Rewind: If Kings can't fix slow starts, 'another losing season' awaits

Rewind: If Kings can't fix slow starts, 'another losing season' awaits

Opposing teams are making a habit out of bloodying the Sacramento Kings in the first quarter. Game after game, the team wearing purple falls behind big out of the shoot and it was no different Friday night in Boston. The Celtics looked energized, taking a 13-point lead early and then held on for a 97-92 win.  

A clearly frustrated coach Joerger placed the blame on his players in postgame, answering, “no, no” when asked if there is anything he can do to to get the team off to better starts. When pushed if it was on the players, he bluntly said, “yep.”

It’s become a chronic issue. The starters stumble. The second unit runs onto the court with buckets trying to bail water as quickly as possible. Whether it’s energy, effort or compatibility, something needs to change.  

At the 3:13 mark of the first quarter, Avery Bradley dropped in a 26-foot 3-pointer to give the Celtics a 29-16 lead. The combination of Matt Barnes, Garrett Temple, Ty Lawson and Omri Casspi went to work alongside DeMarcus Cousins and closed out the quarter on a 13-0 run to tie the game.

“They struggled out of the gate,” Joerger said of his starters. “The second unit was good. They had a lot of energy and brought us back from a slow start.”

Making up big deficits take plenty of energy, which always seems to come back to haunt the Kings late. They keep the game close, only to run out of gas at the finish line.

“It’s almost like we got to get hit first to react,” Cousins said from his locker stall. “That’s kind of been the slogan the whole year. It’s not good for us.”

Despite not playing since Monday, the Kings starters were a step slow on their rotations and two steps slow on their closeouts. Boston moved the ball freely and found the open man on their way to 5-of-9 from three in the first 12 minutes.

“We’re in a situation where we have to come out and be the aggressive team every night,” Cousins said. “We’re not that team that can just start playing and think we can turn it on whenever.”

Unfortunately, Cousins is making a similar speech on too many nights early in the season. Clearly it’s wearing on the two-time All-Star.

“If we don’t figure this thing out, we’re going to continue to have these types of games and just another losing season,” said Cousins.

Cousins backed his coach in post game, taking the blame, along with his teammates. For the first time in four contests, he didn’t crack 30 points or more, finishing with 28 and nine rebounds.

“If we want to change things around, it’s on us,” Cousins said. “And we’ve got to hold ourselves accountable and take responsibility for our effort coming out early in games.”

To add injury to insult, the 26-year-old fielded questions with tape surrounding his right eye. Cousins took an inadvertent elbow to the head from teammate Ty Lawson at the 7:08 mark of the fourth quarter. He missed two minutes of game time, which proved to be crucial, but returned to the floor after having the wound glued shut temporarily.

Following the game, Cousins received eight stitches from the team’s medical staff.

Sacramento has a chance to get back to even on their five-game road trip Sunday afternoon when they face the 10-9 New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. The NBA schedule waits for no one. If they want to climb out of their slumber, they’ll need to find a solution to their early game struggles on the fly.

Bogdanovic, Kings look to beat Warriors at Oracle for second time this season


Bogdanovic, Kings look to beat Warriors at Oracle for second time this season

No rest for the weary. The Kings hit game four of their five games in seven nights stretch. They’ll draw a beat up, but dangerous Golden State Warriors team Friday night at Oracle Arena.

Sacramento is coming off a wild overtime win against the playoff bound Miami Heat on Wednesday. De’Aaron Fox hit a floater as time expired to push the game to overtime and fellow rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic drilled a late 3-pointer to put the game away late in the extra session.

Golden State trails the Houston Rockets by two games for the top overall seed in the Western Conference playoff chase. They’ve already clinched another Pacific division title, but they are at risk for missing out on the top seed. Every game counts as they hit the stretch run.


Warriors by 12


Willie Cauley-Stein vs. Zaza Pachulia -- It might not be the matchup people bought tickets to see, but it’s the matchup they’re going to get. With the Warriors banged up, Pachulia has stepped up and filled a valuable role in the middle. He’s strong as an ox and does all the dirty work. Cauley-Stein is getting his legs back under him after missing 10 days with a back strain. He’s improved in year four, but still needs to work on his consistency.  


Kings: 22-47, fourth place in Pacific

Warriors: 52-16, first place in Pacific


Kings: PF Skal Labissiere (hip contusion) questionable, SF/SG Iman Shumpert (knee rehab/plantar fasciitis) out, PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) out until January.

Warriors: PF Jordan Bell (ankle) probable, PG Quinn Cook (hand contusion) probable, PF David West (arm cyst) probable, SF Kevin Durant (ribs soreness) out, PG Steph Curry (ankle) out, SG Klay Thompson (thumb) out, SG Patrick McGaw (wrist) out.


Wounded Warriors -- Golden State will play without three of their four All-Stars. The Kings took advantage of the Warriors early in the season when they were the similar situation of missing All-Stars. Sacramento needs to stay the course and continue to play with effort as they finish the schedule, regardless of who suits up for their opponent.

Big Moments -- If there is one thing that stands out in the 2017-18 season for Sacramento, it’s the clutch plays by the young players. Fox has four shots in his rookie season that either won or tied a game in the final seconds. Bogdanovic, Skal Labissiere and Buddy Hield have come through with big shots as well.  

Come Out Firing -- The best way to beat the Warriors is to make them work for their shots. The best way to make them work for their shots is to score baskets and set up the defense. If the Kings can put up an efficient offensive night, they have a shot of dethroning the shorthanded champs.


The Kings and Warriors are all knotted at one game apiece in the season series. Golden State holds a 201-187 lead in the all-time series and a 73-66 advantage during the Sacramento-era.

After another clutch shot, De'Aaron Fox pulls back curtain on mindset in big moments


After another clutch shot, De'Aaron Fox pulls back curtain on mindset in big moments

SACRAMENTO -- You can’t teach clutch. Either you got it or you don’t. De’Aaron Fox has it.

In his rookie season in the NBA, the 20-year-old out of Kentucky has found himself in plenty of big moments already.

Who can forget his 18-foot game-winning jumper over the outstretched arms of the Sixers Robert Covington back in November that gave the Kings a 109-108 win.

On the road in Miami on January 25, he went over the top of the Heat defense with a putback dunk to snap the Kings’ 15-game losing streak at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Two weeks ago against the Brooklyn Nets, Fox went baseline and hit a high arching floater over the top of a defender as time expired to push the game into overtime.

Wednesday at Golden 1 Center, the Kings blew a 16-point lead to the Heat, but again, it was Fox that saved the day.

With just three seconds remaining, Fox took the inbounds pass from fellow rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic. He instantly got into the body of veteran Goran Dragic, riding the All-Star guard right down the middle of the lane.

With four defenders converging on the play, Fox used his left hand to maneuver through a sea of arms and hit a 9-foot floater. The replay shows the ball leaving the 6-foot-3 guard’s hand just before the clock hits zero. The ball cut through the net and Golden 1 Center exploded.

“I feel like guys that want those moments, want to play in those close games, those guys are the ones who thrive,” Fox told media members following the Kings’ 123-119 overtime win. “You don’t usually see the guys that want the shot, miss the shot a lot. It’s the basketball gods just rewarding us for wanting to do it.”

Fox’s jumper extended the game by five minutes and the young Kings kept charging forward. The speedy guard came through with two big stops on Dragic down the stretch, showing that he is more than just an offensive weapon.

“I feel like I can be one of the best two-way players in this league in some time,” Fox said. “That guy, he’s an All-Star. He’s good. You just try to get him out of rhythm, try to make it tough. He had a great game, but down the stretch, I just tried to make it tough on him.”

Dragic finished the night with a game-high 33 points, but he shot just 1-of-3 from the field in the extra frame as Fox put the clamps on him.

Fox wasn’t the only player to come up big for Sacramento. Buddy Hield chipped in 12 of his team-high 24 points in the fourth quarter and he added four points in the overtime session. Zach Randolph chipped in 22 points and nine rebounds in 33 minutes and Bogdanovic hit a huge 3-pointer with 1:03 remaining in the extra session to put the game away.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that aren’t scared,” Fox said. “Once we sent it to overtime, it’s pretty much crunch time the whole five minutes and we have a whole bunch of guys that can make plays and make shots.”

Injuries to Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere have forced Randolph back into action full-time for Sacramento. Despite a 22-47 record, the 36-year-old big sees major improvement in the team’s young core.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in my young guys,” Randolph said. “They play hard and they put the time in and they work hard. When we get on the court, it applies on the court and that’s what they’re doing. I’m proud of them.”

Fox isn’t the only young player to come up clutch for the Kings this season. Skal Labissiere drilled a 3-pointer against the New York Knicks on March 4 to give Sacramento a win and both Bogdanovic and Hield have come through plenty of times with the big shots.

The Kings return to the floor Friday in Oakland where they face the Golden State Warriors on the first night of a back-to-back. While out of the hunt in the Western Conference playoff race, they continue to play hard, posting a 4-4 over their last eight games.