Edwards, bench power Kings over Suns in 40th win of season


The Kings notched their 40th win of the 2022-23 NBA season Saturday night with a 128-119 victory over the Phoenix Suns at Footprint Center.

Though it would not have been possible without Kessler Edwards' contributions. 

In Sacramento's win over Phoenix, Edwards explained to NBC Sports California's Kyle Draper and Morgan Ragan what it meant to get extended minutes and to produce against a highly-competitive Suns squad.

"It feels great, it feels great," Edwards told Draper and Ragan on "Kings Postgame Live" after the game. "I was kind of nervous throughout the game, it was close the whole time but I'm glad that my coaches trusted me with that time down the stretch and we were able to pull it out."

Since being acquired by the Kings (40-26) before the trade deadline, Edwards suited up three times for coach Mike Brown before Saturday's matchup with the Suns (37-30).

His most impressive outing came against the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 4, when he played 14 minutes and scored three points, grabbed three rebounds, dished out one assist and nabbed one steal. 

More importantly, he played valuable minutes guarding Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards and Saturday night saw him do the same, facing up against Suns star Devin Booker. 

"I knew it was coming," Edwards said to Draper and Ragan regarding his defense on Booker. "I knew if I was out there, I was going to have to provide for the team defensively so I just did the best I could, guarding him very tough for a guard and kept my confidence with that 3-point shot."

The 3-pointer Edwards is referring to came late in the fourth quarter.

With under 50 seconds to go and the Kings up 121-118, Malik Monk fired a pass into the corner to Edwards, who confidently rose up over 7-foot Suns center Deandre Ayton and nailed the shot to give Sacramento a six-point lead, 124-118.

Edwards' huge 3-pointer came just after the 22-year-old turned the ball over. The forward shared with Draper and Ragan how his team had his back regardless of what happened on the court. 

"I just stayed poised," Edwards added. "I made a couple of mistakes down the stretch but everyone's just telling me, 'Just stay confident,' and trusting me with that. So that was all I needed."

Overall against the Suns, Edwards had 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting, including 2 of 4 from 3-point land, seven rebounds, one assist and one steal in 26 minutes off the bench. He was also a plus-18, second only to Monk's plus-20.

Witnessing the action firsthand, Kings forward Chimezie Metu said it was "great" to see Edwards playing some meaningful minutes and contributing more compared to the last time Sacramento faced Phoenix, a 120-109 loss back on Feb. 14.

"He comes in, he works hard and it was great to see him go out there and do what he did tonight," Metu told reporters postgame. "Obviously, he played them last time, he was guarding [Booker] and he did a great job on him so I think the coaching staff just felt like he was the best option to guard him out there tonight and he did a great job frustrating him a little bit and making him take a lot of tough shots."

Despite a rough outing from the starters, the Kings bench provided enough firepower to help Sacramento win its 40th game of the season, the first time the franchise has reached that number since 2005-06. 

Sacramento's bench combined for 65 points as Monk scored 18, Trey Lyles and Davion Mitchell both scored 13, Edwards chipped in 12 and Metu scored nine. 

Of note, the Kings are a league-best 8-1 since the 2023 NBA All-Star break and as the regular season winds down, Edwards said that he is "excited" for the 2023 playoffs, learning a lot in his short time with Sacramento.

"I just see how this team works, how much of a winning culture they have," Edwards told reporters postgame. "So I was able to pick up on that and I think when I get out there, it rubs off on me. 

"I'm glad my playing time finally came in a dub this time."

RELATED: Kings secure elusive 40th win for first time since 2005-06

With the Kings firmly entrenched as a top-four seed in the Western Conference, spirits are high within the fan base that winning 40 games is just the start for this resurgent Sacramento squad. 

And with players like Edwards and Metu contributing on a nightly basis, the sky is the limit for the Kings come playoff time.

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