Cousins leads the way as Kings visit Orlando


Cousins leads the way as Kings visit Orlando

Feb. 23, 2011

KINGS (13-41) vs.
ORLANDO (36-21)

Coverage begins at 4 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California

ORLANDO (AP) -- After a difficult stretch, the Orlando Magic headed into the All-Star break on a positive note with help from star center Dwight Howard.

Howard and the Magic could keep rolling in their return Wednesday night as they host the lowly Sacramento Kings.

The Magic (36-21) dropped five of eight from Jan. 24-Feb. 6, but won four of five before Howard headed off to Los Angeles to start for the Eastern Conference All-Star squad, which lost 148-143 on Sunday.

NEWS: NBA Standings

Howard had five points and seven rebounds during the exhibition, but has shined recently in games that count, averaging 28.3 points and 14.3 rebounds over the past four contests. Before the break, he scored 32 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in a 101-76 rout of visiting Washington on Feb. 16.

"I'll be anxious to see how we come out and play down the stretch," said coach Stan Van Gundy, whose team is 10-1 in its last 11 against sub-.500 teams.

If recent matchups with the Kings are an indication, the Magic might start that stretch run with a victory, Orlando has won five in a row over Sacramento (13-41) and three straight at home.

The Magic also won't have to face Tyreke Evans, who is out for three weeks with an injured left foot. The reigning rookie of the year, who has been slowed much of the season by plantar fasciitis, was averaging a team-high 18.3 points and 5.5 assists per game.

RELATED: Tyreke Evans career stats

Without its second-year guard, Sacramento lost for the eighth time in nine games, 117-97 to Miami on Tuesday. The Kings were outscored 35-16 in the first quarter and trailed throughout while allowing the Heat to outshoot them 56.7 to 47.6 percent.

REWIND: Kings miss Tyreke in loss to Heat

"When you give a team like that those chances, it's tough to win the game," guard Beno Udrih said.

Samuel Dalembert was the only Sacramento player to score more than 14 points with 18 off the bench, and he had 13 rebounds for his fourth double-double this season.

Rookie DeMarcus Cousins, now the team's active scoring leader (14.0 ppg) finished with eight points on 3-of-14 shooting. The Kings also played without forward Carl Landry, who was held out because he might be sent to New Orleans before Thursday's trading deadline.

"We're involved in some fairly significant discussions so it was pertinent not to play him," coach Paul Westphal said.

Cousins, Dalembert or Jason Thompson might have the difficult task of trying to contain Howard, and the Kings might need all three players to stop the Orlando center, who has averaged 26.3 points and 14.2 rebounds in his last six matchups with Sacramento.

NEWS: Kings roster

Since winning at Phoenix on Feb. 13, the Kings have dropped three in a row on their season-high, seven-game road trip. Following the game with Orlando, they'll stay in the South with matchups against Charlotte on Friday and Memphis on Saturday.

Gameday: Kings go for home-and-home sweep of Blazers sans sharpshooter


Gameday: Kings go for home-and-home sweep of Blazers sans sharpshooter

Rinse and repeat. After shocking the Portland Trail Blazers Friday evening at Golden 1 Center, the Sacramento Kings hopped on a plane where they’ll face the same team on the second night of a home-and-home back-to-back.

Dave Joerger shook up his lineup on Friday, installing De’Aaron Fox and Skal Labissiere for Bogdan Bogdanovic and Willie Cauley-Stein. The Kings responded with their best defensive effort of the season. Cauley-Stein went off for 22 points and 10 rebounds with the second unit and his defensive effort was next level.

The Blazers have become a two-man wrecking crew. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum score the bulk of the team’s points on a nightly basis, but coach Terry Stotts is still searching someone who is ready to step up and help. Jusuf Nurkic is part of the puzzle, but the Blazers need more consistency from the other 12 players on the roster.

Blazers by 12

De’Aaron Fox vs. Damian Lillard -- Fox put on a defensive show against Portland at Golden 1 Center. The rookie came into the league with high-end potential as a two-way player and he showed it against Lillard, holding the All-Star point guard to 29 points, but on 9-of-25 shooting. Lillard loves to hoist up shots. If Fox can't provide the same pressure, the Kings will struggle to keep up with the Blazers.

Kings: 4-11, fifth place in Pacific

Trail Blazers: 8-7, third place in Northwest

Kings: SG Buddy Hield (sprained ankle) out, F Vince Carter (kidney stones) out, PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) out until January.

Trail Blazers: F Al Farouq Aminu (ankle) out, G C.J. Wilcox (knee) out, PG Wade Baldwin (thumb) out.

CONSISTENCY -- You can’t show flashes of brilliance and then take a step back. The Kings defensive effort and overall intensity won the game on Friday night. It’s a place to build from.

FINDING A ROLE -- Joerger shook up everything when he turned to Fox and Labissiere. Offensively, both players struggled, as did Bogdanovic off the bench. This group of young players needs to find a role and figure out a way to help the team, even when the shots aren’t falling.

GET DEFENSIVE -- Portland didn’t know what hit them Friday evening, but they’ll have a few hours to make adjustments. Sacramento’s bigs showed on every high screen and roll. The guard and wing play was aggressive and spot on. The Kings are young and energetic. If they can focus that energy on the defensive end night in and night out, they might have a chance to build something.

Sacramento leads the season series 1-0 after Friday night’s win. The Blazers lead the all-time series 129-78 and they own the Kings during the Sacramento-era 88-47.

"Whether you think the sky is falling or not, we are 3-3 in our last 6 games." - Dave Joerger

Play of Jones, Khudobin this season proof of how fickle goaltending can be


Play of Jones, Khudobin this season proof of how fickle goaltending can be

Martin Jones was a Boston Bruin for less than a week.

The “Original Six” franchise acquired Jones from the Los Angeles Kings on June 26, 2015. Four days later, Jones was traded back into the Pacific Division, this time to Northern California.

The Sharks gave up a first round pick and prospect Sean Kuraly for Jones. It seemed like a fairly high price at the time, but it’s one San Jose was happy to pay: No goalie started more games than Jones over the last two seasons, and the team signed him to a five-year extension this summer.

The first Jones trade in 2015 set off a flood of goalie transactions, as five netminders were traded during Jones’ extremely brief Boston tenure. One of those was Anton Khudobin, who will start for the Bruins as Jones backs up Aaron Dell against  his “former team” on Saturday night.

Khudobin was traded from Carolina to Anaheim, where he started seven games before getting sent down to the AHL. He then signed with Boston in 2016, returning to his former club as the Bruins tried to fill the hole that trading Jones left behind entrenched starter Tuukka Rask.

Jones and Khudobin will have taken vastly different paths to their respective creases on Saturday night. The former enters the game as his club’s undisputed franchise goalie, and the latter the unheralded backup.

Naturally then, Khudobin’s been the better goaltender this season.

Among the 46 goalies that have played 200 five-on-five minutes this season, Khudobin’s .962 five-on-five save percentage was the best entering Saturday, according to Corsica.  So, too, is his .954 save percentage off of high-danger shots.

Jones, meanwhile, ranks 27th (.920) and 14th (.833) in those respective categories.

What does it all mean? For one, it’s early in the season, and the fact that Khudobin’s made seven fewer starts undoubtedly plays a role in his superior performance to Jones.

Mainly, it speaks to just how fickle goaltending can be.

The Bruins backup is arguably getting the nod Saturday night because of how bad the man ahead of him has been. Rask, once one of the league’s best goaltenders, has steadily declined over the last three years and reached a new low this season: This year, he’s 40th out of 46 qualifying goalies in five-on-five save percentage.

Jones has demonstrated this, too. He’s stopped a lower percentage of low-and-medium danger shots at even strength than the last two seasons, but has stopped a higher percentage of high-danger shots.

Plus, he’s played behind one of the league’s best penalty-killing teams after playing behind one of its worst last season, and has benefitted from a corresponding bump in his shorthanded save percentage.

So much of what a goalie does is out of their control. Yet who’s playing in front of them, what kind of shots they see, and how often they see those shots all can affect their performance.

Khudobin and Jones are living proof of that this season.