Monk strengthens Sixth Man of Year campaign in Kings' big win

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Malik Monk is someone to watch in the race for the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award for the 2022-23 season. 

Just days after helping the Kings clinch their first playoff berth in 16 seasons, Monk once again proved how valuable he was in Sacramento's 138-114 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday at Moda Center.

Speaking with Kayte Christensen and Mark Jones on "Kings Postgame Live," Monk explained how Friday was a microcosm of Sacramento's unity on the offensive end.

"We never know whose night is it," the 25-year-old said. "It might be everybody's night, it might be [De'Aaron' Fox], it might be [Domantas Sabonis], it might be mine, it might be [Harrison Barnes], it might be [Kevin Huerter], it might be Keegan [Murray].

"So that's just being a basketball team and not being selfish and just wanting to win and we all want those same results and that's to get to the playoffs and go deep in the playoffs."

Monk scored 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field and 4 of 7 from 3-point land for the Kings (47-30).

He also had five assists, two rebounds, one block and one steal in just 25 minutes of action off the bench against the short-handed Trail Blazers (32-45).

While Monk's contributions off the bench were crucial, perhaps none were as valuable as the steadying presence he provided when Portland cut Sacramento's double-digit lead to seven with 7:30 remaining in the fourth quarter. 

Finding himself open past the 3-point line, Monk calmly rose over a closing Shaq Harrison and nailed the jumper to push the Kings' lead back up to 10, 113-103. 

Monk's ability to hit shots when needed is what makes him a valuable commodity for this young Kings squad looking to create noise in the final weeks of the regular season and into the playoffs.

That is something Kings coach Mike Brown noticed, not just against the Trail Blazers, but throughout the year. 

"Malik was fantastic," Brown told reporters postgame. "Malik was really good for us. He was really good for us defensively in the second half."

Brown mentioned that Monk should continue to garner attention for the Sixth Man of the Year award because of how he has contributed to the Kings' success this season.

So far, Monk has the second-most points among reserves with 1,007, is seventh in points per game off the bench at 13.6, third in total assists among reserves with 288 and fourth in assists per game (3.9) among reserves.

"So a guy that impacts the game in the way that he does coming off the bench, I know I'm pushing all my guys, he definitely deserves to be mentioned for Sixth Man of the Year," Brown continued. "He's the true definition of what I believe a sixth man should be and he's been really, really good for us.

"So hopefully he'll start getting some recognition in that area because of what he's accomplished on the floor for us."

As Sacramento looks to finish off the season as a top-4 seed in the Western Conference, Monk is glad to just be a part of the Kings, regardless of what happens moving forward. 

"I've been wanting this my whole six years," Monk continued to Christensen and Jones. "And I'm thankful I did it with Sacramento, changing the culture, doing it with my best friend Fox. 

"It's just amazing -- everybody wants to play basketball to play in the playoffs so I'm thankful to be a part of this."

With the Kings gearing up for the 2023 NBA playoffs, Monk's impact throughout the season leading up to this point has been noticeable.

RELATED: NBA Twitter goes wild after Kings clinch playoff berth

And if all goes well in the next few weeks, Monk potentially could be bringing home a new trophy to go along with the pride he received from helping Sacramento break its NBA-record playoff drought.

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