A series of fourth-quarter turnovers almost cost the Kings an opportunity to pick up a big road win, but they got big baskets and bigger defensive stops in the final minutes to escape with the victory.
Domantas Sabonis recorded a monster double-double to lead the Kings to a 106-95 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Sacramento trailed by eight with less than six minutes to play, but the Kings got 10 consecutive defensive stops to end the game with a stunning 19-0 run that sent Cavaliers fans trudging toward the exits.
“I tell you what. That was a big, big, big-time win,” Kings coach Mike Brown said. “I don’t know if I should say this yet, but when you get a win like that on the road, to me, that’s a sign that you may have a good team.”
Sabonis had 18 points, 19 rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocked shots for the Kings (14-10), who are now in sole possession of fifth place in the Western Conference. After the game, he was presented with some new Kings bling, a gaudy-looking medallion that will be awarded to the Defensive Player of the Game.
“It’s new,” Brown said. “(Kings owner Vivek Ranadive) is a billionaire, so we’re trying to spend some of his money.”
Sabonis briefly sported the medallion in the locker room before associate head coach and Kings defensive coordinator Jordi Fernandez took possession of it.
“They took it away,” Sabonis said. “It’s very heavy and I think it’s very expensive, so they were like, ‘Give it back.’ I’ve never seen diamonds that light up like a beam.”
Harrison Barnes scored 20 points for Sacramento. Kevin Heurter scored 19 points and rookie Keegan Murray added 18, making 6 of 8 from 3-point range.
Caris LeVert scored 22 points to lead the Cavaliers (16-10), who are third in the Eastern Conference. Darius Garland had 19. Evan Mobley finished with 16 points and seven rebounds.
Both teams were shorthanded with a number of key players out due to injuries. The Kings ruled out guards De’Aaron Fox (foot) and Terence Davis (back). The Cavaliers were missing three-time All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell (leg) and five-time All-Star forward Kevin Love (back).
Davion Mitchell started in place of Fox and Brown went deep into his bench with Malik Monk, Chimezie Metu, Matthew Dellavedova and Trey Lyles all getting first-quarter minutes. Dellavedova, a member of the Cavaliers’ 2016 NBA championship team, received a huge ovation from the Cleveland crowd when he entered the game.
Murray scored 12 points on 4-of-4 shooting from 3-point range over the first six minutes to help Sacramento race out to a 20-9 lead. The Kings were nearly flawless in the first quarter, shooting 55.6% from the field while making 7 of 9 (.778) from 3-point range. They had nine assists on 10 made baskets and outrebounded the Cavaliers 12-7.
The Kings led 31-20 at the end of the first period and went up by 15 early in the second. The Cavaliers came back to cut the deficit to four after Garland ignited a 15-4 run for Cleveland. The Cavaliers got within two on a basket by Jarrett Allen and tied the game on a 3-pointer by Cedi Osman.
The game was tied at the half. The Cavaliers took a 64-63 lead on a 3-pointer by Lamar Stevens and went up by seven on two free throws by Raul Neto, but the Kings battled back to cut Cleveland’s lead to one at the end of the third period.
The Cavaliers capitalized on a series of Sacramento turnovers to go up by eight midway through the fourth quarter, but the Kings shut them out over the final 5:34.
“To end the game with 10 straight stops, unbelievable,” Brown said. “Unbelievable. … This is my favorite game. Again, if we want to be good — we have the ability to score — but if we want to be good, we have to bring our hardhat, especially to away games versus good teams, and this is a playoff team.”
Barnes had high praise for Sabonis following the game.
“Domas has been playing at an All-Star level for us all year,” Barnes said. “His ability, whether it’s being a focal point at the offensive end or defensively anchoring us … he’s been great for us. As long as big fella is rolling, we’re going to be in great shape.”
“Domas was unfreaking believable,” Brown said. “He was amazing. I’m still amazed at how hard that man plays every freaking possession. He doesn’t take a possession off, and when you have that from one of your best players, if not your best player, it’s contagious.”