The vibe inside Golden 1 Center has been all doom and gloom over the past couple of weeks, but one good win was all it took to bring the building back to life Wednesday night.
The Kings started the game without Richaun Holmes. They finished without De’Aaron Fox and Harrison Barnes. Somehow, despite everything they’ve been through, they still held on for a hard-earned and desperately needed 125-121 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
The win was Sacramento’s first under Alvin Gentry, who was named interim head coach on Sunday after Luke Walton was fired. Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton was asked if he had a message for the fans during his courtside interview after the game.
“Stay with us,” he said. “Stay with us.”
Buddy Hield scored 22 points for the Kings (7-12), who had lost four in a row for the second time in 16 days. Fox scored 21 points before he was ejected after receiving two technical fouls with 6:06 to play in the fourth quarter.
Damian Lillard had 32 points and 10 assists for the Blazers (10-9), who had won four in a row. Jusuf Nurkic had 28 points and 17 rebounds. CJ McCollum was held to 13 points on 6-of-20 shooting.
Barnes had 13 points, but he left the game with a right foot injury at the end of the third quarter and did not return. Gentry said X-rays were negative and the team’s medical staff was “pretty optimistic that everything’s going to be fine.”
With Fox, Barnes and Holmes all unavailable down the stretch, Gentry relied on Haliburton, Hield, Mitchell, Marvin Bagley III and Damian Jones. Mitchell scored 16 points. Bagley had 10 points and eight rebounds with two big 3-pointers in the final 6:35, including a crucial one from the corner to put the Kings up 121-114 with 30.3 seconds remaining.
Bagley was asked if he regretted his decision not to enter a Nov. 8 game against the Phoenix Suns and if he feels like he has a fresh start now with Gentry.
“It was a great game tonight,” Bagley said. “Past is the past. I’m not worried about it. I’m worried about us getting this win tonight. We needed it.”
Fans booed at times as the King lost eight of their last nine games – a skid that resulted in Walton getting fired – but they were on their feet in the final minute of this one. They danced in the aisles during timeouts. They chanted “DE-FENSE” and “SAC-RA-MENTO” as the Kings got big baskets and big stops in the final minutes of the game.
Mitchell said seeing all of his teammates “smiling and talking” after the game was “a real good thing for our locker room.” He also said he enjoyed hearing the roar of the Sacramento crowd.
“It felt great,” Mitchell said. “Especially because we’re not having the season we wanted to have at the beginning of the season. For the fans to be with us through the bad times shows us that Sacramento is a really good fanbase, one of the best in the world.”
The Kings might be the ones who get cooked by the Blazers, who have won four in a row with wins over the Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets. Lillard and McCollum combined for an easy 57 points on 22-of-33 shooting in a 119-100 blowout over the Nuggets on Tuesday.
The Kings spoiled Alvin Gentry’s interim coaching debut Monday with an awful 102-94 loss to the 76ers, who were missing Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Danny Green. Philadelphia had lost six of seven since Embiid tested positive for COVID-19.
Sacramento has now lost eight of its last nine. Luke Walton was fired Sunday after going 6-11 to start the season. Gentry has a tough task ahead of him. The next five games after the Blazers include home and away matchups with the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers and a road game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Gentry will need time to sort out and settle into a rotation. Gentry has indicated he isn’t planning major changes, but there was one significant change in Monday’s game against the 76ers.
Gentry moved Maurice Harkless back into the starting lineup while Chimezie Metu returned to the bench after a five-game run as a starter. Harkless finished with two points, one rebound and one steal in 19 minutes. Metu didn’t play at all. Instead, Gentry turned to Marvin Bagley III, Tristan Thompson and Alex Len for backup minutes.
Metu has been more productive than any of those players, averaging 8.6 points and 5.9 rebounds in 21.4 minutes per game. He averaged 10.2 points and 7.0 rebounds in his five starts.
Metu is tied with Len for the best individual defensive rating (107) on the team, according to Basketball Reference. He is fifth in per-36 scoring (14.5 ppg) and rebounding (9.9). He also spaces the floor better than any of the other big men on the team, shooting 31.6% from 3-point range on 4.8 attempts per game.
Kings center Richaun Holmes was a late addition to the team’s injury report Wednesday, listed as questionable with a right eye contusion.
Holmes took a shot to the eye during Monday’s game against the 76ers. Gentry was not optimistic that Holmes would be able to play during his pregame news conference.
“I would say he’s probably not going to play tonight,” Gentry said.
The Blazers are listing Anferee Simons as questionable due to an upper respiratory illness.
Portland Trail Blazers at Sacramento Kings
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Golden 1 Center
TV: NBC Sports California
Radio: Sports 1140 KHTK
Odds: Blazers -2.5
Blazers: QUESTIONABLE — Anfernee Simons (upper respiratory illness).
Kings: OUT — Louis King (G League); Neemias Queta (G League); Jahmi’us Ramsey G League); Robert Woodard II (G League).
Note: Check back for updates with the latest news, notes, quotes and injury updates before, during and after tonight’s game between the Kings and Blazers.
This story was originally published November 24, 2021 4:00 AM.