Harrison Barnes

Short-handed Kings' third-quarter eruption sparks win over Jazz

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Despite missing Malik Monk and Kevin Huerter, Sacramento's offense sprung to life in a decisive 127-106 win over the Utah Jazz on Sunday at Golden 1 Center.

With Monk sidelined for four to six weeks due to an MCL sprain and Huerter out for the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury, the Kings desperately needed a performance that sent a reminder to the league -- but more importantly themselves -- that Sacramento still is a team that can bang it out with the best of them despite being short-handed.

That's exactly what the Kings did in Sunday's win, with De'Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes and Keegan Murray leading the charge offensively for Sacramento. While it was a tight game early on -- the Kings held just a four-point advantage at the half -- Sacramento erupted for an explosive run in the third quarter that quelled any doubts about this team's ability to light up the scoreboard in the absence of two potent offensive weapons.

With the game tied at 58 early in the third quarter, the Kings embarked on a 23-2 run over the next 5:13 of game action, effectively slamming the door on any scenario that resulted in a letdown game at home against an inferior opponent -- an all too familiar outcome for Sacramento during the 2023-24 NBA season.

Following the game, guard Keon Ellis joined NBC Sports California's "Kings Postgame Live" and revealed what sparked that sensational run that powered the Kings to victory.

"I think we just executed at an extremely high rate in that third quarter," Ellis told NBC Sports California's Kyle Draper and Morgan Ragan following Sunday's win. "After they made their run, we made ours, and we just kept punching them and they had no answer for us. We got up and we just stayed on [them]."

Barnes was exceptional in Sunday's win, setting the tone early with the game's first basket while scoring 24 points on an incredibly efficient 9-for-12 shooting performance, including 5 of 7 from the 3-point line.

Sacramento as a team shot lights-out from beyond the arc, with the Kings draining 20 of the 40 3-point attempts they took in Sunday's win over the Jazz.

Following the game, Barnes explained how the Kings entered the matchup against Utah with an emphasis on being aggressive and having confidence in the deep ball.

"I think for us with guys missing and guys coming back, obviously with Trey [Lyles] and Sasha [Vezenkov], we knew we'd have some different lineups out there," Barnes told reporters after Sunday's win. "Coaches told everyone just have the green light. Shoot, be aggressive. Our guards did a good job getting to the paint. [Domantas Sabonis] spraying the ball out to the perimeter and trying to shoot it with confidence."

Among the players shooting the rock with confidence was Murray, who knocked down 10 of his 18 shots from the floor including 5 of 12 attempts from behind the 3-point line.

Fox added 24 points of his own, but the star point guard's true value came as a distributor, racking up a game-high 12 assists in the win.

With the victory, Sacramento (43-31) jumped into the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference playoff picture, moving past the idle Phoenix Suns (43-31) who share the same record but drop to the No. 8 seed due to the Kings holding the tiebreaker.

Sacramento has a grueling schedule to close out the regular season, with six of their final eight games coming against teams that currently are in their respective conference's playoff picture.

Despite the tough road ahead, Sunday's victory might be just the confidence boost the Kings needed as they navigate the Monk-less world they find themselves in over the next few weeks.

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