Ellis gaining confidence after big game in Kings' win vs. Magic

Ellis gaining confidence after big game in Kings' win vs. Magic originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

Keon Ellis is making a game-changing impact with the Kings, and it's not just on the defensive end of the floor anymore.

The second-year guard is known and applauded for his defensive prowess, and on a team like Sacramento, which has struggled defensively for most of the season, he sticks out like a sore thumb. He continued to shine Saturday in Sacramento's thrilling 109-107 win over the Orlando Magic at Kia Center, but his light wasn't dimmed to just one side of the court.

Instead, Ellis, who grew up just 30 miles down the road, displayed his two-way excellence in front of his friends and family.

"It's big. I'm from here so I got a lot of people at the game, just wanted to show them a good outing," Ellis told NBC Sports California's Mark Jones and Kayte Christensen on "Kings Postgame Live." "Definitely glad I had a good performance but more happy about the win we got."

Ellis, who received his ninth start of the season Saturday for the injured Kevin Huerter, set the tone early on both sides of the ball.

The 24-year-old finished with 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field and 4 of 9 from 3-point range, with five rebounds, six assists, two steals, one block, and was a plus-18 in 37 minutes.

He and Kings second-year forward Keegan Murray took turns sharing the hot hand from beyond the arc, with Murray adding six 3s of his own and finishing with 22 points.

Ellis' most impressive shot, though, came in clutch time. Not only was it a tough shot, but it was with Magic star forward Paolo Banchero, who stands 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot wingspan, guarding him. Not to mention it extended Sacramento's lead to five with two minutes remaining.

Knocking down big shots gave Ellis confidence that he hopes to carry over into the final stretch of the regular season.

"You have a game like this, it gives you confidence," Ellis told reporters postgame. "It was definitely big for me, especially with family here and all that into it. Definitely huge for me going down the road. We have another stretch of tough games so I definitely think that's huge to roll into those games with the confidence going."

After blowing away his Kings teammates and coaches with his professionalism and patience, Ellis is well on his way toward waking up the rest of the league after going undrafted out of Alabama in 2022.

The Kings lost their first game with Ellis in the starting lineup this season in a pitiful loss Thursday to the Washington Wizards. In the 109-102 deflating defeat, Ellis finished with just two points on 1-of-3 shooting from the field and 0 for 2 from deep in 21 minutes. Kings coach Mike Brown had hoped Ellis would have attempted more than just three shots, noting the young guard gave up too many wide-open looks.

But what a difference one game makes, and Brown liked what he saw from Ellis on Saturday.

"Just take one game. He had a couple of wide-open shots with three minutes in the Washington game, and he passed them up. And here, he did a little wiggle, stepped back and shot a tough 3," Brown told reporters after Saturday's win. "And you could tell every 3 he took, every shot he took was with confidence. He's a good shooter. He's knocked down big shots for us before and we want him to keep shooting if he has any daylight at all.

"Hitting a shot like that for any young man -- for anybody -- especially a young man that's just getting his footing in this league. But again, the amount of times he's played this year, he's shown it, minus the Washington game, at times."

If it isn't clear enough, Brown and the Kings want Ellis to continue to let it fly if it's a good look. And the confidence he has possessed might have come at just the right time for Sacramento as the Beam Team fights for footing in the Western Conference playoffs.