Two teams that have removed their disguises since Halloween and reverted back to playoff-contending basketball squads hook up Tuesday when the Brooklyn Nets complete a three-game California by visiting the Sacramento Kings.
The Nets were 1-5 and Kings 1-4 before Halloween victories sent them upward in the standings, with Brooklyn winning five of eight and Sacramento five of seven.
The Nets saw a two-game winning streak slip away in a 116-103 road loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday in a game in which the visitors couldn't get a handle on versatile big man Anthony Davis, who dominated with 37 points and 18 rebounds.
The Kings have a similar talent in Domantas Sabonis, who not only posted a 21-point, 10-rebound double-double in a head-to-head with Davis on Friday, he followed that with 26 points and 22 rebounds in a 122-115 home win over the Golden State Warriors on Monday.
Acquired by the Kings from the Indiana Pacers last February, Sabonis averaged 14.4 points and 9.2 rebounds in Sacramento's 1-4 start. But his numbers since then - 20.4 points, 12.9 rebounds - have been difference-making.
"Domas was a monster," Kings coach Mike Brown said after beating a Warriors team he helped win the title last year as an assistant. "He was a monster in the paint, he was a monster on the glass, and you need games like that from your stars in order to get over the hump from time to time."
As a career-long Eastern Conference player before the February trade, Sabonis has plenty of history against the Nets. He recorded triple-doubles in three of his last six games against them, including one at Indiana in January in which Kevin Durant stole the show with 39 points in a 129-121 Brooklyn win.
Like Sabonis against the Nets in the East, Durant had more than his fair share of success against the Kings while a 12-year Western Conference player for the Seattle SuperSonics, Oklahoma City Thunder and Warriors before joining Brooklyn in 2020.
He's never faced the Kings as a member of the Nets. In his last seven games against the Kings, all victories, Durant averaged 30.7 points, shot 54 percent and recorded two double-doubles.
Durant has scored at least 26 points in all 14 Nets games this season. He had 27 in a trip-opening 110-95 win over the Los Angeles Clippers Saturday, before putting up 31 in Sunday's loss to the Lakers.
His season-opening run of 26-point games is the longest since Michael Jordan began the 1989 season with 16.
Nets coach Jacque Vaughn thought his team ran out of gas against the Lakers in a game in which Kyrie Irving (suspension), Ben Simmons (sore left knee), Nic Claxton (irritation in left eye) and Seth Curry (rest) were unavailable on the second day of a back-to-back.
All except Irving are expected back in Sacramento. The Nets are 4-2 during Irving's team-imposed suspension.
Attempting to complete a comeback after fighting an uphill battle from the opening tip, Vaughn said he took a calculated risk and played Durant the first 20 minutes of the second half against the Lakers. He wound up going 38 minutes.
"It puts a strain on us when we're not completely whole," Vaughn said about why Durant started the fourth quarter after playing the entire third. "If we would have waited too long and brought him in at the six-minute mark, that thing might have been over, so decided to run him."
--Field Level Media