Kings

Kings walk into chaos in Phoenix, leave with stinging loss

Kings walk into chaos in Phoenix, leave with stinging loss

Chaos, unpredictable, dangerous. The Sacramento Kings walked into someone else's mess Monday night in Phoenix. A Suns team on the rocks and in complete disarray after firing their head coach three games into the season. They were also a team without their best player in Eric Bledsoe, who either wanted to get out of a hair salon or publicly threw the franchise under the bus Sunday afternoon on social media.

It looked like the easiest W in the history of the league, but no game was ever won or lost on paper.

Phoenix came out like a team possessed. Whatever ailed the struggling franchise behind the scenes vanished once the ball was in the air. The Suns shot a blistering 70 percent in the first quarter as the Kings looked stunned and slow to react.

Matchups were part of the problem. Marquese Chriss has young legs and he ran circles around veteran Zach Randolph as the Suns pushed their lead to 22 points in the first quarter.

Sacramento responded in the second, riding the reserves to cut into Phoenix’s lead. Driven by a pair of rookie guards in De'Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic, the Kings matched the Suns’ intensity, cutting the lead to 59-51 going to the intermission.

Dave Joerger turned to the same group of starters to open the second half and found identical results. Chriss continued his strong play against Randolph and George Hill couldn’t find a rhythm.

Looking at plus/minus is usually reserved for a much larger sample size, but the Kings’ starters were each in the negative. Rookie Justin Jackson posted a -20 for the game to lead the way and Randolph finished with a -19. Buddy Hield got things going in the third quarter, allowing his defense to lead to offense, but he still finished the night with a -18. Hill (-16) and Willie Cauley-Stein (-8) also finished on the wrong side of the ledger.

Small sample size or not, the numbers show one thing - the Sacramento Kings were a better team on Monday with Fox, Bogdanovic, Garrett Temple, Skal Labissiere and Kosta Koufos on the floor.

Making his NBA debut, Bogdanovic came out on fire, scoring all 12 of his points in the first half. The Serbian wing was drafted by the Suns in 2014, but stayed in Europe until this summer.

Bogdanovic and Fox paired up nicely, giving Kings fans a glimpse into what the future might hold. They battled to keep the team from getting blown out and down the stretch, they, along with bursts from Labissiere and the hot shooting of Temple, almost had enough to complete the comeback.

Despite trailing by nine going into the fourth, Sacramento kept attacking the shaky Suns. Temple hit 5-of-7 from long range in the fourth quarter alone, scoring 16 of his game-high 23 in the final 12 minutes.

The veteran wing missed a free throw and a chance to tie the game with 10.1 seconds remaining on the clock and his 26-foot buzzer beater was just off the mark.

Night in and night out, Joerger is going to have to make difficult decisions. Some nights Randolph and Hill will lead the team and be relied on to finish close games. Other nights it will be some amalgamation of veterans and youth that find synergy on the court.

For one evening, the Kings are the team that lost to an embattled Suns team on the ropes. The final score won’t matter. The fact that Sacramento is running out their own experimental roster won’t matter. A loss is a loss.

Gameday: Kings try to snap skid on first night of Blazers back-to-back

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AP

Gameday: Kings try to snap skid on first night of Blazers back-to-back

SACRAMENTO -- Coming off one of the worst performances in franchise history, the Kings return to Golden 1 Center to host the Portland Trail Blazers in the first game of a home-and-home on back-to-back nights. They’ll try to get their offense flowing against a quality Portland team with a pair of star guards.

Sacramento’s 46-point loss to the lowly Hawks set a new low point in the season. The Kings lacked effort and intensity against an Atlanta team that came into the game at just 2-11 on the season. They’ll need a better effort against the Blazers or the outcome could get worse.

Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum anchor a quality Portland team, but big man Jusuf Nurkic is the straw that stirs the Blazers drink. He can pound you inside, find the open man and block shots at will. Willie Cauley-Stein and the Kings frontline will have their hands full with Portland’s versatile and physical center.

BETTING LINE

Blazers by 7

KEY MATCHUP

Garrett Temple vs. C.J. McCollum -- Damian Lillard gets all the publicity, but McCollum is a star in his own right. Sacramento passed on the sharpshooter during the 2013 NBA Draft, choosing Ben McLemore instead. It was a huge mistake as McCollum developed into one of the premier shooters in the league. Barring a major change in the lineup, Temple gets the start at the two. He’ll have his hands full with a player averaging 22.5 points per game on league-best 53.1 percent shooting from long range.  

WHERE THEY STAND

Kings: 3-11, fifth place in Pacific

Trail Blazers: 8-6, second place in Northwest

INJURY REPORT

Kings: F Vince Carter (kidney stones) out, PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) out until January.

Trail Blazers: F Al Farouq Aminu (ankle) out, C Meyers Leonard (ankle) questionable, G C.J. Wilcox (knee) out, PG Wade Baldwin (thumb) out.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

PRIDE -- After losing three straight on the road by a combined 91 points, the Sacramento Kings have to show some pride on their home court. They aren’t as talented or experienced as the Blazers, but losing by 46 points is completely unacceptable by any standard.

CHANGING THE LINEUP -- The current starting five of Hill, Temple, Bogdanovic, Randolph and Cauley-Stein isn’t working. This group has fallen behind in almost every game they’ve been on the floor together and at some point, Joerger has to make move. Who starts and who sits is always up for debate, but the time for running the same five out there and expecting something different is long gone.

TOO NICE -- During their current losing streak the Kings roster has almost been congenial to their opponents. Nurkic is a player that has no problem sending a high elbow to the nose of his opponent and that’s the way the game should be played. It’s time for the Mr. Nice Guy act to go away and for the Kings players to show they can hang when the game gets physical.

SERIES HISTORY

Portland won the season series 2-1 last year, which each team holding home court. The Blazers lead the all-time series 129-77 and they own the Kings during the Sacramento-era 88-46.

QUOTE

“It’s not just going to happen over night. As long as we all keep working, which we’ve been doing. We’ve had some really good practices, coaching has been really good. It’s going to take time, that’s what it is right now.” -Skal Labissiere on the team’s current struggles

Kings hit new low, issue apology to fans: 'We’re out there playing like crap'

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USATSI

Kings hit new low, issue apology to fans: 'We’re out there playing like crap'

No excuses, from top to bottom, the Sacramento Kings have to be better. After a three-game eastern swing that included blowout losses in New York, Washington and Atlanta by a combined 91 points, the Kings have hit a new low.

“We owe Sacramento, our fans, better than what we’re showing them, like tonight,” veteran point guard George Hill said following the team’s 46 point loss to the Hawks on Wednesday evening.

The Kings couldn’t buy a basket against Atlanta, shooting just 35.2 percent from the field. Poor offense led to even worse defense. Atlanta destroyed Sacramento in the pick-and-roll, turning journeyman Dewayne Dedmon into an All-NBA first teamer for one evening.

Dedmon is no Kristaps Porzingis. But for one night, the 28-year-old center who averages 4.7 points for his career, went off for 20 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals in just 23 minutes of action.  

“Losing is one thing, but we’ve got to do a better job of competing,” a clearly frustrated Dave Joerger told reporters following the loss. “You don’t have to be an a-hole to play a competitive, get in it, get after, aggressive basketball.”

Luke Babbitt doubled his season scoring average in the first half, hitting flat-footed wide open jumpers. It was reminiscent of what Courtney Lee did to the Kings during New York’s 27-point win Saturday.

Once Dedmon and Babbitt got it going, Dennis Schroder took over and the game quickly slipped out of control

“You can’t back down from it, we got our butt kicked and we have to take it on the chin ourself,” Hill said.

“Coach can only coach,” Hill added. “We’re out there on the court. As players, we have to take full responsibility of ourself. We’re out there playing like crap so that loss is on us as individuals and as players.”

So far this season, Joerger has allocated minutes evenly throughout his roster. Rookie De’Aaron Fox leads the team in minutes per game at 26.1, but 10 players average 18.7 minutes a night or more. It sounds like that is about to change.

“We’ve got a lot of nice guys,” Joerger said. “I love em, I love em, but we’ve got to find - I never said that I would split the minutes between 10 guys or 11 guys. I’m looking for guys who jump up and say, ‘You know what, I play so hard you should be playing me. I’m playing so well, you should be playing me.’ And we’re not getting that collectively right now.”

Slow starts have plagued this team throughout the season. The Hawks scored the first nine points of the game and by halftime, it was already a 29 point blowout.

The New York game started in similar fashion with the Knicks scoring the game’s first 10 points. Despite changes to the opening unit, the slow starts have almost become the norm.

The 46-point loss was the sixth worst in franchise history. Sacramento came into the night with a 10-game losing streak at Philips Arena, dating back to 2006, but Atlanta was just 2-11 on the season and hadn’t secured a home win before the Kings rolled through town.

Who is to blame? There is plenty to go around in a drubbing of this magnitude, but the woes so far this season will take more than a 14-game sample size to find a culprit or two. There are contributing factors coming into the season, but eventually, you have to look past a shortened training camp and 10 players with three seasons of NBA experience or less.

This is the squad the Kings will take into battle every game and they have to play better. Be it the Atlanta Hawks or the Portland Trail Blazers who roll into Sacramento on Friday evening, the effort and intensity has to increase or this is going to be a very long season of Kings basketball.