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Hawks in the NBA - Reality Bites

Keegan Murray hit a bit of a rough patch.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Keegan Murray’s iffy week ends on a high note as the NBA season hits the 10 game mark. Let’s...go?

Keegan Murray

This was not the best week for Keegan after his hot start to the season. His role in the offense turned into “stand in the corner and maybe we’ll pass to you,” while he ended the week guarding the incandescent Donovan Mitchell. Tough week. Such is life as a rookie in the best league on the planet. Teams mostly play every other day so there’s wear and tear, then as a rookie, teams hunt those guys in pick-and-rolls relentlessly. That’s the modern NBA. If teams detect an ounce of shaky play in someone, they will find that guy and they will attack him over and over until he’s played off the floor. It’s ruthless. Keegan didn’t get played off the floor, but he got a tiny dose of NBA life this week.

Let’s get into the week that was. On November 5, the Kings roared back from a 20-point hole in Orlando, winning 126-123 in overtime to get their third win of the year. It looked bleak for Sacramento, as they trailed by 20 early in the third quarter. That hole did have Kings twitter briefly losing their minds.

Actually, yeah, I think that’s correct. The Kings fought back to force overtime, then De’Aaron Fox - back from a one-game hiatus after a knee injury in the Charlotte game - hit a half-court game-winner after the Kings botched a late inbounds play that allowed the Magic to tie in the final 6 seconds.

On to Keegan - he finished this game with just 3 points on 1-6 shooting (1-4 from 3), 2 rebounds, and 1 steal in 24 minutes He was -12 in plus-minus and did not see the floor during the final sequence in overtime.

His struggles continued on Monday as the Kings lost the last game of their 4-game mini road trip, losing to Golden State, 116-113. The game featured more late-game ref mistakes so the Kings were AGAIN victims of some shoddy officiating that was called out in the Two Minute Report the next morning. That’s two losses in a week in which officiating was called into question in crunch time.

Murray struggled in this one too, finishing with 6 points, 7 rebounds (a career-high), 2 assists, and 2 steals in 27 minutes. His shooting continued to be an issue - he was 2-7 from the floor (1-4 from 3) and 1-2 from the charity stripe against the Warriors. In the 4-game stretch of Charlotte, Miami, Orlando, and Golden State - all on the road - Murray shot just 11-35 from the floor while going 5-20 from 3. Not great, you guys.

BUT - there was still one more game in this stretch, a home date with Cleveland. Cleveland has been one of the best teams in the league to date, going 8-2 to start the year. They figured to be good bets to get to 9-2, especially when Mike Brown decided to do this.

Uh...not sure why, but ok, Mike Brown. You do you and burn a rookie on one of the hottest players in the league that looks 100 percent revitalized with the Cavs. SCARY. It wasn’t Brown’s best call.

Despite Mitchell winning the matchup - he finished with 38 points on 16-28 shooting - Murray held his own and made some huge plays at key moments as the Kings notched what is easily their best win of the year, a 127-120 victory. This game salvaged the week for Murray, as he finished with 14 points on 5-10 shooting (4-7 from 3), to go with 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, and 1 block. He made this big 3 in the third quarter as the Cavs fought their way back into the game.

Despite the mini-slump, Murray is still shooting 45 percent from the floor and nearly 38 percent from 3. Those are good numbers, but the 3-point number is great. And even with that downturn on his first actual road trip as a pro, he was still filling up other parts of the stat sheet, such as steals and blocks (he averages 1 of each per game).

You know what? Let’s stretch our legs out a bit and take in a couple of Keegan highlights from Wednesday.

Gambling corner: After a slow start, the Kings are now 4-2 in their last 6, with both losses coming in games featuring botched calls in crunch time. They are better than 4-6. They have Fox back, Kevin Huerter has been great, there is a reliable big on hand in Sabonis, and their bench guys stepped up in Malik Monk and Davion Mitchell. Throw Keegan and Harrison Barnes in there - it’s a legitimate rotation.

Keegan’s Rookie of the Year outlook is bleak, though that is due more to Paolo Banchero’s absolutely scorching start than anything Keegan has or hasn’t done (Banchero is averaging a 23-8-4 with 46/26/77 splits; the 3-point shooting is nowhere near Keegan but everything else has been exemplary). Not mentioned above but relevant here - in that Kings OT win in Orlando, Banchero went for 33 points and 16 rebounds on 14-26 shooting.

I mentioned in last week’s comments that this player will find a spot in this space going forward, and here we are. Not featuring in the Rookie of the Year chase is Johnny Davis. Since their 128-86 laugher of a loss to the Nets in which Davis played 8 minutes (tying a season high), he didn’t play against Memphis or Charlotte. He’s logged 5 DNP’s in 10 games so far. It turns out you have to be able to shoot at this level to survive and that playing basketball like you’re a linebacker won’t work. Who knew? Maybe he would’ve survived in a more physical NBA 30 years ago, but this hyper-skilled era? This ain’t it. He’s scored 6 more points than I have this year.

ANYWAY - next for the Kings is a slate full of winnable games, all in California. They play the (still bad) Los Angeles Lakers on Veteran’s Day, then have a 4-game home stand starting Sunday with the Warriors (Warriors-Kings is featured 3 times in the first 12 games of the year, then they don’t finish their series until Game 81), the TNT game I mentioned last week with Brooklyn on November 15, San Antonio on November 17, then a visit from Detroit on November 20.

Luka Garza

The former National Player of the Year started his Iowa Wolves career with two big nights. In their first game on November 5, Garza scored 30 points in a 123-105 win over Sioux Falls, then followed that with another 22 points the next night, also a win against Sioux Falls.

Iowa’s roster is pretty good, between Garza, D.J. Carton, P.J. Dozier, Wendell Moore, Jr., and Emmanuel Mudiay (Moore and Mudiay were former first-round picks, with Mudiay a former lottery guy). If you’re in the Des Moines area, catch a game. That’s a real roster.

Joe Wieskamp

This just in to the BHGP News Desk. This hit Twitter Thursday night after my initial submission of this story.

That is something to watch going forward. The Lakers need shooting and Wieskamp could fit that bill, though his preseason shooting was poor.