Kings

Kings host Jazz looking for back-to-back wins

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Kings host Jazz looking for back-to-back wins

After a surprising start, the Utah Jazz went into the All-Star break having fallen to last place in the Northwest Division.They'll look to snap a three-game losing streak - and improve their atrocious road record - when they visit the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.Utah opened the season with three losses in its first four games, but impressively won eight of nine to turn things around.However, the Jazz (15-17) fell back under .500 before the break after losing 10 of 13, including three straight heading into the break.

A 100-98 loss at Minnesota on Wednesday was especially discouraging. Paul Millsap scored 25 points - his most in 16 games - but Utah blew a 16-point fourth-quarter lead before losing on Luke Ridnour's buzzer-beater.That loss dropped the Jazz to 3-11 on the road, the worst record among the league's 22 teams currently within three games of a playoff spot.It was the third straight contest they failed to protect a second-half lead. Utah led by 10 in the third quarter against San Antonio before falling 106-102 on Feb. 20, a night after watching a one-point halftime lead in Houston turn into a 16-point loss."It's disheartening to us, but you have to learn through it," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We play well enough to win these games, but we have to learn how to finish. It's real painful now and it should hurt. Coming out of the All-Star break we have to learn our lessons so we don't make these mistakes."The inability to protect leads was hurt by the Jazz's struggles to defend beyond the arc. In the last three games, opponents connected on 31 of 62 shots from 3-point range.Prior to that stretch, the Jazz were third in the league in 3-point defense (31.3 percent).After stumbling into the break, Utah will try to bounce back against the Kings (11-22), who beat Washington 115-107 on Wednesday to snap a six-game losing streak.The victory came in the finale of a six-game road trip. Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans scored 22 points apiece, DeMarcus Cousins had 16 points and 16 rebounds and Sacramento came from 10 down in the second half.Cousins finished the first half strong after opening the season by drawing the ire of former coach Paul Westphal, who was fired in early January.Cousins has averaged 19.9 points and 11.0 rebounds over his last seven games, though he's shot 30.0 percent over his past three.Even with the occasional inconsistency on the court, coach Keith Smart has been pleased with Cousins' improved maturity, citing his willingness to stay on the bench late during the comeback against the Wizards."I was getting ready to put Cousins back in and he said 'Let Chuck Hayes stay in the game,'" Smart said. "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."Evans had a season-high 31 points and nine assists in a 96-93 loss in Utah on Jan. 28. His 24.0 career points per game against the Jazz are his most versus any opponent.Sacramento has dropped four of the past five meetings in the series.

After loss to Nuggets, it's clear Kings need to fix problem on the glass

After loss to Nuggets, it's clear Kings need to fix problem on the glass

SACRAMENTO -- Light in the rear. It’s a term the Sacramento Kings coaching staff has used since the beginning of training camp to describe the bigs on the roster. On Monday night at Golden 1 Center, the team’s lack of strength inside was on full display as the Denver Nuggets crushed them on the glass.

“I think we’re 29th in the league for rebounding, so that’s a little bit of our makeup of how our team is made,” Dave Joerger said following the Kings’ 114-98 loss.

Joerger is close in his assessment, but off by a few spots. His roster ranks 26th in the league in rebounding overall and 28th on the defensive side of the ball. It’s become an achilles heel for a team that has a few glaring weaknesses.

“When Willie (Cauley-Stein) and Kosta (Koufos) aren’t in there to snag every rebound, we have to get in there and help Zach (Randolph) and help Skal (Labissiere),” veteran Garrett Temple said. “Skal’s a little undersized in terms of weight and Z-Bo will put his body on people, but some people might be able to out jump him.”

On a normal night, Temple is right. Randolph and Labissiere struggle to put up big numbers on the glass. But against the Nuggets, it was Koufos and Cauley-Stein that combined to grab nine rebounds in 51 total minutes of action.

Randolph and Labissiere didn’t fair much better, finishing with 10 boards between the two of them in 38 minutes with the starters. Between the Kings’ four bigs, they were out rebounded by the Nuggets bigs by a final of 34-19.

The Nuggets came into the night a top 10 rebounding team overall and the second best offensive rebounding team in the NBA at 11.8 per game.

It’s not just the bigs that struggled to grab boards for Sacramento. Without Buddy Hield, the club’s best rebounding wing, the Kings’ were dominated 49-34 overall in rebounding, including 14-5 on the offensive glass.

“The first shot, it’s a good contest, we did everything right, except get the rebound,” rookie point guard De’Aaron Fox said. “And then they get an open shot off a second chance shot. If we can complete a lot of plays with the rebound, we’ll be okay.”

To Fox’s point, the defensive possession doesn’t end until the rebound is secured. Sacramento was outscored 19-6 on second chance points. In a 16-point game, those numbers loom large.

“Us guards, we know we have to help our bigs,” Fox said. “We know our bigs are athletic. We know they do what they do, at the end of the day, other team’s guards are helping their bigs rebound and their bigs aren’t alone.”

Outside of the four bigs, none of the other seven players to see action had more than three rebounds. It’s an issue that has to be addressed as the Kings move forward.

“There are some instances that really bothered me,” Joerger said. “We had some guys leaking out, standing at half court and that I won’t have.”

The Kings have a day of practice on Tuesday to try and sure up some of their issues. Some of the problems stem from inexperience, but some of the issue comes down to energy and effort.

It doesn’t even get easier on Wednesday. The Los Angeles Lakers rank second in the league in rebounding at 47.5 boards per game. On the plus side, they also give up the 28th most rebounds in the league.

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone suspended for game against Kings

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USATSI

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone suspended for game against Kings

Michael Malone won't be on the sideline when his Nuggets take on his former team on Monday night.

The NBA announced Monday afternoon that Malone has been suspended without pay for the game against the Kings.

The suspension stems from Malone "entering the court, halting play and making contact with a game official" during Denver's game against the Lakers on Sunday. The incident occurred midway through the second quarter.

Malone was hired as head coach of the Kings prior to the 2013-14 season. He was fired just 24 games into the 2014-15 season.

Coverage of the Nuggets and Kings gets underway at 6:30pm on NBC Sports California and streaming on the NBC Sports App.