The Sacramento Kings look to continue their winning ways under replacement coach Doug Christie when they host one of the hottest teams in the league, the Memphis Grizzlies, on Friday night.
Christie stepped in for interim coach Alvin Gentry, who tested positive for COVID-19 this week, and directed a come-from-behind 119-105 victory over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday. Harrison Barnes led a fourth-quarter charge with 15 of his 19 points.
The team will have the added challenge of playing Friday after Thursday’s practice was canceled amid a COVID-19 outbreak. In addition to Gentry, forward Marvin Bagley III and guard Terence Davis entered the league’s health and safety protocols, putting the game in jeopardy.
A former Kings player and broadcaster, who was named assistant coach this season, Christie was given the game ball afterward and showed his pride after the team ended a three-game losing streak.
“I’ve done radio; I’ve done television. There’s no other place I’d rather be than on the court with our team,” Christie said. “It’s joyous for me in ways I can’t even explain.”
Christie, who played on four Kings playoff teams from 2001-04, hopes the entertaining win can be a springboard to much bigger and better things in the near future.
“Sacramento, stand up,” he demanded in front of the television cameras in his postgame interview. “I’m super, super, super proud. This was a team win of the highest regard.
“This is a proud city that deserves a high level of basketball when they come out to watch. And, unfortunately, for a long time it hasn’t been that way. But it does not have to stay that way, and it won’t. We’ll get there.”
Despite playing without star Ja Morant, who sprained his left knee and later entered the league’s health and safety protocols, Memphis has won four in a row and nine of 10 since a disappointing, 9-10 start.
The Grizzlies have beaten the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers at home during their current winning streak, then handled the Portland Trail Blazers 113-103 on Wednesday to open a two-game Western swing.
Desmond Bane had 23 points and Dillon Brooks 22 in the win at Portland, after which Brooks reminded everyone that his team has done all this short-handed.
“Don’t forget about that kid that’s waiting and just cringing, waiting to play with us: Big (No.) 12,” Brooks said of Morant. “We’re going to keep holding down the fort, and once Big 12 gets back, it’s going to be scary. It’s going to be really scary.”
The Grizzlies hope to get Morant back next week.
The clubs will be meeting for a second time this season. A third matchup, also at Sacramento, is just nine days away.
Memphis ran up a 128-101 home victory in the earlier head-to-head on Nov. 28, which was the first game after Morant injured his knee. Brooks had 21 points and Bane 18 in the win, which was Memphis’ fourth straight over Sacramento.
The Kings were playing for the fourth time after firing Luke Walton and replacing him with Gentry. Barnes sat out the game with a sprained right foot.
–Field Level Media