Domantas Sabonis maneuvered his muscular, 7-foot-1 frame around the paint Saturday night with the nuance and control of a prima ballerina, holding the ball aloft with one hand and rotating to wherever Daniel Gafford wasn’t. But defenders beware — that dancer happens to weigh 240 pounds and feels less like a ballerina and more like a boulder.
Sabonis and the rest of the Sacramento Kings pushed the Washington Wizards around all night, bulldozing their way to a 132-118 win at Capital One Arena with ease and punctuating their runs with a barrage of three-pointers. They were so dominant that they stirred multiple waves of their fans’ rallying cry, “Light the beam!” — so said for the purple light that emanates from Sacramento’s home arena after wins.
It’s a chant that probably had never been heard at Washington’s home court, but the Kings (43-27) and their league-best offense, which averages 120.9 points, are having that effect this season.
Wizards fans didn’t match that passion Saturday night, and their team couldn’t match Sacramento’s firepower — not without Kristaps Porzingis, who missed Saturday’s game with a non-covid illness.
“No one feels sorry for us,” Coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “No sense in sulking. We’ve got to take something from this. We’ve got to learn. We’ve got to get better. We’ve got to be better.”
The time for learning is waning — Washington (32-39) dropped its fifth game in the past six and sits 12th in the Eastern Conference, outside of next month’s play-in tournament. The Chicago Bulls, in 10th place, are 1½ games ahead.
There were individual highlights Saturday that amounted to little, including Kyle Kuzma’s 33-point bounce-back performance after an off night in Cleveland on Friday. Playing on a right ankle that he injured early in the game, he led three Wizards scorers in double figures and added seven rebounds. Bradley Beal had 20 points and Corey Kispert had 13 as the other pillars of a solid offense that wasn’t nearly enough against Sacramento’s might.
Kuzma said his ankle was considerably swollen. He suggested the injury is slightly more concerning because it’s on the same leg where he’s experiencing tendinitis in his knee.
Sabonis had 30 points on impressive 10-for-12 shooting to go with nine rebounds and 10 assists, showing off his versatility all the while.
“It wasn’t just straight post-ups where it’s just, like, [a] paint catch here and there,” Unseld said. “It’s slow rolls, the late passes, some offensive rebounds — sometimes he just goes, from the top of the floor. … It’s an unusual position for a lot of bigs to be in.”
Sacramento guard Terence Davis, who averages 6.5 points, racked up 21 on the strength of his 5-for-7 three-point shooting. And rookie Keegan Murray had 19 points as the Kings exerted control by shooting 55.8 percent.
In case Sabonis’s ownership of the paint wasn’t overwhelming enough, the Kings had 22 three-pointers to Washington’s 13. That wasn’t paltry by the Wizards, but it was far from enough without stringent defense.
“They did a good job of keeping us scrambled,” Beal said. “We were so worried about Sabonis and [De’Aaron Fox] pick and rolls, being in the paint, helping keep [Sabonis] off the boards, that we kind of left a lot of guys open.”
In lieu of getting stops, the Wizards tried to outshoot the Kings — and, to their credit, they were feisty. Kuzma was the embodiment of such spirit in the first half: After limping to the locker room less than two minutes in after apparently rolling his ankle when he stepped on the foot of a fan sitting courtside, he checked back in with 5:20 left in the quarter and with 4:45 to go sprinted the length of the court to attempt a chase-down block on Davis that was ruled goaltending. But still, it was the thought that counted — not to mention the 20 points that Kuzma scored in the half.
Kispert adopted the spirit as well, lunging and reaching for rebounds and skittering about the paint. The Wizards shot well, 49 percent from the field, before heading to the locker room, but trying to go blow-for-blow with the Kings is a flawed approach.
Here’s what else to know about the Wizards’ loss:
Porzingis wasn’t the only mainstay out for Saturday’s game: The Kings were missing sharpshooter Kevin Huerter. The former Maryland standout suffered a right hamstring strain at Brooklyn on Thursday and is day-to-day. He’s averaging 15 points and shooting career bests of 48.7 percent from the field and 40.8 percent from the three-point line.
Washington’s turnovers were under control when compared with recent games — it had nine — but still caused damage. The Kings scored 14 points off the giveaways.
Most of Saturday’s game came down to shot-making. The Wizards outrebounded the Kings 46-44 and their offensive movement was nearly as fluid, getting a solid 27 assists on 41 field goals. (Sacramento had 34 assists on 48 buckets.) But Washington let the visitors get loose for 22 three-pointers, including five apiece by Davis, Murray and Malik Monk.
The Wizards’ most recent addition had a busy week: Xavier Cooks played in the final game of Australia’s National Basketball League championship series Wednesday, flew to Washington afterward and made his NBA debut Saturday. The rangy, 6-foot-8 forward needed to do nothing more than get his feet wet — he played six minutes and grabbed two rebounds.