Kings

Kings return home looking for fresh start vs. Pacers

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Kings return home looking for fresh start vs. Pacers

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INDIANA (9-3) vs.
KINGS (4-10)7: 00 p.m.
Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel is pleased with his team's defense, but the offense still needs some work.Sacramento Kings coach Keith Smart can relate to those concerns.The Pacers go for a season-high fourth consecutive victory Wednesday night at Sacramento in their only meeting with the Kings in 2011-12.Indiana (9-3) is among the league leaders in scoring defense with 88.9 points per game, field-goal percentage defense at 41.5, steals per game at 9.6 and blocks with 5.7. The stingy play at the defensive end has given Indiana a chance to match its best start since 2004-05 with a win Wednesday.

The Pacers, though, are shooting 41.3 percent and averaging 93.2 points - 96.0 during their winning streak - as the team has struggled to adapt to the increased tempo Vogel is stressing."The total points per game is as much a byproduct of the pace of the game and we're not playing fast enough," he told the Pacers' official website. "Hopefully we'll start getting our scores up into the hundreds but our defense has been very solid. I'm very pleased where we are with that."Coming off a three-day break after a 97-83 victory over Boston on Saturday - the team's longest layoff of the season other than the All-Star break next month - Indiana will play 10 of 14 on the road as it begins a three-game trip.Forward Danny Granger doesn't seem too concerned about where the Pacers play."I think the message is that we're a force to be reckoned with in the East," he said after scoring a team-best 21 points against the Celtics. "It's not one of those fluke things where we just started having a good beginning of the season. We're actually a legitimate contender in the East. We're right there, and we should be recognized as that."Granger scored a season-high 37 in the Pacers' last game in Sacramento, a 107-98 victory Nov. 30, 2010. Among active players with 10 games against the Kings, Granger averages the fifth-most points per game, 23.5.
The Kings (4-10) return home following a 1-4 trip that ended with a 99-86 defeat to Minnesota on Monday.Sacramento, loser of five of six, is scoring 90.1 points per game - 88.3 in seven games since Smart replaced the fired Paul Westphal - and shooting a league-worst 39.6 percent."I've got the simplest offense you can run," said Smart, 2-5 as Kings coach. "You just move it to a spot and move it to the next spot. But for whatever reason we're trying to make the play ourselves with the defense set, looking at the basketball."Guard Tyreke Evans, though, is one Sacramento player having trouble in that offense. He has totaled 12 points and gone 4 of 19 from the field in the last two games."We've got to find a better way to swing the ball a few times and take better shots," Evans said.Indiana has held opponents to 84.0 points and 40.2 percent shooting during its 5-1 stretch.Evans had 16 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in the Pacers' last visit. In his first game back after missing 19 with plantar fasciitis, he finished with six points with eight boards in a 110-93 victory at Indiana on March 25.DeMarcus Cousins scored 19.0 points per game with 11.0 rebounds versus the Pacers in 2010-11, while Indiana center Roy Hibbert totaled 27 points and 13 boards in those matchups.The last five games between these teams in Sacramento have been decided by nine or fewer points, with Indiana winning three.The Associated Press contributed to this report

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.