hitting three 3-pointers in rapid succession, ultimately leading the Nets with ___ on the night. He had previously struggled with his shot, but he took matters into his own hands down the stretch:
Mikal Bridges with his third 3-pointer in three minutes, Nets within six with six to go. Getting fun: pic.twitter.com/umRyU2tz3k— Lucas Kaplan (@LucasKaplan_) December 12, 2023
A six-point deficit, 110-104, though, was as close as it’d get for Brooklyn, who had fallen in too big of a hole. They shot admirably from three, though not on outstanding volume (14-of-29, 48.3%). Meanwhile, the Kings set their franchise record with 25 makes on 45 attempts, good for a scorching 55.6%.
Brooklyn tried everything, according to Vaughn: “We were in man, we weren’t in drop coverage all night, so you give them credit. We were man, and they still teed off and made — you know, the first two Monk threes, we were in man.”
A late 11-0 run decided the game, as the Nets just couldn't keep up. Brooklyn’s starting backcourt of Dinwiddie and Thomas each scored 18 points, but combined to shoot 13-of-35; that wasn’t going to get it done on a night like Monday. Bridges and Johnson each shooting 6-of-13 to combine for 37 points was no choke job, but neither went supernova.
Nic Claxton had some nice moments, but didn’t impact the game as he’s capable of; Brooklyn lost his minutes by 24 points. Their best player on the night was Dorian Finney-Smith, who did all he could in scoring 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting while playing excellent defense.
But the difference between Brooklyn and Sacramento was far more than a nice performance from a sixth man. The Kings simply had one of those shooting nights that could only be prayed against — and occasionally, that’s what the Nets resorted to.
“Some of them were a little bit too open,” said Johnson of Sacramento’s looks, “but some of them were, you know, contested looks that you can somewhat live with. So, I gotta go back and look at that again.”
On the offensive end, Vaughn wasn’t a fan of his team’s shot selection: “With us, conversely, shooting 28 middies, you’re just never gonna win. Three versus two, that math just doesn’t add up.”
Brooklyn’s silver lining, if there was one, was an appearance from Harry Giles III, making a special return to his first NBA home. In garbage time, Giles scored an and-one to finish with three points in front of a delighted opposing crowd:
Harry Giles gets on the board vs. Sacramento, scoring a late three-point play: pic.twitter.com/HkyrpV09yN— Lucas Kaplan (@LucasKaplan_) December 12, 2023
Monday night’s action awoke the Nets a little more rudely than it needed to. Brooklyn was well aware a higher standard of play would be necessary to keep racking up wins against the big dawgs of the Western Conference. They didn’t show up unprepared, and certainly weren’t rolled over.
Sacramento just shot the rock historically well, leaving the Nets answer-less. And while Brooklyn’s own offense has been great this season, they couldn’t create the avalanche necessary to find a win against the Kings. The league’s second-best transition offense finished without a single fast break point on Monday night, constantly taking the ball out of the nylon.
Said Johnson: “It’s 22 games in, 60 to go, you know? So, you take the positives, you take the negatives and you learn and you put it in the bank.”
This one will go firmly in the negative category. The Nets showed up to play, but the Kings showed up to kill.
For Monday’s loss, we have just two lowly milestones.
- The first comes by way of Spencer Dinwiddie, who passed Joe Johnson in made 3-pointers in Nets franchise history. Dinwiddie now sits in 5th place all-time with 517 makes to his name.
- Rookie Jalen Wilson notched his first points in his NBA career with this tip-in late in the fourth quarter:
Harry Giles’ Return
Harry Giles’ return to Sacramento promised to be a special moment between a player and fanbase that share such mutual love. Giles hasn’t donned Kings jersey in nearly five years, but he’s certainly a lifelong member of the organization. That was apparent throughout Monday, as NBC Sports California showcased:
Harry Giles was back at G1C today pic.twitter.com/ZtipHROcyD— Kings on NBCS (@NBCSKings) December 12, 2023
Following game’s end, where Giles checked in the final four minutes, scoring three points — and only after Giles seemingly dapped up everybody in the building — he took to Twitter/X to share his appreciate for the city and organization:
Sacramento!! The Love is Unconditional forever! Thanks for always welcoming me home!! I’m so thankful for you guys. I can never put it into words. Didn’t want tonight to end always bleeding purple … #H4H pic.twitter.com/5fsk1KtrSb— Harry Giles III (@HGiiizzle) December 12, 2023
Giles also spoke before the game about the Nets to Sean Cunningham of FOX TV 40.
“We all relate. Oldest player is 30 years old so we all get the vibe on the court,” said Giles. “We have a great relationship with each other.”
A familiar friend awaits, as the Nets travel to Phoenix to take on Kevin Durant and the Suns. With Bradley Beal expected to make his return on Tuesday evening vs. the Golden State Warriors, Brooklyn may Phoenix’s Big Three at full strength, though you never know with a back-to-back.
In any case, we have the rare 9:00 p.m. ET tip-off on Wednesday night.
- Box Score: Sacramento Kings 131, Brooklyn Nets 118 - NBA
- Game Highlights: Sacramento Kings 131, Brooklyn Nets 118 (Video) - NBA
- Jacque Vaughn on Nets’ loss against Kings (Video) - YES Network
- Cam Johnson discusses tough loss to Kings (Video) - YES Network
- Mikal Bridges speaks about the Nets’ loss to Kings (Video) - YES Network
- Kings set franchise record for 3s with 25 and beat Nets 131-118 - Michael Wagaman - AP
- Hot-shooting Kings put away Nets - Reuters
- Nets no match for Kings in sour start to brutal West Coast trip - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Sacramento return a ‘dream come true’ for Nets’ Harry Giles III - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Nets served reality check by De’Aron Fox, Kings in loss to open up West Coast road trip ($) - C.J. Holmes - New York Daily News
- Homecoming King: Brooklyn Nets’ Harry Giles III explains love for Sacramento Kings fans - Jason Anderson - Sacramento Bee