Kings

Kings dominate Wizards in 4th, snap losing streak

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Kings dominate Wizards in 4th, snap losing streak

BOX SCORE
WASHINGTON (AP) -- With the pace off the charts and players driving to the basket at will, the first half of Wednesday night's game between the Sacramento Kings and Washington Wizards looked like an All-Star game preview - minus the All-Stars.Then a few things happened that weren't All-Star-like at all: The Kings started playing some defense, DeMarcus Cousins made the unselfish decision to keep himself on the bench, and the coach of the losing team angrily ripped his players for pursuing "style over substance."Cousins and Tyreke Evans sat the entire fourth quarter while Marcus Thornton, rookie Isaiah Thomas and Chuck Hayes took over, leading Sacramento to a 115-107 win that snapped a six-game losing streak."I was getting ready to put Cousins back in," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "And he said Let Chuck Hayes stay in the game.' That's gigantic for him. Tyreke Evans had a fabulous first half, came out of the game, didn't play in the fourth quarter and simply cheered his teammates on."That's the growth I'm trying for our team to have if we're ever going to have a chance to be good and turn our franchise around."It made for an interesting set of numbers as the game progressed. Evans scored 20 of his 22 points in the first half, and Cousins had 14 of his 16 before halftime as well as 10 of his 16 rebounds. Meanwhile, Thornton scored 18 of his 22 in the second half, and Thomas had 16 of his 18 in the final two quarters. Hayes finished with six points - all in the final 6 12 minutes."Chuck was doing an incredible job out there on the floor," Cousins said. "The group that was out there was going well, so there was no need for me to go in and change it."Right now, it's hard to imagine such examples of team play coming from the Wizards, who made 6-of-16 shots in the fourth quarter. Washington has lost four straight and enters the All-Star break 19 games under .500."Until our team is committed to playing winning basketball - until they're committed to doing that - we're going to be like this team was tonight," coach Randy Wittman said. "There wasn't anything done in that second half to win that game."I know the term has been used - style over substance. We got a guy going in for a layup and does a reverse 360 and misses the whole thing. Crowd oohed and aahed. We didn't get any points out of it. Until we're committed to making winning basketball plays the whole game, it's going to look like that."He kept going, referencing the Wizards' 14 second-half turnovers."Why did we have those turnovers? When I'm double-teamed, I continue to try to do something against the double team," Wittman said. "You're going to turn it over, plain and simple."The player guilty of the failed 360 move was Nick Young, who was 6 of 23 and scored 17 points."I was the only one who did it. I did that in the past. If I make it, everybody's on my side," Young said. "If I miss it, then it's a bad shot. ... I didn't know I had that many shots. I was just trying to get things going for my teammates. They brought me here for that and that's one of the parts of my game."Jordan Crawford scored a season-high 32 points, and John Wall had 21 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds for the Wizards."In that second half, we became selfish and didn't play team defense," Wall said, "and they picked us apart."The Kings said pretty much the same thing about themselves in the first half as the Wizards piled up 68 points at halftime, the most Washington has scored in any half this season. Neither of these losing teams will have a player in the All-Star game in Orlando on Sunday - the only representatives will be former Kentucky teammates Cousins and Wall in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday - but that didn't keep both sides from getting in the spirit of fast-paced runs that met little resistance."There was no defense out there," Cousins said. "It was terrible."The game included 58 fast break points and 102 points in the paint. The Kings led 104-103 with 3:44 to play, but Thomas scored the next basket to start a game-ending 11-4 run as Sacramento matched its highest point total of the season.Thomas made 8 of his last 12 shots and has scored 78 points since taking the starting point guard spot four games ago, tying Otis Birdsong (1977) for the most points scored by a Kings rookie in his first four starts.The win also gave the Kings an upbeat ending to their six-game road trip."It was important for us to get a win and go home over this break," Smart said, "and not have to come back with all the world on our shoulders."Notes: In this lockout-shortened season, both the Kings (11-22) and Wizards (7-26) hit the break exactly halfway through their 66-game respective schedules. Sacramento improved to 4-17 on the road; Washington fell to 4-13 at home. ... The Wizards had won six in a row at home against the Kings. ... Washington F Jan Vesely was not on the bench at the start of the game because of a stomach virus, but he played in the second half. ... Sacramento F-G John Salmons missed his second straight game with a sore right hip. ... Players have been known to check out mentally in the final game before the All-Star vacation, and both coaches addressed it before the game. "I've been around it when I look in the tunnel and the limos are already there - ready to go to the next spot," Smart said.

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