SACRAMENTO -- Harry Giles wasn't in the Kings locker room following the team's 115-108 win over the New York Knicks on Monday evening. In fact, he left the game at the 5:07 mark of the fourth quarter to a chorus of cheers.
The rookie big took over the early fourth quarter, posting 10 of his 17 points before being ejected from the game for catching Luke Kornet with an elbow to the head while trying to post up.
"Tough deal, heat of the moment, things happen between players," coach Dave Joerger said following the win. "Sometimes those things look worse than they are."
While it didn't look intentional, Giles clearly hit the Knicks' big in the right ear and jaw area with a flying elbow. After reviewing the play, the crew of Ed Malloy, Dedric Taylor and Mitchell Ervin deemed the foul a flagrant 2 and sent him to the showers early.
"Harry had a great game tonight and it would have continued if he didn't get ejected," De'Aaron Fox said.
This was the first ejection of the season for a Kings payer, although it's not completely shocking that it came from Giles. In fact, he was ready to get into a fracas earlier in the game when Mitchell Robinson flew in and hammered veteran Corey Brewer to the floor on a dunk attempt.
Giles took exception to the foul and walked right over to Robinson to express his displeasure. It's a veteran move from the 20-year-old and one that his teammates appreciate.
"It's a great sign," Brewer said of Giles. "We're a team and we're in this together. So when someone's got your back, it means a lot."
The rookie big plays with an intensity. Sometimes it gets him in foul trouble, but over the last few games, he's provided a major spark for Sacramento.
When fellow rookie Marvin Bagley went down last week with a knee injury, Giles took over the game for stretch to finish the night with 18 points and seven rebounds. He backed that up with a 15-point, five-rebound performance against the Clippers on Friday evening.
"Harry's been great," Harrison Barnes said. "He's that energy off the bench for us. He gives energy to the arena, really. Offensively, defensively - just giving us that boost. He's been big since Marvin's been out. He's stepped up, didn't miss a beat."
While he doesn't play the same position as Bagley, there are more offensive chances with the high-scoring 19-year-old on the sidelines. Giles has taken advantage of the opportunity, showing an advanced offensive game and a confidence in his ability.
"He's running better and better and better all the time," Joerger said. "He had some good postups in the first half where he's barking for the ball and you love that. It gives our whole team confidence."
Giles added seven rebounds and a pair of passes that drew oohs and ahhs from the crowd.
Like most of the team's young players, the former Duke star is showing more and more of his talent as the season goes on. For a player like Giles, who has struggled mightily with injuries over his young career, it's becoming one of the feel good stories of the season.
Following the game, Joerger appeared to get emotional talking about Giles and his transformation. He also made sure to repeat a statement he made last season about tuning into this team.
"Don't wait for a couple of years to watch us, because the journey is going to be fun," Joerger said. "That's one example, watching him get better right in front of your eyes. That's touching for me. I like it. He's a good dude."
In a season of growth, the Kings continue to surprise. At 32-31, they are still alive in the hunt for the postseason. They'll need some help, but the experience they are gaining playing meaningful games in March is invaluable.