Kings

Kings set sights on Warriors, Bay Area bragging rights

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Kings set sights on Warriors, Bay Area bragging rights

The Golden State Warriors got the job done in their first home game in more than two weeks.

A stop in Sacramento could produce similar results.

Off to their best start in 21 years, the Warriors will try to win for the 15th time in 19 games Wednesday night against the lowly Kings.

Playing in Oakland for the first time in 15 days, Golden State (17-8) held off Western Conference-worst New Orleans on Tuesday with a 103-96 victory. The Warriors closed on an 11-4 run in their first game back from a 6-1 stretch against the East - their first trip with that many victories.

"One of the hardest games in the NBA to play is your first game back at home after a road trip," forward David Lee said after scoring 26 points with nine rebounds. "I've been through too much losing to be disappointed in a win."

The Warriors, off to their best start since the 1991-92 team opened 21-8, will now try to improve their 10-5 road record and avoid a sweep in California's capital. Going for its first 3-0 road start since 1994-95 - and trying to spoil Sacramento's home opener - Golden State lost 94-92 on Nov. 5.

The Kings (7-17) were able to avoid an 0-4 start with that victory, but they're riding a season high-tying five-game skid into this contest.

Sacramento has lost by at least 10 points each time during that stretch following Monday's 101-90 defeat at Phoenix. The Kings led by as many as 19.

"I thought this was a night to steal one on the road after a game last night (a 122-97 home loss to Denver)," Sacramento coach Keith Smart said. "I thought they did everything the right way up until things started to go haywire in the second half."

The third quarter has been especially troublesome in the last two games as the Kings have been outscored by an average of 14.5 points.

"It's kind of disheartening," point guard Aaron Brooks said Monday after the Suns went on a 26-4 run that started late in the first half.

Another concern for Sacramento is the health of Tyreke Evans, who has missed six of the last 10 games with a pair of different knee injuries. It's uncertain if he'll return after sitting out Monday's contest.

The Kings, though, should have guard Marcus Thornton back after he was away from the team for four games to be with his ill mother in Louisiana.

Thornton had 16 points in the Nov. 5 victory while Evans shot 1 of 9 to finish with three points.

Whoever is in Sacramento's backcourt could have their hands full with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who lead all NBA duos with 129 3-pointers.

Thompson hit three 3s and scored a team-high 22 points against the Kings last month, while Curry hit two from long range and finished with 12 and eight assists. Curry missed a 3-point attempt as time expired as Golden State lost for the seventh time in 10 trips to Sacramento.

Lee, who had 20 points and a season-low six rebounds in that contest, will try to start a new double-double streak after he just missed his eighth straight Tuesday. He did, however, finish with at least 20 points for a ninth consecutive game.

Kings center DeMarcus Cousins could set a career high with a fifth consecutive double-double at home. Cousins has averaged 22.8 points and 16.3 rebounds in his last four in this series after finishing with 23 and 15 last month.

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.