Kings

Kings look for Tyreke to add some punch

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Kings look for Tyreke to add some punch

(AP) -- The Sacramento Kings and Toronto Raptors have scuffled in recent years as two of the NBA's worst teams. This season looks no different.

Both will look for improved defense as they try to snap slumps Wednesday night, with the Kings hoping to avoid a fourth straight loss while handing the Raptors an eighth in a row on the road.

The clubs are in last place in their respective divisions after going a combined 55-87 last season. Neither team has finished with a winning record in any of the past five seasons.

Both currently rank toward the bottom of the league in points allowed, with Toronto giving up 101.9 per game and Sacramento 100.5.

The Kings (4-12) are fresh off allowing their highest point total of the season in a 116-81 road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday. In suffering the most lopsided defeat in series history between the Pacific Division foes, Sacramento forced just five turnovers and let Los Angeles shoot 54.7 percent.

"It was very frustrating," said Jason Thompson, who had 16 points and 12 rebounds. "They were pretty much getting anything they wanted on the offensive end, and we obviously didn't make it better by not scoring in the beginning. We got ourselves into a hole that we couldn't get out of."

Even as they've struggled, the Kings have usually boasted a potent offense, averaging 99.4 points over the last three seasons. But Sacramento is scoring 93.6 per game this season - its lowest mark since 1997-98.

The Kings' 34 first-half points Saturday were a season low.

"We didn't really come out with any energy," said DeMarcus Cousins, held to eight points and six boards. "And it showed."

The Raptors (4-14) also suffered from a slow start in their last game, falling behind 61-44 in the first half Monday at Denver. They cut the deficit to one with 2:18 left but could not take the lead, losing 113-110 after DeMar DeRozan missed a 3-pointer as time expired.

"We made a commitment in the second half to play defense the whole time," said point guard Kyle Lowry, who scored 12 of his game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter.

"We have to play like we did in the second half in the first 24."

That was the opener of a five-game trip for Toronto, which is 1-10 in road games. The current seven-game slide away from home is the Raptors' longest since dropping their final eight road games of the 2010-11 season.

They're 2-13 all-time in Sacramento, allowing an average of 105.5 points.

The Kings' offense could be tougher for the Raptors to slow down if Tyreke Evans returns. He practiced Monday after sitting out two games with a bruised left knee, and coach Keith Smart told the team's official website he expects Evans to play. He's averaging 20.5 points in four career games against the Raptors, including 29 in a 98-91 win at Toronto on Jan. 11 in the teams' only meeting last season.

Cousins posted 21 points and 19 rebounds in that game, but he has only one double-double in his past nine games after ranking sixth in league last season with 36.

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

Joerger shakes things up, Cauley-Stein responds with big game

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USATSI

Joerger shakes things up, Cauley-Stein responds with big game

SACRAMENTO -- Faced with demotion, you have two options, sulk or come out swinging. Willie Cauley-Stein chose option two Friday evening at Golden 1 Center.

After starting all 14 games to begin the season, Cauley-Stein found himself relegated to the second unit against the Portland Trail Blazers. The 7-footer looked energized by the move and made one play after another as the Kings came away with the 86-82 victory.

“I felt free - period,” Cauley-Stein said following the win. “Both offensively, defensively. I’m quarterbacking on defense. I’m getting to make plays on offense. I just feel liberated. I feel like it’s unlocking.”

The third-year big began the 2017-18 campaign with back-to-back double-doubles, but hadn’t notched double-figures in rebounds since. Over his previous eight games, the Kings’ starting center was averaging just 4.3 boards per game.

Against Portland, Cauley-Stein played sparkling defense, hit 9-of-17 from the floor for a team-high 22 points and hit the glass for 10 boards. He skied above the Blazers bigs for a rebound with 3.4 seconds remaining and his second free throw attempt sealed the win for a Kings team in desperate need of a win.

“Willie’s a hell of a player, obviously,” veteran big Kosta Koufos said. “He’s really athletic, he’s a special talent.”

Koufos and Cauley-Stein made a devastating defensive duo for Sacramento. Both bigs showed on the high pick-and-roll and avoided fouling the Blazers high-powered guards.

“That’s a crazy defensive lineup right there, me and Kosta play really well together,” Cauley-Stein said. “I’ve been waiting for that lineup since we started.”

Damian Lillard scored 29 points, but he shot just 9-of-25 from the field and 5-for-14 from long range. C.J. McCollum knocked down 8-of-15 from the floor, but he missed all four of his 3-point attempts as Sacramento closed out and pressured the shooter all night long.

Cauley-Stein wasn’t the only starter to find himself on the bench to start the game. Dave Joerger turned to a dual point guard backcourt, using De’Aaron Fox and George Hill side-by-side, while bringing rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic in with the second unit.

Playing off the ball for long stretches, Hill responded to the move with 14 points and five assists in 27 minutes. Fox had a quiet offensive night, but his defense on both Lillard and McCollum was inspired.

“We can both attack and he’s a great shooter so that really helps me,” Fox said of Hill. “He’s a mentor on the court. It’s a lot easier to play with him then to watch him play.”

Sacramento held Portland to just 37 percent shooting overall and 28 percent from behind the arc. They pressured the Blazers in the backcourt and slowed the game to screeching halt.

With the win, the Kings snapped their three-game losing streak and improved to 4-11 on the season. They jumped a plane for Portland following the game where they’ll face the same Trail Blazer team Saturday in a rare back-to-back against the same team.

The Kings likely be without the services of shooting guard Buddy Hield, who left the game in the fourth quarter with a sprained right ankle. Hield limped into the locker room on crutches following the victory and the initial indications point to him missing the rematch.