Wizards can’t slow down Kings offense while Washington’s woes continue


Domantas Sabonis maneuvered his muscular 7-foot-1 frame around the color with the nuance and control of a prima ballerina on Saturday night, holding the ball up with one hand and spinning where Daniel Gafford wasn’t. But defenders beware — this dancer happens to weigh 240 pounds and feels less like a ballerina and more like a boulder.

Sabonis and the rest of the Sacramento Kings shoved the Washington Wizards around all night, driving effortlessly to a 132-118 win at Capital One Arena and punctuating their runs with a barrage of threes. They were so dominant that they elicited multiple waves of their fans’ rallying cry, “Light the beam!” — so said for the purple light emanating from Sacramento’s home stadium after wins.

It’s a chant Washington’s home court had probably never heard, but the Kings (43-27) and their best offense in the league, averaging 120.9 points, are having that effect this season.

Wizards fans didn’t match that passion Saturday night, and their team couldn’t match Sacramento’s firepower — not without Kristaps Porzingis, who missed Saturday’s game with a non-covid illness.

“No one feels sorry for us,” said coach Wes Unseld Jr. “No point in sulking. We have to take something from that. We have to learn. We have to get better. We have to get better.”

Time to study is running out — Washington (32-39) has lost its fifth game in the last six and is 12th in the Eastern Conference, outside of next month’s play-in tournament. The Chicago Bulls in 10th place have a 1½ game lead.

Against another Eastern power, the sorcerers lack cavaliers

There were individual highlights on Saturday that mattered little, including Kyle Kuzma’s 33-point bounce-back performance after a night off in Cleveland on Friday. Playing on a right ankle he injured early in the game, he led three Wizards scorers in double figures and added seven rebounds. Bradley Beal had 20 points and Corey Kispert had 13 as the other pillars of a solid offense that wasn’t nearly enough against Sacramento’s power.

Kuzma said his ankle was badly swollen. He suggested the injury was a little more concerning as it was on the same leg where he had tendonitis in his knee.

Sabonis had 30 points on an impressive 10-for-12 shooting with nine rebounds and 10 assists, showing his versatility.

“It wasn’t just pure post-ups where it was just like that, [a] Color catches here and there,” said Unseld. “It’s slow rolls, the late passes, some offensive rebounds – sometimes he just goes off the top of the floor. … It’s an unusual position for a lot of bigs.”

Sacramento guard Terence Davis, who averages 6.5 points, amassed 21 from his 5-on-7 three-point shootout. And rookie Keegan Murray had 19 points as the Kings asserted control by shooting 55.8 percent.

In case Sabonis’ ownership of the suit wasn’t overwhelming enough, the Kings had 22 threes to Washington’s 13. That wasn’t paltry from the Wizards, but it was nowhere near enough without a stern defense.

“They did a good job of keeping us on our toes,” Beal said. “We were so concerned about Sabonis and [De’Aaron Fox] Pick and rolls, be in color, keep up [Sabonis] off the boards that we left a lot of people open.

Instead of getting stops, the wizards tried to outrun the kings – and to their credit, they were lively. Kuzma was the embodiment of such a spirit in the first half: after limping into the dressing room less than two minutes into the game, having apparently twisted his ankle stepping on the foot of a fan sitting on the sidelines, he checked with 5:20 left back quarters and 4:45 left, he sprinted the length of the court to attempt a pursuit block on Davis, who was scored as a goaltender. But still, it was the thought that counted — not to mention the 20 points Kuzma scored at half-time.

Kispert took on the ghost as well, crashing and grabbing rebounds and hopping across the paint. The Wizards shot well, 49 percent from the field before going into the dressing room, but trying to play shot-to-shot with the Kings is a flawed approach.

Here’s what else you should know about the loss of the wizards:

Porzingis wasn’t the only mainstay for Saturday’s game: The Kings were missing sniper Kevin Huerter. The former Maryland standout suffered a right hamstring injury in Brooklyn on Thursday and is day-to-day. He averages 15 points and shoots career bests of 48.7 percent from the field and 40.8 percent from the three-point line.

Washington’s turnovers were under control compared to recent games — it had nine — but still hurt. The Kings scored 14 points from the freebies.

Buckner: The Wizards keep blowing leads – and the chance to make any progress

Most of Saturday’s game revolved around shooting. The Wizards overtook the Kings 46-44 and their offensive movement was nearly as fluid, a solid 27 assists from 41 field goals. (Sacramento had 34 assists in 48 buckets.) But Washington let the visitors loose for 22 threes, including five each from Davis, Murray and Malik Monk.

The Wizards’ latest signing has had a busy week: Xavier Cooks played in the final game of Australia’s National Basketball League championship series on Wednesday, then flew to Washington and made his NBA debut on Saturday. The lanky, 6-foot-8 forward didn’t have to do anything but get his feet wet – playing six minutes and grabbing two rebounds.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2023/03/18/wizards-kings/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_homepage Wizards can’t slow down Kings offense while Washington’s woes continue

Ian Walker

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