Iowa continues with two players in the NBA, as Keegan Murray hits the east coast while Luka Garza has had some run with the Timberwolves. Let’s go!
Keegan’s hot December continued on Sacramento’s swing through the Eastern Conference. This set of games - Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia, and Toronto - was a 2-2 split for the Kings, and that’s with two duds in the middle from the whole roster. This would be a tough stretch for most teams in the league - Cleveland, New York, and Philadelphia are currently the 3, 6, and 5-seeds in the East, respectively, while Toronto is in a play-in spot (they’re under-achieving a little as they have problems scoring; 19th in points per game, 28th in 3-point percentage, and 26th in overall field goal percentage).
The run started with a 106-95 win in Cleveland on December 9 in what is an upset and one of Sacramento’s best wins of the year. The Cavs led 95-87 with 4:50 left, but the Kings ended the game on a 19-0 run. I think that’s good and the Kings should run that sequence more. Keegan was brilliant in this game, going for 18 points, 2 rebounds, a steal, and a block, and was 6-8 from the floor - all on 3s. He made a crucial 3 during the late run to ice the game.
keegan's SIXTH triple of the night caps a 14-0 run and gives the Kings a 101-95 lead with 1:22 left to play pic.twitter.com/ct96Oysy4U— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) December 10, 2022
Keegan made his first MSG appearance of his career on December 11 - though he almost didn’t, as he was listed as questionable for this game with a thumb injury - and this went sideways for the Kings almost right away. The Knicks, currently surging on a 5-game winning streak after a tough start to the year, led this game by 16 at half and cruised to a 112-99 win.
Keegan was one of the few bright spots for the Kings, finishing with 18 points and 7 rebounds. He didn’t shoot as well from the floor - 6-15 - but his 3-point shooting was decent again, going 3-8.
The trip continued to sour for the Kings, as Tuesday’s trip to Philadelphia didn’t fare much better than the stop in New York. Philly led 80-55 at half and only Harrison Barnes and Domantas Sabonis played over 30 minutes in a 123-103 Sixers waltz. It was a short night for Keegan, as he only played 21 minutes and scored 3 points on 1-5 shooting (1-4 from 3). Shoulder shrug on this one. Kings played like ass, Philly’s still really good. Here’s a little Keegan love from Philly, even though this game was horrific from the start.
Keegan Murray processes the game at such a high level.— Ersin Demir (@EDemirNBA) December 14, 2022
He rotates a bit late on defense on this play, but excellent recovery to come up with the block from behind.
He's a rookie and will make mistakes, but his ability to limit the damage is very intriguing pic.twitter.com/tEJzd43E0E
The trip can be salvaged for the Kings, however, as they flew to Toronto immediately after the Sixers loss for the second game of a back-to-back and came out with a 124-123 win Wednesday night. This game also looked to be going sideways for the Kings as they faced an early 16-point hole. But with Toronto struggling, the Kings dug out and held on late for the 1-point win.
Keegan didn’t have a huge night - 10 points, 4 rebounds, a block and a steal on 4-12 shooting - but he still made a couple of crucial 3s. Here’s one, with Keegan trailing the play.
K333GAN— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) December 15, 2022
Keegan Murray hitting the trey ball in transition pic.twitter.com/LhhCeuiU0L
To beat this drum a final time - after a tough second half of November, Keegan’s fully bounced back. For December, he’s averaging 14 points, 4 rebounds, 1 block, and 1 steal a game with 49/45/78 shooting splits. For November as a whole those numbers were 8 points and 4 rebounds with 34/27/87 splits. That’s an enormous jump.
Next up for the Kings is a stop in Detroit, who sit at 8-22 and will be without Cade Cunningham for the remainder of the year with a shin injury that requires surgery. This is clearly a tanking team so Sacramento should not drop this game. A win would end the road trip at 3-3, a perfectly fine roadie given who they were playing. The Kings are mostly in Sacramento through the end of January - between tonight in Detroit and a January 28 trip to Minnesota for a double-header, the Kings have 19 games and just 4 are on the road (one in Los Angeles so they don’t even leave California). With this long of a stretch at home, they have to take advantage and run their win total up. There are visits coming from some dud teams in the next 6 weeks - Charlotte, multiple games with the hot and cold Lakers, Washington, a double-header with Houston (one game on ESPN - Wednesday, January 11!), Oklahoma City - they have to get those wins. Right now, the Kings sit in the 6th seed in the West - a real playoff spot.
Luka remains with the Timberwolves since coming up from Des Moines for the Indiana game on December 7. Since that game, the T-Wolves also found themselves on a road trip of their own and it hasn’t gone well. The T-Wolves logged a 118-108 win over the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City on December 9, a win that poked their heads above .500 at 13-12, but have since dropped their last 3 games as their topsy-turvy season rumbles on. Currently they are not in any playoff position (11th in the West, 1⁄2 game behind Golden State in 10th). Minnesota had a double-header in Portland and dropped both games, 124-118 and 133-112. Wednesday night, they lost a 99-88 decision with the now very much alive Los Angeles Clippers (they’re more than just there now; Kawhi looked in range of being Kawhi again after not playing much the first quarter of the year and Paul George went for a triple-double).
Luka did not play in the Utah game or the first Portland matchup, but he logged minutes in the second Portland game and against the Clippers. Against Portland, he finished with 2 points and 2 rebounds in 4 minutes, while he did not score in 3 minutes of action against the Clippers, missing his only field goal attempt.
For the year, Luka now averages 1.5 points a game. Still more than lottery pick/G-League star Johnny Davis!
The T-Wolves finish their road trip in Oklahoma City Friday night, then have a short home stand next week with Chicago and a double-dip with Dallas.