Kings

Kings prepare for Linsanity at MSG

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Kings prepare for Linsanity at MSG

(APCSN) -- Just five starts into his NBA career, Jeremy Lin may be running out of ways to outdo himself.

Riding high with a burgeoning national following after more late clutch play, Lin leads the surging New York Knicks into the opener of a five-game homestand Wednesday night versus the Sacramento Kings.

Inserted into the starting lineup by coach Mike D'Antoni out of desperation just nine days ago following a career-high 25-point effort off the bench in a win against New Jersey on Feb. 4, Lin has skyrocketed to stardom with his unprecedented play with New York's first unit.
RELATED: West -- No blame for Lin's exit

He has averaged 27.2 points - the highest scoring average for someone starting his first five games since the ABA-NBA merger - and 8.8 assists while shooting 50.0 percent as a starter in helping New York (14-15) grab the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race and extend its current winning streak to six games.

The legend of Linsanity grew again exponentially - his Twitter account now has more than 270,000 followers - in Toronto on Tuesday night, when he hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer with five-tenths of a second to play that capped a game-ending 13-1 run and gave the Knicks a 90-87 victory. The point guard, whose three-point play with 1:05 left tied the game at 87, also had a career-high 11 assists.

"I'm thankful that the coach and my teammates trust me with the ball at the end of the game," he said. "I like having it at the end of the game. I'm just very thankful."

Lin will undoubtedly get a hero's welcome at a raucous Madison Square Garden, likely to be feted by a crowd that has already taken to the Asian-American as one of its own - they have serenaded him with chants of "M-V-P" during his equally meteoric and unlikely rise to national acclaim during this win streak.

RELATED: What they're saying about Lin

Lin's winning shot also overshadowed the return of Amar'e Stoudemire, who had 21 points and nine rebounds after missing four games following the death of his brother. The power forward seemed at ease running pick-and-rolls with Lin, who assisted on five of Stoudemire's baskets.

"I don't know what's going on in New York right now, but Jeremy's playing great," Stoudemire said. "He's playing phenomenal right now, it's amazing to watch him play out there. He's doing a phenomenal job."

The Raptors occasionally flustered Lin by double-teaming him above the top of the key, which contributed to him matching a season high with eight turnovers. While he has recorded at least seven assists in each game during New York's win streak, Lin also has committed six or more turnovers in four of them.

Whether the Kings can do similar things with Marcus Thornton likely to draw Lin defensively is uncertain. Sacramento (10-18) allowed a Chicago team without injured reigning MVP Derrick Rose to shoot 52.4 percent in a 121-115 loss Tuesday night.

The Kings nearly rallied from a 19-point fourth-quarter deficit as Thornton, Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins combined to score 78 points, but were unable to finish the rally as they fell to 3-13 on the road.

"They're a tough team," Evans said. "They play together. They run that high pick-and-roll good with the bigs. They ran it all night on us and got a lot of fouls. That's what killed us."

Sacramento has dropped six of seven on the road but has made the most of its recent trips to New York, winning four straight and six of seven there after dropping 16 of the previous 17.

The Knicks had an easy time in Sacramento on New Year's Eve, rolling to a 114-92 win as rookie Josh Harrellson had 14 points and 12 rebounds in his first NBA start in place of the injured Stoudemire.

In that game, Jeremy Lin registered one rebound, one assist, one steal, two turnovers, and committed four fouls in four minutes of action.

Gameday: Kings visit imploding Suns

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USATI

Gameday: Kings visit imploding Suns

The Sacramento Kings finish their three game road trip Monday in Phoenix. Waiting for them is a team in complete disarray. After dropping the first three games of the season, Phoenix dumped head coach Earl Watson Sunday afternoon and are reportedly in trade talks to deal starting point guard Eric Bledsoe. Jay Triano will act as the interim head coach, but he’s taking over a runaway train.

Sacramento lost to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday evening to drop to 1-2 on the season. De’Aaron Fox and Skal Labissiere came to play, but the rest of the roster struggled with their shot as the Kings finished with just 79 points on 36.5 percent shooting.

The Suns have been outscored by more than 30 points per game in their three contests this season. They have lost games by 48 and 42 points already and almost every player on the roster has underperformed.

BETTING LINE

Kings by 2

WHERE THEY STAND

Kings: 1-2

Suns: 0-3

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Skal Labissiere vs. Marquese Chriss -- Labissiere has been a breath of fresh air early in the season, posting solid numbers across the board as Zach Randolph’s backup. He posted a career-high 32-point, 11-rebound game against Chriss last season, which left a lasting impression. Chriss is off to a slow start, but he has plenty of potential. The Sacramento-native gets up and down the floor and loves the over the top block.

INJURY REPORT

Kings:  SG Bogdan Bogdanovic (right ankle sprain) probable, PF Harry Giles (bi-lateral knee rehab) out.

Suns:  PG Eric Bledsoe (team decision) out, SF Jared Dudley (toe) questionable, PG Brandon Knight (ACL tear) out for the season, G Davon Reed (knee) out, PF Alan Williams (knee) out.

SERIES HISTORY

Sacramento dominated the season-series 3-1 last season, including a 129-104 win over the Suns in the finale. Phoenix leads the all-time series 131-90 and they hold an 84-51 advantage during the Sacramento-era.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

BOGDAN’S DEBUT -- The Kings have used the cautious approach to Bogdan Bogdanovic’s ankle injury. He’s played a ton of basketball between league play and EuroBasket overseas and there is no reason to rush him into action. He’ll likely suit up to play Monday against the team that drafted him in the 2014 NBA Draft. Expect to see lots of the 25-year-old Serbian over the next few months. Word around the team is that he is one of the best players on the squad.

MORE FOX -- Sacramento hit a homerun with the addition of De’Aaron Fox on draft night. The rookie has put on a show in his first three games and is pushing coach Dave Joerger for more playing time. The Kings have plenty of guards and wings, but there hasn’t been a player that can stay in front of Fox.

REBOUND FROM A STINKER -- The Kings couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat against the Nuggets. Playing at elevation is tough, but scoring 79 points is unacceptable. Sacramento has a chance to improve to 2-2 on the season in Phoenix before returning home to face DeMarcus Cousins. A 2-1 road trip would go a long ways towards building the confidence of a young squad.

QUOTABLE

“Whatever coach wants me to do, that’s what I’m going to do out there. I’m just going to go out there and play hard and help this team get a win.” --Skal Labissiere

Report: After starting 0-3, Suns fire head coach Watson on eve of Kings game

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USATSI

Report: After starting 0-3, Suns fire head coach Watson on eve of Kings game

Drama. The Sacramento Kings have done their best to avoid the non-basketball related issues that often come with the NBA game, but they’ll walk into someone else’s firestorm Monday night in Phoenix.

The Suns have fired head coach Earl Watson just three games into the 2017-18 season, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Phoenix has dropped all three contests, including a 48-point loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on opening night and a 42-point defeat at the hands of the Clippers on Saturday.

Before the firing, veteran point guard tweeted out a message that has since gone viral.

Whether Bledsoe was referring to Watson or his impending release is unknown at this time. 

Watson leaves with a 33-85 record in parts of three seasons with the Suns. He took over for Jeff Hornacek midway through the 2015-16 season. According to Wojnarowski, Suns ownership and management is currently meeting with the team’s assistant coaches and Jay Triano is likely to be named interim head coach.