Hawks in the NBA is back! One player is winning awards while the other is actually playing and helping his team remain in the playoff hunt. Let’s do it!
Yes, the picture accompanying this is Luka Garza. We’ll get to him in a bit, as he’s really come on for Minnesota. But we have to start with Herr Murray, who was named the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for December.
Sacramento Kings forward Keegan Murray and Orlando Magic forward Paolo Banchero have been named the Kia NBA Western and Eastern Conference Rookies of the Month, respectively, for games played in December. pic.twitter.com/YDrfZHehJL— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) January 3, 2023
Late December caused those numbers to tail off a little in terms of scoring, but still, that’s an awesome honor for Murray. For the month, Murray shot 46 percent from the floor and a scorching 46 percent from 3. 46 percent from 3! That’s an insane number.
Unfortunately for Sacramento, results have been up-and-down since our last check-in, as have Murray’s minutes. Just look at this:
Let me get this straight - split a back-to-back with Denver (currently the top seed in the West; btw, what the hell was that last night, Denver leading the Clippers 102-59 at the end of the third quarter? 59 points through 3?), sweep games with Utah (still in the playoff picture), blow the Lakers out of the water (not in the playoff picture - HA!), but lose at home to both Charlotte and Washington, two teams not in the Eastern Conference playoff picture? The Washington game was never close, and Charlotte is now tied for the worst record in the NBA. Those cannot be losses.
For Murray, his minutes have been curtailed for some reason and they don’t run anything for him. Just 1 game over 30 minutes in his last 5 is odd given the hot hand he’s had. You can see there - through 3 games this month, he’s still shooting nearly 44 percent from 3. What gives, Mike Brown??
Here’s a quick highlight of Keegan in their win over Utah January 3. He again has things rolling with Sabonis (Sabonis has a fractured thumb which is something to watch going forward, as they cannot afford to lose him for a sustained period of time).
Beautiful pass from Domantas Sabonis as Keegan Murray dives off the split cuts and hits the ridiculously impressive one-handed and-one finish. pic.twitter.com/K4lA7lxz2T— Brenden Nunes (@BrendenNunesNBA) January 4, 2023
Despite some up-and-down results, the Kings are currently 5th in the West, at 20-17. Just saying that this far into the season is something for the Kings. The good news for the Kings is, their long run of home games continues through next week, with visits from the Lakers, Orlando, and a two-game mini-series with Houston.
Luka time! Since our last check-in, Luka made 4 appearances for the Timberwolves and wow, he’s played well.
Garza has played well. Actually been a factor on defense. Playing Naz Reid to the way Naz Reid plays to Rudy Gobert.— brittrobson (@brittrobson) January 3, 2023
Since I’m an NBA Dork and follow random people in the NBA world, this guy is a good T-Wolves follow and a good follow generally. When he says you’re playing well, that’s a compliment. And Luka playing defense - that was ALWAYS going to be the determining factor for him. Let’s get into this a little deeper.
Luka saw a brief cameo against the Boston Celtics on December 23, a 121-109 loss in Boston, then logged a DNP-coaches decision in a loss to Detroit (echoing the Kings - can’t lose a game like that; Detroit is only a game ahead of Charlotte and Houston for the worst record in the league). After that is when Garza really came on. In a 123-114 loss in Milwaukee on December 30, Garza finished with 16 points, 3 rebounds, and an assist in 18 minutes of work, while shooting 5-8 from the floor and going 6-6 from the charity stripe.
Then against the Nuggets, Luka turned heads again (the above tweet was during that game). Luke logged 14 minutes and finished with 9 points, 6 rebounds, and a block while finishing at +11 in an impressive 124-111 win.
Finch ran the lineup combo of Austin Rivers, Jaylen Nowell, Matt Ryan, Nate Knight, and Luka Garza to start the 4th last night.— Charlie Walton (@CharlieWaltonMN) January 3, 2023
With no "primary scorer" on the floor, those five combined for +37 and did one helluva job holding the fort down in a key spot. pic.twitter.com/uah1Ek9v6d
Luka’s excellent week didn’t stop there. In a 113-106 win over Portland, Luka was again in double-figures. In 13 minutes, Luka finished with 14 points and 3 rebounds on a perfect 5-5 from the field and a made 3 in his only attempt. He was a sterling +15 in his 13 minutes.
With Karl-Anthony Towns still out, Luka will continue to get minutes. If he’s instant offense and then doesn’t give it right back on the other end, he might hang for awhile. Minnesota’s currently a game behind Utah for the final play-in spot but have a favorable week coming up. They have home games with the Clippers and Suns tonight and next Friday, respectively, with a brief road trip to Houston and Detroit sandwiched in between. They’ve got to get 3 of these - the Clippers are on a back-to-back after that disaster in Denver, and Houston and Detroit are two of the three worst teams in the league.