Kings' bench faces another tough test with Fox out vs. Thunder originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area
The Kings begin their run in the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament on Friday, but they'll face the incoming Oklahoma City Thunder at a bit of a disadvantage with De'Aaron Fox set to miss his fifth consecutive game.
As the team's star point guard continues to nurse a sprained ankle, Sacramento's bench will need to step up once again with Chet Holmgren and Co. rolling into Golden 1 Center eager to pick up a win in the tournament's group play following their loss to the Golden State Warriors last week.
But if the Kings' gritty 121-118 win over the Portland Trail Blazers in overtime Wednesday was any indication, stepping up shouldn't be a problem.
"We had a lot of really good performances from a lot of different guys," Kings coach Mike Brown told reporters after Wednesday's win. "Obviously Domas [Domantas Sabonis] is Domas, but to have a guy like Keon Ellis step into the starting lineup, I thought he did a really good job for having not played much at all this season.
"His composure was great defensively. He was really good and statistically it might not show up, but he had a big game."
Third-year pro Davion Mitchell started the first three games Fox missed, all losses, with Brown opting to keep his NBA Sixth Man of the Year candidate, Malik Monk, as a spark off the bench. In Wednesday's win, the 23-year-old guard Ellis got the starting nod and scored four points with four rebounds and three steals in 21 minutes, while Mitchell and Monk combined for 39 points in the victory.
The bench played a pivotal role in what Brown determined as the difference in the game, with the Kings scoring 26 points off of 15 offensive rebounds courtesy of some top-tier glass work from center Alex Len when Domantas Sabonis was on the bench. Brown applauded Kessler Edwards for his defense, too, as well as Mitchell for his all-around effort as part of the second unit.
"I thought Davion, for getting moved to the bench, kept his composure and went out there and found a way to help us win," Brown said. "A lot of really good individual performances from guys that may or may not be used to being what their role was tonight, and finding a way to win in a situation like this was a lot of fun."
The Kings, with a 3-4 record, face a challenge in the 5-3 Thunder on Friday night. OKC nearly pulled off a victory in their first game of the In-Season Tournament against Golden State, but fell victim to a last-second game-winner by the Warriors -- something Sacramento is familiar with as well.
Without Fox so far this season, who was averaging 31.3 points per game before his Oct. 29 injury, the Kings are 1-3, with their lone win coming at home Wednesday. But if Sacramento puts up another team effort against the Thunder, the results will follow.
"Like I said before, it just shows that we're together," Monk told reporters Wednesday. "We got guys ready to step up when their name's called, whether it's five minutes, two minutes, three minutes -- it don't matter. We're together, and we all know the one goal. We're in it for one goal, and that's to be playing in April."
Watch Sacramento take on OKC in its In-Season Tournament opener on Friday, beginning with "Kings Pregame Live" at 6:30 p.m. PT on NBC Sports California.