Monday night’s matchup between the Sacramento Kings and the host Miami Heat is a curious one.
The Heat (47-28), who started last week on top of the Eastern Conference standings, are now mired in their worst slump of the season with four straight losses.
Sacramento (27-48), which has the third worst records in the Western Conference, has played much better than Miami in the past week.
The Kings have won two straight road games, and in the contest prior to that burst of success, they took the team with the best record in the NBA to overtime before falling 127-124 to the Phoenix Suns.
Former Heat coach Alvin Gentry, who now serves as Sacramento’s interim boss, lauded the team’s desire despite a disappointing season.
“The competitiveness is there,” Gentry said. “The will to win is there.”
Still, the Kings are short-handed as De’Aaron Fox has missed four straight games due to an injured right hand. In addition, star big manDomantas Sabonis has missed two straight contests due to a bone bruise in his left knee.
But the Kings have had a lot of players respond over the past week, especially rookie first-round pick Davion Mitchell.
Against the Suns, Mitchell, a 6-2 point guard who led Baylor to the 2021 national championship, stepped in for Fox and had 28 points and nine assists.
In a 110-109 win over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, Damian Jones had a game-winning tip-in with 0.2 seconds left. Mitchell had 25 points, and teammate Chimezie Metu added a career-high 22 points.
On Saturday, the Kings defeated the host Orlando Magic 114-110 in overtime. Mitchell, who had a steal and subsequent layup to send the game to OT, finished with 22 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.
“With (Fox) out, I’ve got to be more aggressive,” said Mitchell, who has made just 12 NBA starts. “If I keep doing those things, we can be in position to win games.”
The Heat would love to be in position to win on Monday. They got punished by the Brooklyn Nets 110-95 on Saturday night. The Nets led by as many as 37 points before finishing the game with their reserves.
Before Saturday, the largest deficit Miami had faced this season was 32 points at the Boston Celtics on Jan. 31.
Miami played on Saturday without coach Erik Spoelstra, who missed the game for personal reasons, while 38-year-old assistant Chris Quinn ran the team.
“It was certainly not to our identity, especially defensively,” Quinn said of the loss to Brooklyn. “It hasn’t been our best week, but we are ‘no excuses’ around here. We’re going to get ready for Monday.”
Spoelstra has missed just three games in 14 years, and Miami is 0-3 in those games.
As for the team’s current skid, there is hope. The last time the Heat went into a similar funk — a three-game skid from Jan. 29 to Feb. 1 — they reversed it with an immediate five-game winning streak.
But to get back on track, the Heat need more from their top two scorers, Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro. For the season, they combine to average 41.9 points.
On Saturday, though, they combined to score just 20 against on 7-for-23 shooting.
“We’re not concerned in the sense of panicking,” Heat guard Kyle Lowry said. “But we’ve got to fix some stuff.”
–Field Level Media