The Sacramento Kings were relieved to get their first win of the season on Friday night, days after the New York Knicks got theirs on Monday.
However, only one team will exit Madison Square Garden with a second win on Sunday night when the Kings visit the Knicks.
Both teams enter Sunday with 1-5 records that are the worst in their respective conferences.
The Kings began 0-5 for the first time since opening 1990-91 with seven straight losses and started the Luke Walton era by losing their first three games by a combined 71 points before close losses to Denver and Charlotte.
On Friday, the Kings finally got the elusive win and headed into a three-game road trip with a dramatic 102-101 home win over the Utah Jazz. Harrison Barnes scored the game-winning basket with 2.9 seconds remaining after a missed 3-pointer by Nemanja Bjelica, and Sacramento survived committing 17 turnovers, getting outscored 13-5 in the final few minutes and a potential game-winning 3-point attempt by Donovan Mitchell at the buzzer.
“It was probably the first time all season we put together a full game,” Barnes said. “Everyone down the line came in and contributed, and that was the team effort that we needed, the energy, the fight when they made runs, that we needed.”
De’Aaron Fox scored 25 points, Buddy Hield finished with 18. Fox is averaging 17.7 points so far and is coming off his best shooting performance (8 of 17) of the season. Hield is off to a slow start by shooting 38.9 percent and 35.8 percent from 3-point range after making 42.7 percent from behind the arc last season.
“We were hungry tonight? Yes. Have we been hungry most games to start? Yes, and then it fades out,” Walton said. “But that’s the intensity that we have to have for an entire game. Hopefully, we feel that. We build on it and we continue to go in the right direction.”
The Knicks felt those same feelings of jubilation on Monday when they rode the hot hand of Bobby Portis, scored the final 15 points and rallied from 18 points down in a 105-98 win over Chicago.
They have followed up the win with consecutive losses in Orlando and Boston. After a 12-point loss Wednesday, the Knicks absorbed a 104-102 loss in Boston Friday when Jayson Tatum hit the game-winning jumper with 1.3 seconds left while shooting over rookie RJ Barrett.
Marcus Morris hit a game-tying 3-pointer before Tatum’s dramatic shot and scored 29 points after four straight sub-par shooting nights. Barrett added 15 on 5-of-17 shooting and is averaging 17.7 points through the first six games of his career.
“Our defense was much better in this game,” Knicks coach David Fizdale said. “We really took the challenge defensively.”
Fizdale’s comments about the defense hold some validity. In their first three games, the Knicks allowed an average of 117 points on 47.6 percent shooting but in the past three, they have given up an average of 99 points on 42.9 percent from the field.
Part of Friday’s improved defense may be due to Frank Ntilikina getting the start at point guard. He might start at the point again, especially if Elfrid Payton (hamstring) and Dennis Smith Jr. (personal) are unavailable Sunday.
“We’re not happy with losses,” Ntilikina said. “But we’re taking it the right way. We watch a lot of film, see what we can do better and go back to the gym the next day and work on it. It’s going to come. We’ve got to keep grinding and it’s going to come.”
Sacramento has won the past three meetings between the teams. Fox scored 30 points in its 104-92 win at New York on March 9.
–Field Level Media