Kings oddly ditch Keegan Murray's offensive attack after hot Game 5 start

Kings' offense oddly ditches Murray after hot Game 5 start originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Early on, it looked like Game 5 of the first-round NBA playoff series between the Kings and Golden State Warriors would be the Keegan Murray show.

Murray, who scored 10 total points in the series’ first three contests combined before exploding for 23 in San Francisco on Sunday, kept it rolling into Game 5. He scored 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting in the game’s opening six minutes.

The rookie was running the floor with the basketball. He was attacking the rim. He was finding his spots beyond the arc and draining triples. All his overthinking that was evident in Games 1, 2 and 3 was nowhere to be found. Frankly, Murray was balling.

But then, Murray was somehow erased from the Kings’ offensive attack in their 123-116 loss to the Warriors. He spent another 29 minutes on the floor but didn’t attempt another field-goal attempt in the second, third or fourth quarters.

That 26-footer with 5:59 to play in the first quarter was his final shot of the night. His box score at the end of the game remained at 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting.

“I think it was the flow of the game, but at the same time, we have to get him more shots,” Kings guard De’Aaron Fox said after the loss. “He’s one of the better shooters in the league. … For us, we have to help him get open.”

Sacramento dazzled the Warriors in the first quarter with 36 points on 14-of-27 shooting, a performance reminiscent of its record-breaking offense in the regular season. The Kings nailed 8 of 12 attempts from 3-point range -- three by Fox, two by Murray, two by Davion Mitchell and one by Trey Lyles. They went 2 for 22 from deep the rest of the game.

Murray was leading the charge when the offense looked its best. How did the Kings not go back to him?

“We’ve got to continue moving the basketball,” Kings coach Mike Brown said. “[The Warriors] have done a good job as the game has gone along of sitting on Keegan, trying to not let him catch or denying him.

“We have to keep trying to put him and Kevin [Huerter] and Malik [Monk] in different actions to try to move them around.”

Huerter was a different story than Murray. He couldn’t buy a bucket once again, finishing with nine points on 4-of-10 shooting (1 for 4 from deep). He was subbed out five minutes into the third quarter and never returned to the game.

In 23 career playoff games with the Atlanta Hawks, Huerter nailed nearly two 3-pointers per game on 33.3 percent shooting. He’s already had a crowning playoff game -- a 27-point burst in Game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers that advanced the Hawks to the 2021 Eastern Conference finals and earned him the nickname "K'Von."

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But for some reason, Huerter hasn’t been able to find his shot in this series. The man they call "Red Velvet" now is 4 for 25 (16 percent) from beyond the arc against the Warriors.

"A lot of it has to do with us trying to increase our intensity defensively," Brown said Wednesday night. "Now, we’re trying to play more physical, we’re chasing guys, our intentions are a lot higher with our sense of urgency. And then, there’s a little bit more pressure to making the shot.

"At the end of the day, we have to keep shooting them. They’re not going in. But for sure we’re going to live with our guys shooting those things because we believe that we’re going to have a game or two coming up here where we’re going to make 3s most of the game."

The Kings, who now trail the Warriors three-games-to-two in the series, need that game to arrive Friday night in San Francisco. If Murray shows an early spark once again, Sacramento needs to lean into its sharpshooting rookie. It just might save their season.