Keegan Murray didn’t start in his preseason debut, but that didn’t stop him from showing why he was considered one of the most NBA-ready rookies in the 2022 draft.
Murray scored a game-high 16 points and tied for the team lead with six rebounds in a 105-75 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in the preseason opener for both teams Monday night at Crypto.com Arena.
Murray, who came out of Iowa as the No. 4 pick in the draft, made 7 of 11 from the field and 2 of 4 from 3-point range. He scored nine points in the third quarter to help the Kings open up a big lead after trailing by 10 in the first half.
Murray was asked what it was like matching up with Lakers star LeBron James, an 18-time All-Star and four-time MVP.
“It’s a surreal experience,” Murray said. “I remember before I checked in, they were like, ‘You’re going to guard LeBron,’ and I was up to the challenge. You don’t get to hear that every day, so it was a cool experience for me and I’m excited to compete with him in the future.”
Kings coach Mike Brown praised Murray for his performance after the game.
“For a young guy, he has a poise about him, and some people might think that poise or that quiet nature is no competitive spirit, but he does.,” Brown said. “He’s about as competitive as you can be. He’s got a great feel for the game. He’s versatile and can play a lot of different positions. He’s got a chance to be good in this league for a long, long time.”
Brown chose to start De’Aaron Fox and Kevin Huerter in the backcourt with Harrison Barnes, KZ Okpala and Domantas Sabonis in the frontcourt, the same group that dominated a 5-on-5 scrimmage Saturday at the team’s practice facility. The first five players off the bench were Murray, Davion Mitchell, Malik Monk, Richaun Holmes and Trey Lyles.
Brown has indicated he could experiment with different lineups during the preseason with multiple possibilities at the shooting guard and power forward positions.
“I’ll probably start the five that have a chance to start, but that group may not start at the end of the day,” Brown said. “We may change it up the next game. … Obviously, Fox is going to start for us. Domas is going to start for us. HB is going to start for us. But we’re kind of up in the air a little bit with the 2 and the 4 spot, and there are some guys that we feel have a real good chance to start for us in those spots, but we’re going to keep mixing those two spots around to see what we can get.”
Brown was forced to call an early timeout after the Kings were outscored 12-3 over the first 3:13. The Lakers went 5 of 7 from the field to start the game while the Kings went 1 of 6. Sacramento trailed 27-21 at the end of the first quarter after going 8 of 24 from the field and 2 of 7 from 3-point range.
The Lakers led 46-41 at the half. Neither team shot well. The Kings made just 32.7%. The Lakers were even worse, shooting 31.7%.
The game was going just as Brown predicted when asked what he expected to see.
“It’s going to be sloppy,” he said. “It’s going to be ugly. We could be up big or down big, I don’t know, but no matter what the score is or who’s out there, I want to compete on both sides of the ball.”
Brown elected to sit his starters in the second half. In their place, he started Mitchell, Monk, Murray, Lyles and Holmes. The Lakers went to their bench as well, sitting James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook.
Davis finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds in 16 minutes. James was held to four points on 0-of-7 shooting with one rebound and two assists in 16 minutes. Westbrook, who has been the subject of trade talks, had five points, two rebounds and three assists.
Fox finished with 10 points, four rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block in 16 minutes for Sacramento, although he went 4 of 12 from the field and 0 of 3 from 3-point range. Sabonis had four points, five rebounds, two assists and two blocks.
The Kings displayed superior depth with starters from both sides sitting out the second half. They outscored the Lakers 35-13 in the third quarter, carried a 76-59 lead into the fourth and went on to win by 30.
All 20 players on Sacramento’s training camp roster logged at least six minutes. Matthew Dellavedova was the only player who didn’t score.
Holmes, who endured a trying 2021-22 season while dealing with injuries and an ugly custody battle, had 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting with five rebounds. Monk added eight points and six rebounds for the Kings, who will play host to the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday at Golden 1 Center.