Kings

Kings stumble after underestimating, disrespecting depleted Heat

Kings stumble after underestimating, disrespecting depleted Heat

SACRAMENTO -- Two teams playing on a second night of a back-to-back walked into Golden 1 Center Wednesday night. One team was playing to strengthen their playoff position after a huge win the night before. The other team was an undermanned 10-win team struggling to field an 8-man rotation.  

“A team that’s so decimated by injuries, I think we underestimated them,” veteran Garrett Temple said. “They got a lot of easy early on - a lot of easy 3’s. And when you give give a team hope, they are NBA players and they can play the game.”

The Sacramento Kings are running out of excuses for why they play down to their competition. The stunning 107-102 loss to the Miami Heat Wednesday was just another in a long list of winnable games this season that Sacramento let slip through its fingers.

What’s worse is that the Kings made a tremendous run, like they usually do. This time it was solely on the back of their second unit, who used a 19-0 run to erase a 19-point third quarter deficit. They even took a lead in the fourth quarter and then Dave Joerger turned back to a group of starters that had struggled mightily all night long.

With 8:23 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Kings leading 91-89, Joerger inserted DeMarcus Cousins and Matt Barnes into the game for Kosta Koufos and Anthony Tolliver. Four minutes later, Sacramento’s momentum was gone and they trailed 98-93.

Coach Dave Joerger gave his take during the post game interview.

“Fatigue, guys were out of gas - second night of a back-to-back,” Joerger said as to why he made the switch.

Whatever magic the Kings had captured quickly dissipated. It’s not an indictment on Cousins or Barnes, more on the flow of the game. Something was working and then it was gone.

Cousins was in no mood to talk to the media following the loss and neither were most of his teammates.

“No excuses,” Cousins said when asked whether fatigue played a role in the loss.

Temple took it a step further, completely destroying the notion that fatigue played a role.

“That’s B.S., if there was no camera, I’d use the whole word,” Temple said when asked about Joerger’s fatigue comment. “They were off a back-to-back as well. There was nothing about fatigue. Nobody plays 38 minutes a game on this team.”

“I don’t think we respected them early on and let them get hot and then it became a game,” Temple added.

A straight shooter, Temple played a huge role in the comeback. He finished the night with 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting and grabbed three steals in 31 minutes off the bench. He was part of a group that energized the team both in the first half and second half after sluggish starts by the first team.

“I’m very disappointed, the most disappointed I’ve been this season,” Temple said. “This is a game we have to win. After a big game in Denver to get that eight seed and then come in here against a decimated Miami Heat team that’s coming on a back-to-back as well - so that’s no excuse. This is a game we have to get. We’ve just got to get it. We can’t lose games like this. I just hope it doesn’t come back to bite us.”

Ty Lawson was a spark plug off the bench as well, scoring 15 points and handing out six assists in 29 minutes. Arron Afflalo had another solid game with the second group, scoring 15 points on 3-of-3 shooting from downtown. Tolliver chipped in 14 on 5-for-6 shooting.

The second unit scored a season-high 61 points and it could have been more.

With the loss, Sacramento fell to 15-20 on the season and wasted a valuable opportunity to go up two games on the Portland Trail Blazers, who lost to the Golden State Warriors.

The Kings return to the court Friday evening to face another injury depleted team in the Los Angeles Clippers before the schedule gets dramatically more difficult.

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.