James Ham

Westbrook calls game, delivers knockout punch to Kings in heavyweight fight

Westbrook calls game, delivers knockout punch to Kings in heavyweight fight

SACRAMENTO -- At 18-40, the Sacramento Kings have lost games in almost every fashion imaginable. Thursday night’s matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder felt similar to many of the team's losses - fall behind early, claw back in, stumble down the stretch. But this one had a new twist.

OKC led by 23 after the first quarter, but the Kings fought back. After cutting the Thunder lead to seven at the half, Sacramento hit the Thunder with a 18-0 run in the late third quarter and early fourth and took a five-point lead with 10:01 remaining.  

It looked like a heavyweight fight down the stretch with both teams hitting the each other with body blows. With the Thunder up two, Vince Carter hoisted a 3-point attempt with eight seconds remaining. 

The shot came off the iron to Garrett Temple, who bricked. Rookie Justin Jackson flew in for a rebound and knocked down a six-footer on the run to tie the game at 107-107 with one second remaining on the clock.

Golden 1 Center went crazy. Overtime appeared imminent. 

But one second is enough time to catch and shoot a ball in the NBA. That’s all it took for Russell Westbrook to rip the heart out of thousands of Kings fans.

With Carmelo Anthony manning the inbounds pass, the Thunder ran a double screen to free Westbrook. The reigning MVP caught the ball just to the right of center on the top of the key and drilled a 29-footer. 

Game over. 

“Russell made a great shot,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said after the game. “I just tried to get either him or Paul [George] some space on the play and he actually caught it funny at first from Carmelo. It looked like he rushed it trying to beat the clock.”

The shot came off Westbrook’s hand flat and looked like it might tear through the back of the net. After a very quick review by the officiating crew, the basket was deemed good. 

Following the game, the Kings took the loss hard, as expected. Plenty of players had already cleared out of the locker room before media arrived, but a few stuck around to answer questions, including 17-year veteran, Zach Randolph.

“It’s really tough,” Randolph said following the 110-107 loss. “It was good D, better O. You know, give them credit. We fought. We’ve got to come out like that to start the game. It was a good game.”

Randolph led all scorers with 29 points and added 12 rebounds for Sacramento. He kept the Kings afloat until the rest of the team awoke from an early game slumber. 

Sacramento received quality efforts from plenty of players, including Buddy Hield, who finished with 19 points and nine rebounds. 

In the end, the Thunder and their fleet of All-Stars won out. They hit the big shot when they needed it. 

Give Sacramento credit. They shook off a miserable start, took a late lead against a playoff team and lost on a buzzer beater.

Kings go high tech with NBA All-Star Game bid

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Sacramento Kings

Kings go high tech with NBA All-Star Game bid

SACRAMENTO -- Go big or go home. The Sacramento Kings held a press conference Thursday morning to announce the franchise’s bid to host either the 2022 or 2023 NBA All-Star weekend. 

From automated vehicles, to a personalized virtual concierge, Sacramento’s bid is all about technology. They hope to celebrate the diverse cultural aspects of Sacramento to create an event that will continue the city’s transformation.

“Golden 1 Center created a spark that ignited Sacramento’s evolution downtown and beyond,” Sacramento Kings owner and chairman Vivek Ranadivé said via press release. “With a world-class arena that is home to the best fans in the NBA, we are excited to present a bid that reimagines the All-Star event as a global celebration of sport, art, culture and diversity.”  

According to the fact sheet, “The epicenter of the celebration will be a Global Pavilion -  a unique indoor and outdoor facility extending from the steps of California’s capitol to the iconic Tower Bridge.”

It’s a beautiful space that includes a proposed amphitheater and plenty of other upgrades. The group also hopes to take advantage of existing spaces, like the Sacramento Convention Center Complex, Crest Theater, The Railyards, the California State Railroad Museum, as well as other potential areas.  

The main hurdle to any bid is the city’s lack of high-end accommodations. To make up for a lack of luxury hotel space, the Kings hope to partner with Airbnb, as well as bring in two or three small luxury cruise ships into the Port of Sacramento. It’s an innovative idea that includes transforming a portion of the waterfront to a secondary event center. 

It will take plenty of innovation to lure the NBA’s main event to Sacramento. The group is promising 30 minute door-to-door service via automated vehicles, special designated freeway lanes and a uniquely Sacramento experience to potential guests. 

An official bid is being sent to the NBA offices in New York. 

All photos via Sacramento Kings

Gameday: Cauley-Stein vs Adams the matchup to watch

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AP

Gameday: Cauley-Stein vs Adams the matchup to watch

SACRAMENTO -- Welcome back, basketball. After a week off, the Sacramento Kings return to the court Thursday evening to battle the star-studded Oklahoma City Thunder at Golden 1 Center.

The Kings were well represented at All-Star weekend, with three young players seeing action in the Rising Stars game. Buddy Hield led the victorious World team in scoring, but it was shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic who took home the game’s MVP award. De’Aaron Fox suited up for Team USA just days after taking a big spill. He had a quiet night off the bench in the loss.

Russell Westbrook and Paul George both played for Team LeBron during Sunday’s All-Star game. Westbrook finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, while George chipped in 16 points on 4-of-10 shooting from long range.

BETTING LINE

Thunder by 7.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Willie Cauley-Stein  vs. Steven Adams -- Willie Cauley-Stein is coming into his own in year-three. He’s posting career-highs across the board, including points, rebounds, assists and steals. He’ll draw one of the NBA’s tough guys in Adams. With stars like Westbrook, George and Carmelo Anthony getting all the glory, Adams does the dirty work. He’s a beast in the post and a big time challenge for Cauley-Stein.

WHERE THEY STAND

Kings: 18-39, fourth place in Pacific

Thunder: 33-26, second place in Northwest

INJURY REPORT

Kings: PG De’Aaron Fox (conjuntivitis) questionable, PG Frank Mason III (heel) probable, PF Skal Labissiere (shoulder) probable, SG/SF Iman Shumpert (plantar fasciitis) out, PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) out for the season.

Thunder: SG Andre Roberson (knee) out for the season.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

Fresh Bodies -- After missing major time due to injury, both Frank Mason III and Skal Labissiere are listed as probable coming into Thursday evening. Dave Joerger was quick to point out that Mason hasn’t played in a while, but both are expected to return and play big roles in the final 25 games of the season.

Youth Movement -- Joerger was forced to put his plan to sit the vets on hold after a series of injuries. He now has a stable of young 20-somethings hoping for an opportunity down the stretch. Minutes will be earned, but it’s time to see what they have for next season.

Show Some Fight -- With 16 home games and just nine road games left, the Kings have a chance to give their fans a preview of the future. They need to give max effort and find a way to improve on their 8-17 record this season at Golden 1 Center.

SERIES HISTORY

The Kings shocked OKC in early November, but the Thunder evened the series with a 95-88 win on Jan. 15. Oklahoma City hold a 143-86 all-time lead over the Kings and an 86-50 advantage in the Sacramento-era.