Monk solidifies NBA Sixth Man of the Year case in Kings’ win vs. T-Wolves

NBC Sports Bay Area

Don’t tell Malik Monk he’s not at the top of the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award shortlist – not after his 39-point night in the Kings’ 124-120 overtime road win against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. 

During Friday night’s post-game press conference, the 26-year-old guard was asked what he thought his performance against the Western Conference-leading Timberwolves did for his candidacy. 

“I was already No. 1, I think, wasn’t I?” Monk asked reporters. “So, let’s just keep it up there. I can’t say it’s solidified [because] we have a few more games. But I do this a few more times and I have it.” 

In all fairness, Monk earned the right to speak with unapologetic bravado after the Kings’ nail-biting victory.

With De’Aaron Fox ruled out for Friday’s tilt with Minnesota, someone had to complement Domantas Sabonis’ forecasted play with Fox-esque dynamism of their own, and Monk assumed that role, aiding Sacramento with 35 crucial points throughout the second half and overtime. 

“S—t, I had to get it going,” Monk said. “Someone besides [Domantas Sabonis] and [Keegan Murray] was going to have to step up, and I think me and [Davion Mitchell] did that, especially with the second unit.

“We did it big. [Trey Lyles] had some big plays, But yeah, I just knew I had to get it going at some point. I was getting to the lane, and my mid-range and floater opened up things for me.”

Despite only registering only four points in the first half, Monk managed to reawaken his game after the break, ending his evening shooting 55.2 percent from the field  while adding four rebounds, four assists and a steal in 33 minutes.

The complete performance reminded teammate Davion Mitchell of Monk’s irreplaceable value within Sacramento’s scheme, which has a reserved spot for notable performances from thier Sixth Man.

“[Malik Monk] is an amazing player,” Mitchell told reporters. “He does everything for us. I mean, he gets it done. Defensively, that’s one thing I like about Malik. 

“He’s not just an offensive player. He tries his hardest on defense. He got stops for us. He gets assists. He kind of does everything. He’s like our star on our team. It was amazing to see. He kind of took over that game for us to get that win.” 

Making the Kings guard’s performance that much more notable was the victory it sparked — coming at an opportune time — with Sacramento putting a two-game slump in the rearview mirror as they fight to stay within striking distance of a spot in the NBA playoffs. 

After all, playoff teams often possess the luxury of having a myriad of players who can erupt on any given night. 

“It’s huge,” coach Mike Brown told reporters on Friday night. “The great teams always have two or three guys like that, where sometimes you don’t have to call the play. 

“You just say, ‘Here’s the ball, go make a play for yourself or for your teammates.’ And Malik did that. Especially with Fox out down the stretch, we needed someone to stand up for us, and Malik was the guy.” 

Malik was the guy on Friday, earning every right to call himself a top Sixth Man of the Year candidate.

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