Gameday: Kings open homestand against shorthanded Nuggets


Gameday: Kings open homestand against shorthanded Nuggets

SACRAMENTO -- Home cooking. For the first time this season, the Sacramento Kings will play three straight games at Golden 1 Center, beginning Monday evening against the Denver Nuggets. In a scheduling anomaly, the Kings have already played three three-game road trips and 10 of their first 16 games away from home.

Denver is coming off a 127-109 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. They’ll take on a young Kings team on the second night of a back-to-back and they’ll have to do so without both of their starting forwards.

Expect plenty of small ball, three guard sets as the Nuggets try to turn up the pace and run the Kings off the floor.


Nuggets by 6


Willie Cauley-Stein vs. Nikola Jokic -- Since being relegated to the bench two games ago, Cauley-Stein has become a monster. He’s posted 20 points and 9.5 rebounds over his last two outings and seems to have found himself with the second team. After a slow start to the season, the Joker has found his game. He’s posting 15.6 points, 11.3 rebounds and a team-high 4.5 assists. Jokic is one of the best passing bigs in the NBA and he’s knocking down 41.5 percent of his three-balls.


Kings: 4-12, fifth place in Pacific

Nuggets: 9-7, 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.

Nuggets: SF Wilson Chandler (low back) out, PF Paul Millsap (left wrist) out.


FINDING THE BOTTOM OF THE NET -- While Cauley-Stein has flourished with the reserves, Skal Labissiere has fallen on hard times with the starters. The second-year big has taken plenty of high quality shots, they just don’t want to settle in. He’s too talented of a player to continue missing shots, but over his first two starts, he’s hit on just 1-of-15 from the field and scored three total points. The Kings could use a breakout performance from their starting power forward.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR OPPORTUNITY -- Frank Mason has played roughly 21 minutes per night since Dave Joerger shook up his lineup last Friday. He’s done a nice job of holding down the reserve point guard minutes while George Hill has shifted to the shooting guard spot. The Kings need their rookie to continue to grow into his role and supply leadership with the second unit.

CONTINUE TO BUILD ON THE DEFENSIVE END -- For stretches over the last two games, the Kings have looked like a defensive juggernaut. They are long, quick and athletic. They need to find a way to hit shots to stay in ball games, but the effort has been there, especially on the defensive end.


Denver leads the season series 1-0 after an early season win at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets hold a slim lead the all-time series 89-88, but the Kings are up 65-64 during the Sacramento-era.

Fatigue a factor as Kings fall to Raptors


Fatigue a factor as Kings fall to Raptors

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings are young and energetic, but they are still learning how to play a full 48 minutes. Against a veteran team like the Raptors, that’s not going to work.

The Kings came out of the gate slow, allowing the Raptors to score the first 13 points of the afternoon. After the second unit fought their way back into the game to take a 29-28 lead, Sacramento once again let up, falling behind 54-48 at the half.

Sacramento made runs at Toronto, but they never got closer that seven points in the fourth quarter as the Raptors pulled away for the 102-87 victory.

There are plenty of reasons for the team’s inconsistent effort. It doesn’t matter who Dave Joerger drops into the starting lineup, they tend to flounder.

De’Aaron Fox started alongside Bogdan Bogdanovic in the backcourt and struggled against veteran Kyle Lowry. The rookie began the game 0-for-4 before hitting 3-of-4 in the fourth quarter. In addition to the shooting woes, Fox turned the ball over a career-high seven times, including six in the first half.

“It’s frustrating - we all have those games, but (we) just have to get back into practice, focus on taking care of the ball and just look forward to playing Phoenix the next game,” Fox said.

Joerger pointed to the Kings’ heavy travel schedule early as a possible culprit for the sloppy ball handling.

“Sometimes that can be general fatigue,” Joerger said. “You know, traveling around, flying around, playing a bunch of games and you’re only [a] 19-year-old.”

Fellow rookie point guard Frank Mason III struggled as well. Mason didn’t turn the ball over, but he shot just 1-of-10 from the field to finish the afternoon with six points and three assists.

Buddy Hield has been electric for Sacramento since moving to the second unit. He started the game hot, hitting his first six shots. But when the Raptors tightened up the defense, Hield not only missed shots, but he made mistakes.

Hield finished the night 7-of-13 from the field, but he turned the ball over six times as he forced the action.

It was a learning experience for the young Kings. The Raptors have posted 48 wins or more four straight seasons. They currently sit in third place in the Eastern Conference and there is little doubt that they’ll make a fifth straight playoff appearance.

Lowry, along with fellow veterans DeMar DeRozan and Serge Ibaka combined to score 60 of the Raptors 102 points. When they needed a shot to put the Kings away, they got it.

With the loss, Sacramento dropped to 8-18 on the season. They’ll return to Golden 1 Center Tuesday to face the Phoenix Suns and it sounds like they should have Willie Cauley-Stein back after the big man missed the previous three games with a lower back strain.


Gameday: Kings look to keep impressive streak against Raptors going


Gameday: Kings look to keep impressive streak against Raptors going

For a young team like the Sacramento Kings, a 2-2 road trip is a huge success. An overtime victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday has the Kings at 7-9 over their last 16 games, which is a big improvement over their 1-8 start to the season. They’ll host another quality playoff team in the Toronto Raptors for a Sunday matinee.

Zach Randolph is earning his $12.5 million this season. The 36-year-old big matched DeMarcus Cousins blow-for-blow in New Orleans, finishing with a season-high 35 points. He’s averaging 25 points and almost 11 rebounds per game over his previous four games. Dave Joerger received plenty of help from the young core, but without Z-Bo, the Kings would be stuck in reverse.

Toronto is in game two of a four-game road trip. They’ve won five straight and nine of their previous 11. Guards DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry continue to pace a Raptors team that currently sits in second place in the Eastern Conference.

Raptors by 7

Garrett Temple vs. DeMar DeRozan -- Temple usually guards the toughest perimeter scorer for Sacramento and he’ll face a high-end wing on Sunday. DeRozan’s scoring is down nearly four points per game from his career-best 27.3 last seasons. He’s not a great 3-point shooter, but he can take you off the dribble and he lives in the mid-range. If Temple can limit DeRozan, the Kings have a shot to make it five in a row against the Raptors.  

Kings: 8-17, fifth place in Pacific

Raptors: 16-7, second place in Atlantic

Kings: G George Hill (personal reasons( is out, C Willie Cauley-Stein (lower back strain) status unknown, PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) out until January. Justin Jackson, Malachi Richardson and Skal Labissiere were recalled from the Reno Bighorns on Saturday.

Raptors: C Lucas Nogueira (calf) out, G Delon Wright (shoulder) out.

The Kings swept the season series over the Raptors last season and have a four-game win streak against the perennial playoff contender. Sacramento holds a 26-15 lead in the all-time series between these two clubs.  

Labissiere a Changed Man? -- The Kings shocked everyone when they sent Skal Labissiere to the Reno Bighorns earlier this week. The second-year big took the demotion in stride, averaging 28 points, 15.5 rebounds, five blocks and two assists in 35 minutes a night against G-League team competition. Sacramento is hoping the 21-year-old found some confidence with extended minutes.    

Give Z-Bo a Break -- At 36, Randolph is showing no signs of slowing on the offensive end. But if the Kings’ fleet of bigs don’t find a way to step up, the 17-year NBA veteran is going to wear down over time. A healthy Willie Cauley-Stein would help, but Labissiere and Kosta Koufos have the ability to take some of the pressure off as well.

More Frank Mason III -- Sacramento’s second-round pick is putting on a show since earning rotational minutes. Mason’s scored in double-figures in three straight and seven of his last 10 games. Joerger let him finish the overtime win in New Orleans and he made some of the biggest plays of the game.


“Where we’re from, bullies get bullied. In my hood, bullies get bullied.” -Zach Randolph to DeMarcus Cousins in the Kings’ overtime win over the Pelicans