‘that’s the fight we’ll need for the playoffs’
Sacramento Kings coach Mike Brown made it clear from his introductory press conference that under his leadership, the team would have a new culture.
After a brawl during the Kings’ 139-114 win over the Houston Rockets led to four ejections, the result of that culture change appears to be a fighting spirit running through the league’s top-scoring “Team Beam.”
Early in the fourth quarter, Malik Monk and Rockets guard Garrison Mathews ran into the backcourt after a loose ball. During the chase, Mathews threw his shoulder at Monk and was called for a foul. While looking at the referee, Monk knocked the ball out of his hands from behind.
This upset Mathews and he confronted Monk. The two went head-to-head in a heated exchange, and players from both sides rushed to the fray near the Rockets bench to separate them.
Officials reviewed the incident and determined that Rockets forward Tari Eason acted as an “instigator” while Kings forward Chimezie Metu acted as an “escalator.” Monk, Mathews, Eason and Metu were all given technical fouls and automatically sent off.
With the win, the Kings (23-18) moved five games over .500 for the first time since April 2006, when they made their last playoff appearance.
“I had no problem with it,” Kings veteran Harrison Barnes told reporters about the altercation. “At the end of the day, that’s the fight we need as a team, that’s the fight we’re going to need this season, and that’s the fight we’re going to need for the playoffs.”
Fight for more than just respect
Beyond fighting for the respect of fans, officials and opposing teams, as Vince Goodwill of Yahoo Sports wrote, the Kings have shown they are willing to fight through adversity and for each other.
Kings leading scorer Domantas Sabonis broke his thumb in a loss to the Washington Wizards in December. Instead of taking the recommended surgical route, he has decided to play through the injury.
He had 19 points, 15 rebounds and a career-high 16 assists in the win over Houston. It was his fourth triple this season.
The story continues
Brown is no stranger to fighting for his team. He was fined $25,000 and ejected in December’s win over the Toronto Raptors when frustrations spread about the officials.
On Friday night, he maintained that same energy when he praised Sabonis and made a point to call out his players’ lack of recognition in the early All-Star fan voting after the win.
“If he and [De’Aaron Fox] are not an All-Star, shame on the whole process. They’re just not getting enough love and it’s a shame.”
Even without their “due respect,” the Kings are the best scoring team in the NBA. Sitting atop the Pacific Division and fourth in the Western Conference, we can expect them to continue to fight their way to breaking a 16-year playoff drought.
Rockets guard Garrison Mathews and Kings guard Malik Monk both ejected after a confrontation in the fourth quarter. (Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports)