Davion, Kings bench fill Fox void in big win vs. Pelicans


SACRAMENTO -- There’s no replacing De’Aaron Fox, but Kings coach Mike Brown had to decide who would start in his place against the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday night. 

Brown went with Davion Mitchell but said prior to the game that one person won’t fill Fox’s void, rather, it was going to take a group effort to pull out the win. Somehow, the Kings proved Brown wrong and right during the same game. 

Without their All-Star point guard, who is dealing with a hamstring injury, Kevin Huerter, Domantas Sabonis, and the bench, as Brown had hoped, stepped up and contributed offensively in the Kings’ 123-108 win at Golden 1 Center. 

But Mitchell, who started his seventh game of the season, was equally impressive. The 24-year-old ran things like he was right where he belonged. After going down the score sheet and praising the collective effort of the team, Brown saved Mitchell for last. 

“And then you tip your hat off to Davion,” Brown said. “Davion was really good tonight. Six assists, one turnover. Obviously extremely, extremely efficient from the floor, 3-for-4 from the 3-point line. He made a couple of play calls to get guys into position, which were fantastic. 

“He waved me off a couple of times. It was the right call every single time he did it. To see growth tonight in that area was special cause he’s got a chance to be a special player in this league.” 

To see a guy in just his second NBA season waving off a coach like Brown says everything you need to know about Mitchell. And his confidence was backed up on both ends of the floor on Monday. 

“I think every time before the game when De’Aaron is not playing, Malik [Monk] always comes up to me and says, ‘You got to be extra aggressive because he’s a load for us offensively and defensively,’ ” Mitchell said. 

“So, I just tried to go out there and be aggressive on both ends of the floor and I think it’s what I did today.”

Mitchell finished with 15 points on 75 percent shooting from the field and 75 percent from deep. His lockdown defense all season has made many forget about just how good he is on the other end of the floor. On Monday, he made people remember. 

Before the game, Brown said playing without Fox is “impactful,” but that the team believes in everybody in the locker room. 

“Next man got to step up,” Brown said.

Several Kings players took that to heart in the moments that followed. Huerter, for one, had the hot hand on Monday and took advantage of it. He finished with a game-high 25 points on 56.2 percent shooting from the field and made six triples. 

Sabonis did Sabonis-like things, finishing with his eighth triple-double of the season, racking up 19 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. 

But what served as a much-needed energy shifter early in the game came from the bench, specifically from Trey Lyles and Chimezie Metu. 

When the Kings got into an early defensive funk, Brown called a timeout with 1:27 remaining in the first quarter. Sacramento was down 32-25 and great defense from the duo turned into an even greater offensive spark for the Kings from the end of the first quarter into the second. The result was a 12-0 run and an undeniably clear game-changer for the Kings. 

Lyles finished with 14 points, five rebounds and four assists, while Metu added nine points, two rebounds and two assists -- performances dubbed “fantastic” by Brown afterward. 

Monk, who was benched early for sloppy turnovers, re-entered late in the game and redeemed himself. He made the most of the time he had, dropping 11 points in 12 minutes. 

Brown appreciates the overall team effort, but knows the bench production will be crucial for the Kings down the final stretch of the season.  

“It's huge. We need those guys to come in and impact the game,” Brown said. “Again, they shot the ball extremely well. Between [Lyles and Metu], they were 10-of-13 from the floor. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be that all the time. A lot of times with those guys' length and size and athleticism, there are a lot of times we can switch with that group. And if we do switch, then we’re not necessarily getting hurt in the pick-and-roll cause we’re keeping bodies in front of bodies. 

“And Mezie’s more than capable of guarding one through five, especially after a switch with the shot clock winding down. They have to be in tune defensively, and then they have to be in tune on the glass, too. And when they do do that, and bring the energy that they brought tonight, it gives us an opportunity to rest our guys and our starters a little bit longer so that they’re fresher toward the end of the game which is huge for us.”

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Prior to Monday, the Kings had lost four of their six games without Fox. They’ve now won three without him, and six of their last seven games overall. Their next test comes Thursday against the red-hot New York Knicks, who have won nine in a row. 

Both teams have a lot on the line, and Thursday’s regular-season matchup will have the feel of an NBA playoff game.

If Fox can't play, at least Brown knows he can count on the rest of the roster to pick up the slack.

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