We’re back! Being honest - like the NFL, I missed most NBA action since our last Keegan check-in two weeks ago. I traveled to Minneapolis and froze my ass off at whatever they call the Gopher stadium these days, saw family in Iowa over Thanksgiving week, then saw that catastrophic loss to Nebraska in person before driving back to Colorado last Saturday. The NBA was way down the list. But let’s look back anyway.
This was a tough couple of weeks for Keegan, though it may have ended with some hope. Maybe. After missing a chunk of the demolition of Brooklyn on November 15 when he tweaked his back, Keegan missed the San Antonio game entirely, a 130-112 win. He played the next six games however, and things were inconsistent to say the least.
The problem for Keegan has been shooting. His 3-point shooting has fallen off a cliff after a hot start. In the six games since his return, Keegan is shooting just 5-29 from 3 and 15-54 from the floor. Part of this 6-game run - at Memphis, at Atlanta, at Boston, with Memphis/Atlanta being a back-to-back - was particularly difficult, a 1-13 stretch from deep and just 2 made field goals overall. Woof. Keegan tallied 9 total points in the middle games in which Sacramento went 1-2.
There’s certainly no shame in struggling with those teams - Memphis is 4th in the Western Conference, Atlanta is 6th in the Eastern Conference, and Boston has the best record in the NBA at 18-4 - then when you toss in a back injury plus some family matters we discussed in the last check-in, it makes sense as to why he’s struggling. Clearly, I think his teammates know he’s struggling a bit. More on that in a sec.
The good thing is, Keegan had a bit of a bounce back in the final two games of the 6-game run against Phoenix (currently the third-best record in the league, behind Boston and Milwaukee) and Indiana. He chipped in with 11 points, 2 rebounds, an assist, and a block in a 122-117 loss to the Suns. He went 5-11 from the floor and 1-1 from 3. The Kings had a shot but Devin Booker went nuclear, going for 44 points to hold onto first in the West, a game over Denver.
A lot of NBA Heads tuned in when the Kings hosted the Pacers Wednesday night due to the Domantas Sabonis-Buddy Hield-Tyrese Haliburton trade that will link these teams for a decade, and Keegan again had a nice start. Going into the 4th quarter, he had 13 points and 5 rebounds in 20 minutes, but he played briefly in legit garbage time after the game turned into a laugher - a 137-114 Sacramento rout - and misfired on numerous 3s to finish the game 4-12 from the floor and 2-9 from 3. Take the good with the bad, I guess. Excellent start to the game though - he’s developing some nice chemistry with Sabonis.
I mentioned his teammates - this is a tight group. Keegan’s clearly struggling, his shot isn’t falling, and it would be easy to sulk and lose your place in a league this difficult. Here’s Keegan finishing a dunk on a nice break and feed from Sabonis again. Look at him and the bench interactions when Indiana calls a timeout. That’s awesome - those guys clearly have his back. Hopefully this gets him back on track.
Happy Keegan Murray Alert!! Check out the Kings rookie light up with his teammates after this jam. pic.twitter.com/wjOYDV0fPh— Sean Cunningham (@SeanCunningham) December 1, 2022
Keegan still has time for Iowa hoops, as he was asked about Kris’s 31-20 masterpiece against Georgia Tech.
I was able to ask Keegan Murray about his brother and former Iowa Hawkeyes teammate Kris’ 31-point, 20-rebound performance that took place on Tuesday.— Frankie Cartoscelli (@FCartoscelli3) December 1, 2022
“He hasn’t quite reached me yet.”
Brothers will be brothers. pic.twitter.com/A1COo4XNG0
Good thing for the Kings - they managed to go 3-3 in that tough stretch with wins over Detroit, Memphis, and Indiana, and still sit above .500 at 11-9. While their 7-game winning streak came to an end via that already-mentioned tough stretch of opponents, they tread water and it was enough to boost them into the 6th seed - a normal playoff spot! Another good thing for the Kings - even with Keegan struggling, they still have ample firepower between De’Aaron Fox, Sabonis, Kevin Huerter, Malik Monk has been on a heater, and Harrison Barnes can still get buckets. This is a dangerous team. It’s a great spot for Keegan, frankly - he’s a rookie drafted high and he doesn’t have to carry an enormous burden right out of the gate like most rookies do.
Up next: The Kings have their second back-to-back of the year, playing the Los Angeles Clippers Saturday before returning home for a date with the Chicago Bulls on Sunday. That then leads to what feels like a crucial 6-game east coast road trip - Milwaukee, Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia, Toronto, and Detroit. That’s 3 clear-cut playoff teams, 2 play-in teams as things stand now, and Detroit. No rest for the weary in this league...
Luka continues to do Luka things in the G-League. He only did this last week, two wins over Grand Rapids and Fort Wayne.
#Twolves' Luka Garza is G League player of the week. Averaged 29 points on 59.5 percent shooting, 11.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 steals in two road victories for Iowa.— John Shipley: Tier 3 (@ShipleyMN) November 29, 2022
With a right calf injury to Karl-Anthony Towns that will keep him out 4-6 weeks, Garza earned a call-up back to Minnesota with the big boy Wolves shortly after that was announced. He was on the Timberwolves bench for their 109-101 win over Memphis that pulled Minnesota back to .500, though Garza did not play.
Up next: Minnesota has two home dates coming up, with Oklahoma City and Indiana, before they also go out on the road for a 5-game road trip, at Utah, a double dip in Portland, Los Angeles Clippers, and Oklahoma City again.