Kings’ win over Clippers offers hope amid depth chart woes

NBC Sports Bay Area

There is plenty of hope for a Malik Monk and Kevin Huerter-less Kings. 

With their backs still somewhat against the wall after Monk’s MCL sprain diagnosis, Mike Brown and Co. wrapped up the penultimate homestand of the regular season with a fundamentally complete performance. 

Seamlessly blending exemplary defensive play with high-impact bench contributions, the Kings rallied past the Los Angeles Clippers 109-95 on Tuesday night at Golden 1 Center, showcasing that Sacramento, when firing on all ends of the floor, can present problems despite missing two key pieces.

The Kings, who held their opponent under 100 points for a fifth time since March 1, outscored the Clippers bench 39-37, with Lyles providing 15 points on 6-for-11 shooting from the floor. 

“It’s a collective effort,” Murray said. “When they come in, they just bring energy. [Trey Lyles] always brings energy. 

“[Sasha Vezenkov] has been a big fill for us, just coming off of the bench being ready to shoot whenever his number is called.

“There’s a lot of guys – any given night – they’ve stepped up this year. I feel like today was just a complete collective effort.”

But the Kings’ bench impact went far beyond the offensive output, and perhaps no other Sacramento player personified the bench’s defensive takeover more than Alex Len, who registered seven rebounds, three blocks and a steal in 12 minutes of play. 

Paul George and James Harden combined for 24 points, as the Clippers failed to get their starting lineup going without Kawhi Leonard, who was inactive due to a knee injury. 

“We were being aggressive,” Lyles said. “We were talking. We were covering for one another. We were getting to their shooters, and we followed the game plan basically to a tee tonight. When we’re capable to do that, when we’re five guys on a string, we are hard to score on.”

It was – and it will continue to be – a tough ask for the Kings to make up for the loss of Monk and Huerter, who are key cogs in the Kings’ engine. 

Monk, who is a front-runner for the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award, has single-handedly won Sacramento key games down the stretch, while Huerter’s 3-point expertise is essential within the team’s scheme.

Now, amid their absences, players like Lyles, Len and Davion Mitchell were asked to step up and are holding their end of the bargain.

“We know that we are missing a lot with [Malik Monk],” Lyles added. “His playmaking, his shotmaking, his leadership on the court and stuff like that. I just think everyone was capable and ready to step up in big ways.[Alex Len] was humongous on the defensive end for us tonight, blocking shots and offensive rebounding. 

“We are all capable, and now we are just all getting more touches and stuff like that with [Malik Monk] out. We are all stepping up and making the right plays and doing what we are supposed to do.”

As long as this version of the Kings takes the floor, there’s hope for NBA playoff basketball – and perhaps more. 

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