Hawks in the NBA | April 17-23

Former Iowa star and current Sacramento Kings forward Keegan Murray overcame early series shooting woes for a 23-point explosion in Game 4.


Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 23, 2023; San Francisco, California, USA; Sacramento Kings forward Keegan Murray (13) dribbles against Golden State Warriors guard Jordan Poole (left) during the first quarter of game four of the 2023 NBA playoffs at Chase Center.

Colin Votzmeyer, Sports Reporter

Former Iowa star and current Sacramento Kings forward Keegan Murray struggled in the opening three games of his playoff debut until he found his groove and exploded for 23 points on Sunday.

The performance came in Game 4 of the Kings’ first-round playoff series against the defending champion Golden State Warriors. Murray picked up some of his teammates’ scoring slack to shoot 9-of-13 from the field and 5-for-7 from deep, including seven rebounds when the ball wasn’t in his shooting hand.

But Murray’s surge wasn’t enough to lift the Kings to a win.

After the Kings secured Game 2 in Sacramento on April 17 and took a surprising 2-0 series lead, the Warriors captured Game 3 on April 20 from the Kings and spoiled Murray’s breakout night in Game 4, with the Dubs victorious by final scores of 114-97 and 126-125, respectively, on their home court. They were 33-8 on their home court at the Chase Center in the regular season.

Although Murray’s 23-point performance in 33 minutes in Game 4 was his highlight of this series thus far, the Kings had to work around their rookie’s sudden offensive inefficiency early on, even restricting his minutes.

While Murray ended the NBA regular season oftentimes playing more than 30 minutes, he played just 16 in the Kings’ April 17 win.

The Kings’ 114-97 loss on April 20 at Golden State showed how much they will need their rookie if they want to advance. Murray played 22 minutes in the loss but scored just six points on 2-for-7 from the field and 1-for-2 from the free-throw line — and only one three-pointer on five attempts.

Murray made up for his rough shooting in other ways, grabbing five rebounds, a steal, and a block, but the offensive woes seemed to be affecting his mindset. Even so, Murray’s teammates encouraged the three-point-loving rookie to keep shooting, and it paid off.

The best-of-seven series now tied at 2-2, with the winner looking to advance to the Western Conference Semifinals. The Kings will return to the support of their own fans at their home court in Sacramento, California, for Game 5 on Wednesday before returning to Oakland for Game 6 on April 28.

The Minnesota Timberwolves avoided a first-round series sweep by the one seed Denver Nuggets with an overtime win, 114-108, on April 23. But because centers Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert are occupying the backcourt, former Hawkeye center Luka Garza did not see any game action.