Hot guards highlight Nets-Kings matchup
The Brooklyn Nets and Sacramento Kings spent part of their weekend producing thrilling road victories thanks to clutch performances by starting guards.
Only one team will get to experience the satisfaction of getting a win Monday afternoon when the D'Angelo Russell and the Nets host Buddy Hield and the Kings.
The Nets (24-23) are returning home after two impressive road wins for differing reasons.
On Wednesday, they came back from an 11-point deficit in the final 2 1/2 minutes of regulation to get a 145-142 overtime win over the Houston Rockets on a night when James Harden scored 58 points.
Two nights later, the Nets appeared sluggish early when they trailed by 21 points but made the plays down the stretch and wound up with a 117-115 victory at Orlando.
"We didn't play a great game, and it's a credit to our team we pulled it out anyway," Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said. "I knew it was going to be a tough game after the big win against Houston. We were just really resilient."
Friday's victory gave the Nets a winning record at any point in January for the first time since the 2012-13 season.
The last two wins are a continuation of a 16-5 stretch that has changed the narrative of the season. Before this hot stretch, the Nets were 2-10 in their previous 12 games and lost five games by single-digits in an eight-game losing streak from Nov. 21-Dec. 5.
During this streak, the Nets have not won a game by more than 17 points and eight of their wins are by five points or fewer.
Perhaps nobody on the Nets is playing better than Russell, who is averaging 20.2 points, 7.3 assists on 47.2 shooting in his last 20 games. He also has at least 20 points in eight of his last 10 games and hit at least six 3-pointers in three of his last seven contests.
Russell matched a career high with 40 points Friday -- including 19 in a row at one point -- and helped the Nets get their biggest comeback win since also rallying from 21 points down on Dec. 26, 2011 at Washington in their final season as the New Jersey Nets.
"We've got a gutsy group," Russell said. "That's us getting over that hump. We know we could've easily came out and laid out flat. We started off flat and they got off to a good start, but we knew what we had to do to get the win.
Sacramento (24-22) is 4-1 in its last five games and 1-1 on its season-high six-game road trip. The Kings opened the trip by blowing a 13-point lead in a double-digit loss at Charlotte on Friday but rebounded with an unlikely 103-100 win at Detroit on Saturday.
Hield hit the game-winning 3-pointer on an off-balance release just before the buzzer after evading three defenders. Hield was so excited about hitting the game-winner that he did a full sprint from the other end of the floor back to the locker room.
"I'm blessed," Hield told reporters after the game. "I can say I got one in the NBA at the highest level. It's fun, man. As a kid, you always dream of hitting one of those types of shots, especially at a high level like this. It's something I'll cherish for the rest of my life."
The game-winner capped a night when Hield scored 15 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter. Hield hit seven 3-pointers on a night when the Kings overcame an eight-point deficit going into the fourth.
"We were kind of running in mud," Kings coach Dave Joerger said. "We hung in there long enough with our defense to make it close at the end and then Buddy got going."
Hield is playing nearly as well as Russell of late.
During his last 10 games, he is averaging 20.2 points on 53.6 percent shooting and 56.1 percent from 3-point range. Since being held to six points in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Dec. 27, Hield has reached double figures in 11 straight games and scored at least 20 points seven times.
Last season the Kings claimed their first season sweep of the Nets since the 2007-08 season by getting a pair of five-point victories.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 20, 2019