Sabonis posts NBA-leading 33rd double-double in Kings’ win over Hornets; Huerter injured

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The Kings wanted revenge on the eight-win Charlotte Hornets and they got it.

It came in the form of a 123-98 win Wednesday at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, a week after the Hornets beat the Kings on their home court in Sacramento.

Keegan Murray scored 25 points to lead the Kings (23-14). Domantas Sabonis posted his league-leading 33rd double-double with 24 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Malik Monk came off the bench to score 20 points and De’Aaron Fox had 19.

The Hornets selected Monk with the 11th overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft, but his career got off to slow start under coach Steve Clifford during his first tenure. Since leaving Charlotte, Monk has struggled in four games against his former team, averaging just 8.8 points with a high of 12 coming in December 2022. Monk had just six points in last week’s loss.

“I don’t think I’ve had one (a good game against the Hornets) yet,” Monk said. “So it was good to come back and kick their a-- like we did. Put that out there, too. But, nah, it feels great, especially all the love I get here.”

Monk received a strong ovation from the sparse home crowd when he entered the game in the first quarter. And after the game, he was seen chatting up rapper J. Cole, who sat courtside opposite of the Kings’ bench.

Miles Bridges scored 24 points to lead the Hornets (8-24). Terry Rozier had 22. Rookie Brandon Miller added 15 points while making 4 of 6 from 3-point range.

The victory was just the second for the Kings in back-to-back situations this season. Their first came against the Orlando Magic on Jan. 3 at Golden 1 Center. The Magic also played the night before that contest, which made Wednesday the first time Sacramento won on a back-to-back against a team with at least a day between games.

Perhaps most importantly for Sacramento, the Kings took a 15-point lead into the fourth quarter and limited their All-Stars, Fox and Sabonis, to just 28 minutes apiece. Fox had averaged 35 minutes per game over his last 12. Sabonis has averaged 35 minutes per game without missing a game all season.

“It was great to give those guys a little bit of rest,” Brown said. “You always want to take advantage of those situations when you can and we were able to. But also, it gives a guy like Colby (Jones) some extended minutes and get some other guys in the game too to give them some reps and give them some conditioning.”

The Kings avoided a slow start like the one that plagued them Tuesday in Detroit when they fell behind by 20. On Wednesday they had three starters in double figures by the second quarter.

Murray continued his hot shooting after a big night against the Pistons. He opened making nine of his 13 shots in the first half, leading to 21 points, after scoring 32 points Tuesday. It was the third time Murray had 20 points in a half in his career. He finished 11 of 18 from the field and 3 of 7 from 3-point range.

Sabonis had 18 first-half points with six rebounds and five assists. Bridges and Rozier scored 31 of Charlotte’s 59 points before the break while no other Hornet was in double figures. Charlotte finished shooting just 41% from the floor.

Sabonis was three assists shy of his fifth triple-double in his last seven games and his 10th on the season. He went to the bench with 3:15 left in the third quarter and did not return. He recorded his 20th consecutive double-double, joining Oscar Robinson as the only players in franchise history with multiple streaks of at least 20 double-doubles.

Backup center Alex Len had eight points and 10 rebounds in 15 minutes. Trey Lyles continued his strong play of late with eight points and five rebounds, and Jaun Toscano-Anderson saw time after signing a 10-day contract before Tuesday’s game.

The Kings were plus-27 in Lyles’ 21 minutes on the court. Lyles made two of his four 3-point attempts and has made 19 of his last 32 (59%) during his last seven games.

Lyles afterwards said the key to his shooting rhythm has been “just continuing to shoot, not worry about makes and misses. That’s what they want me to do, if I’m open and (the defender’s) hands are down, to continue to shoot the ball.”

The Hornets were missing star guard LaMelo Ball (ankle) and veteran forwards Gordon Hayward (calf), P.J. Washington (foot) and Cody Martin (groin).

Sacramento’s next game comes Friday night in Philadelphia in a game that was moved to ESPN. The status of reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid is uncertain after he missed Wednesday’s game in Atlanta due to a knee injury.

Huerter injured early

Shooting guard Kevin Huerter exited the game after 41 seconds and did not return due to a left ankle injury. Replays showed Huerter suffered the injury when he stepped on Murray’s foot immediately after the opening tip. Huerter said in the locker room he was unsure how much time he would miss.

It was Huerter’s second game back in the starting lineup after being demoted to the bench for five games. He was replaced initially by Chris Duarte while Colby Jones also got minutes for just the second time this month.

Of course, the Kings relied heavily on Monk at that spot as well.

No rest for Fox

Fox over his previous two games combined for nine turnovers and eight assists. He was held to three points in a 33-point loss to New Orleans on Sunday before scoring 26 points in Detroit. Wednesday would have been a logical night to give the franchise point guard a breather while facing an 8-26 team on the second night of a back-to-back in Charlotte.

Instead, Fox played, while Brown suggested there has been no discussion about giving him a night off.

“He’s a young fella,” Brown said before the game, noting Fox turned 26 last month.

Brown said Fox and Sabonis were given Saturday’s practice off to get treatment while the rest of the team prepared for the Pelicans. Barring an injury, Brown is more likely to rest players during practice rather than games.

“We’re not at a point like the Clippers or any of the veteran teams,” Brown said. “They got some veteran guys that they would sit down due to them being a veteran team.”

Fox has missed six of Sacramento’s 37 contests so far this season, but only because of injury. An ankle sprain caused him to miss five games in early November and a shoulder issue caused him to miss a win against Utah on Dec. 16.

Fox checked out of Wednesday’s game with 9:21 remaining and the Kings up 21 points. He played 28 minutes to that point.

Upcoming schedule

Jan. 12 at Philadelphia 76ers

Jan. 14 at Milwaukee Bucks

Jan. 16 at Phoenix Suns

Jan. 18 vs. Indiana Pacers

Jan. 22 vs. Atlanta Hawks