Keon Ellis

Kings' Ellis puts Warriors, NBA on notice in postseason debut

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SACRAMENTO – In the biggest game of his NBA career, Keon Ellis put the entire world on notice with his all-around dominance to help keep the Kings’ playoff hopes alive.

The lights were blindingly bright inside Golden 1 Center on Tuesday night as the No. 9-seed Kings hosted the No. 10-seed Golden State Warriors in a do-or-die NBA Play-In Tournament game. But Ellis, the guy who was just playing in the G League with the Stockton Kings as a two-way player three months ago, was not afraid of the moment.

“Honestly, I really just treated it like every other game,” Ellis said on NBC Sports California’s “Kings Postgame Live” after Sacramento’s 118-94 win. “Just trying to be locked into the game plan. Knowing Stephen Curry is out there, Klay [Thompson], they have some great shooters on their team. You can't let them get loose. 

“So just great attention to detail tonight and trying to give my team, from me, the best chance to win.”

He kept his word. In his first NBA postseason experience, Ellis put on a masterclass.

The 24-year-old finished the game with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting (62.5 percent) from the field and 3 of 4 (75 percent) from 3-point range, with four rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocks. He also was a plus-20 in plus/minus rating in just under 39 minutes.

Before Tuesday’s win-or-go-home contest, the Kings and Warriors had played each other four times in the 2023-24 NBA regular season and 13 times since last April, including their seven-game first-round playoff series last season.

Sacramento’s newfound and maintained success has intensified the rivalry between the Northern California neighbors, and the two are all too familiar with one another.

When it was discovered that the Kings and Warriors had to face each other, players from both sides had similar reactions. Eye rolls. Shrugs. Laughter of disbelief. Sighs that screamed, “Of course.”

But while there was plenty of familiarity, there was a lot of new from both sides. For the Warriors, it was their rising rookie duo of Brandin Podziemski and Trayce Jackson-Davis being a part of coach Steve Kerr’s rotation.

For the Kings?

“Keon Ellis. I’m not sure he was on our scouting report for those four games,” Kerr said one day before the game. “Now he’s a starter and a hell of a player.”

After Tuesday’s performance, coaches around the league might want to include Ellis on their scouting reports.

“Keon, he's been great for us,” Kings star guard De’Aaron Fox said postgame. “Even his spot minutes before he earned a starting spot. Everybody's seeing him develop right in front of their eyes, and he's not afraid of the moment. He's not afraid of the moment at all. I couldn't imagine playing in college against him and Herb Jones on the same team in college. That'd be sick for whoever they’re guarding.

“But nah, he stepped up to the plate. He's been ready. And I'm glad that people are seeing that.”

While people might just be tuning in to the Keon Ellis Show, this is nothing new to those in Sacramento.

Since emerging as a starter on March 1, Ellis’ impact was almost immediate. He elevated the team defensively while also becoming more comfortable on the other end of the floor.

“Keon Ellis, the confidence he has and the swag he brings to this team, for a young guy who was on a two-way in February, it's unbelievable. It's unbelievable,” Kings coach Mike Brown said postgame. “It's a lot of fun to watch. He just goes out night after night and shows he can help us get it done on both sides of the floor.

“And every game, you could see he's getting a little more comfortable. He's starting to attack the basket, starting to make plays, not just a catch-and-shooting 3-point guy. And that's a lot of fun to be a part of, watching his growth, especially in a short amount of time and as quickly as he's grown.”

Without Malik Monk and Kevin Huerter, Ellis and Keegan Murray stepped up to help Fox and Domantas Sabonis keep their season alive Tuesday night.

They now head to New Orleans to battle the Pelicans for the No. 8 and final playoff spot, where Ellis will continue to play an essential role in earning a first-round playoff series.

The good thing is that his team has the utmost confidence in him, even if it’s a little tough love from Monk.

“The coaches have confidence in me to shoot it when I'm open,” Ellis told “Kings Postgame Live.” “Domas is telling me to shoot it. Fox the same thing. Malik is probably the biggest one, because if I go out there and I mess up, he's going to curse me out and give me his little spiel. And if I'm doing good, he's going to tell me I'm doing good, but I need to do better.Definitely huge shout out to Malik, he's been in my ear all season telling me what I need to improve on and things that I'm doing good.

“But I think it's more so as I'm getting more minutes, just getting out there, feeling more comfortable and understanding how the game is going. So it's definitely all coming into one. but it definitely has a lot to do with our team and the confidence they're instilling in me.”

If you’re new here, welcome to Ellis Island. Enjoy your stay, because the show is just getting started.

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