Instant Replay: Kings fade in fourth, drought in Atlanta continues

Instant Replay: Kings fade in fourth, drought in Atlanta continues


The Kings can’t win in Atlanta. Sacramento fought the good fight Monday night at Philips Arena, but they haven’t come away with a victory in Georgia since 2006. Despite a gritty effort, the Kings couldn’t overcome massive foul trouble, falling to the Hawks by a final of 106-95.

For one of the few times in recent memory, Dwight Howard got the best of DeMarcus Cousins. If Howard could shoot free throws, he would have had a monster night. He still managed to hit the Kings for 18 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks, but his 8-of-20 shooting from the line was abysmal.  

Howard led a group of six players to score in double-figures for Atlanta. In addition to Howard, the Kings gave sharpshooter Kyle Korver enough space to operate and he burned them for 17 points on 5-of-8 shooting from long range.

Rudy Gay continued his spectacular early-season play, fighting through foul trouble for a game-high 22 points on 8-for-13 shooting. But it wasn’t enough to slow the balanced Hawks attack.

Cousins managed to score a 14-point, 12-rebound double-double to pass Chris Webber (245) for the most double-doubles in Sacramento-era Kings history.

Ben McLemore looks like a different player through four games. The 23-year-old shooting guard provided a spark off the bench, dropping in 12 points in 25 minutes with the second unit.

Matt Barnes stuffed the stat sheet again with 15 points, three assists and five rebounds. Garrett Temple continues to provide support at the lead guard position. The veteran guard chipped in nine points and three assists in 24 minutes.

STANDOUT PERFORMER -- Gay is ready to play. When the Kings came out flat, the veteran wing kept it close, scoring 9 of the team’s first 13 points. In the third quarter he schooled defensive-minded Kent Bazemore and dunked all over Paul Millsap. Gay struggled with foul trouble, but he is playing at an elite level through four games.

TURNING POINT -- With the Kings stars on the bench, the Hawks jumped all over Sacramento at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth. Their 11-0 run put distance between them and the Kings while Cousins and Gay watched from the bench with five fouls each.

INJURY UPDATE -- The Kings continue to stay healthy as they trudge through their early season schedule.

WHAT'S NEXT -- Sacramento continues their five game road trip out East Tuesday night in Miami. They have stops in Orlando, Milwaukee and Toronto before heading home to take on the Memphis Grizzlies on Nov. 8.

Joerger faces tough decision with Bogdanovic out vs Pistons


Joerger faces tough decision with Bogdanovic out vs Pistons

SACRAMENTO -- It’s time for some home cooking. The Sacramento Kings open a six-game homestand Monday night at Golden 1 Center. They’ll host a struggling Detroit Pistons team that has lost three straight and seven of their last eight.

The Kings battled the Utah Jazz all the way down the wire Saturday evening at Vivint Smart Home Arena, before falling in the final minute. Buddy Hield put up 20-plus points for his third straight game to lead Sacramento.

Detroit looked like a playoff team for much of the season and then the wheels fell off their bus. They have plenty of talent, but so far, they are struggling to find chemistry since acquiring All-Star Blake Griffin at the deadline.

Pistons by 3.5

Skal Labissiere vs. Blake Griffin -- The Kings have struggled to contain Griffin throughout his career. Whether he starts or not, second-year big Skal Labissiere is likely to see plenty of time against the high-scoring power forward. Labissiere is averaging 11.6 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 27 minutes a game in March. He needs to move his feet and avoid foul trouble against Griffin.

Kings: 23-48, fourth place in Pacific

Pistons: 30-39, fourth place in Central

Kings: SG Bogdan Bogdanovic (left hamstring soreness) out, SG/SF Iman Shumpert (knee rehab/plantar fasciitis) out, PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) out for the season.

Pistons: PG Reggie Jackson (ankle) out, PF Jon Leuer (ankle) out.

Decisions, Decisions -- With Bogdanovic out for the evening, Dave Joerger has a tough choice to make. Does he elevate Hield into the starting lineup and disrupt his bench unit? Or does he start veteran Garrett Temple alongside De’Aaron Fox. Hield has earned a look with the starters, but he’s on fire with the second team.

Keep Fighting -- Plenty of fans want the Kings to lay down and preserve their spot in the NBA’s Draft Lottery. The Kings are trying to build a winning culture around a group of young players. They are developing an identity as the season heads towards its conclusion and there is no reason to let up.

Shoot the 3-ball -- The Kings trail only the Golden State Warriors in 3-point percentage. They hit 14-of-21 from behind the arc against the Jazz, but that’s not enough. The goal should be 30 threes per game from here on out. The team has the shooters, they just need to hoist it up more often.

The Pistons lead the season series 1-0 and are looking for the sweep. Detroit holds a 134-119 advantage over the Kings all-time and a 37-26 edge during the Sacramento-era.

Buddy Hield is evolving, playing the best basketball of his career

Buddy Hield is evolving, playing the best basketball of his career

Take your tank emojis and throw them out the window. The Sacramento Kings are young, inexperienced and every once in a while, they throw up a complete dud. They are also scrappy and talented and improving with every game.

Saturday evening in Utah, they gave one of the hottest teams in the NBA 48 minutes of fight. In fact, they’ve been going to toe-to-toe with some of the game’s best and holding their own for a while now.

After playing Friday night at Golden State, the Kings made the late night flight to Utah to play on the second night of a back-to-back. With the quick turnaround, Dave Joerger turned to a starting lineup void of veterans. Garrett Temple and Kosta Koufos each saw time off the bench, but the first team was comprised of three rookies, a second-year player and third-year big Willie Cauley-Stein.

The future was on full display and the group had every opportunity to come away with their third straight victory. In the end, it wasn’t enough. 

The Jazz made free throws and got stops in the final 60 seconds to pull out a 103-97 win over the Kings. It was another learning experience for Sacramento in a season filled with learning experiences.

As the season winds down, the goal is to find silver linings in each contest. Despite playing their fifth game in seven nights, the Kings fought through the exhaustion against a team that has won nine straight and 21 of their previous 23 games. 

De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic are the backcourt of the present and the future in Sacramento. They’ve stolen the headlines with clutch shots over the last few games, but there is another young King putting in some of his best work.

Buddy Hield has come alive for Sacramento. The second-year shooting guard out of Oklahoma is playing the best basketball of his career down the stretch for the Kings and it goes well beyond his ability to knock down a jumper.

For the third straight game, Hield posted 20 points or more. He finished the night with a team-high 23 on 9-of-15 shooting from the field and 5-of-8 from behind the arc. That is what Buddy Buckets is paid to do - score baskets. But over the last few contests, Hield is finding ways to make his teammates better. 

In 34 of his 68 games coming into Saturday evening’s contest, Hield had dished out one assist or less, including 17 games without handing out a single dime. That’s not going to work in today’s NBA. 

His assist percentage of 11.6 is seventh lowest on the team, behind players like Cauley-Stein and veteran big man Zach Randolph and it’s the lowest amongst the Kings’ guards by far. 

While it’s a small sample size, Hield appears to be making strides in this area. He has been noticeably more generous with the ball, handing out 16 assists in his last three games. He’s led the Kings in assists in the last two games and the second unit is feeding off his team play. 

Sharing is caring in the NBA. With Hield acting as a distributor, his teammates are reciprocating. He’s getting open looks from the perimeter and over his last three games, he’s knocked down 12-of-25 from behind the arc. 

Led by Hield, the Kings’ bench has outscored the team’s last three opponents second unit by an incredible 163-54. The performance of the bench mob has helped Sacramento pick up wins over playoff teams in the Miami Heat and the Golden State Warriors and they kept the Kings in the game against Utah all the way down the stretch. 

The Kings’ young core is developing. They are showing massive signs of improvement at almost every position. The team is playing hard and they’re developing an identity. They are even picking up a few wins along the way.