Kings

Gameday: Still looking for first home win, Kings face a dangerous Thunder team

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AP

Gameday: Still looking for first home win, Kings face a dangerous Thunder team

Home is where the heart is. Unfortunately, it’s not where the wins are. The Sacramento Kings have yet to come out on top on their home floor this season, dropping their first three games at Golden 1 Center. Waiting for them is a struggling, but dangerous Thunder team.

Sacramento is riding a seven-game losing streak, but they seemed unfazed by the skid. George Hill is back with the club after missing Saturday’s loss to the Detroit Pistons due to personal reasons. It’s a young group looking for an identity and hopefully a win.

The “Big Three” of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony average a whopping 61.7 points per game. OKC is posting 104.3 points per game (19th), but they’re holding their opponents to just 97.1 points a night, good enough for second best in the league.

BETTING LINE

Thunder by 10

MATCHUP TO WATCH

De’Aaron Fox vs. Russell Westbrook -- Westbrook was Fox’s favorite player growing up, which is probably not a good thing. The rookie was clear following practice on Monday that it’s just another opponent, but we’ll see. Fresh off an MVP season, Westbrook has taken a backseat to his All-Star cohorts. That won’t last long. Fox won’t get the start, but he’ll be asked to play big minutes against one of the most dominating players in the game.

WHERE THEY STAND

Kings: 1-8, fifth place in Pacific

Thunder: 4-5, fifth place in Northwest

INJURY REPORT

Kings: PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) out.

Thunder: No injuries to report.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

OFFENSE VS. DEFENSE -- OKC is hanging their hats on defense early in the season, allowing just 97.1 points per game. The Kings are a team that rank 29th in scoring and last in 3-point attempts. It’s a recipe for disaster, unless Sacramento had an offensive epiphany during practice on Monday.

DIRTY GLASS -- The Kings are one of the worst rebounding teams in the league, averaging just 39.6 boards per game. Effort is a major issue. So is personnel. If the bigs can’t get the job done, the guards and wings needs to work as a team and clean the glass.   

GROWN MEN -- Dave Joerger was quick to point out on Monday that the Thunder are a group of seasoned adults. Will the kids get out and run or will they allow OKC’s vets to dominate the action?

SERIES HISTORY

OKC won the season series 2-1 last season, including the final two. The Thunder hold a 142-85 all-time lead over the Kings and an 85-49 advantage in the Sacramento-era.

QUOTE

“I’m definitely looking forward to it, but I don’t want to go out there and just be like, ‘that’s Russell Westbrook.’ I’m going out playing another point guard. You know exactly what he can do. He’s extremely explosive. He does everything on the floor. You kind of take a different approach as far as adjustments and game planning, but after that, you just go out there and play basketball.” -De’Aaron Fox on playing Russell Westbrook.

Gameday: Kings open homestand against shorthanded Nuggets

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AP

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.

BETTING LINE

Nuggets by 6

MATCHUP TO WATCH

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.

WHERE THEY STAND

Kings: 4-12, fifth place in Pacific

Nuggets: 9-7, third place in Northwest

INJURY REPORT

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.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

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.

SERIES HISTORY

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.

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

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AP

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.

BETTING LINE:
Blazers by 12

MATCHUP TO WATCH:
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.

WHERE THEY STAND
Kings: 4-11, fifth place in Pacific

Trail Blazers: 8-7, third place in Northwest

INJURY REPORT:
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.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
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.

SERIES HISTORY:
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.

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