Kings

Winless Kings set to host Warriors

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Winless Kings set to host Warriors

(AP) -- The Sacramento Kings have made strides defensively from last season, but the winless team needs to be much better offensively as well.The Kings look to avoid their first 0-4 start in four seasons in Monday night's home opener against the Golden State Warriors, who are seeking their first 3-0 road start in 18 years.With the Kings ranking last in the NBA last season in scoring defense (104.4 points per game) and field-goal percentage defense (47.6), coach Keith Smart put an emphasis on improving those numbers coming into 2012-13. The result has been Sacramento giving up 97.0 ppg and 39.2 percent shooting, while Kings opponents have gone 8 for 48 (16.7 percent) from 3-point range.Sacramento's second-half defense has been even more impressive, as the club is allowing an average of 42.0 points and 34.8 percent shooting.The Kings limited Indiana to 35 total points in the third and fourth quarters Saturday, but couldn't overcome giving up 38 in the second quarter of a 106-98 double-overtime loss."We gotta figure out a way to keep that (second-half) defense for 48 minutes," guard Tyreke Evans said. "We get down and then we try to pick it back up. We can't do that. We've got to start from the beginning. I think that's how we're going to get our first win."Improved shooting might also help that happen. The Kings, who opened 0-4 in 2008-09, are scoring 88.3 points per game and hitting 37.5 percent from the field."The thing is, we were so focused on being a defensive team. We kinda want to worry about the offense now," said big man DeMarcus Cousins, who's shooting 38.9 percent - well below his career mark of 43.8.The Warriors (2-1) have not won their first three road games since 1994-95. In their last trip to Sacramento on March 13, Golden State won a season-best third consecutive road contest 115-89.The Warriors are looking to build on Saturday's 114-110 road victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. A day earlier, reserve guard Brandon Rush was lost for the season with an ACL tear."We don't quit," coach Mark Jackson said. "We had every reason to quit, but we gutted it out and we defended."That defense and the team's rebounding could improve with center Andrew Bogut expected to return after missing one game, with rookie Festus Ezeli recording eight points and five rebounds in his place Saturday. For the time being, the Warriors do not plan on playing Bogut on back-to-back nights due to the fractured left ankle he suffered last season Milwaukee.The Warriors are outrebounding opponents by 5.3 per contest, with David Lee and Carl Landry leading the way with 50 combined boards.The Kings, who have been outrebounded by an average of 12.0, had a 199-158 advantage on the glass against Golden State last season but dropped three of four.

Gameday: Kings open homestand against shorthanded Nuggets

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AP

Gameday: Kings open homestand against shorthanded Nuggets

SACRAMENTO -- Home cooking. For the first time this season, the Sacramento Kings will play three straight games at Golden 1 Center, beginning Monday evening against the Denver Nuggets. In a scheduling anomaly, the Kings have already played three three-game road trips and 10 of their first 16 games away from home.

Denver is coming off a 127-109 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. They’ll take on a young Kings team on the second night of a back-to-back and they’ll have to do so without both of their starting forwards.

Expect plenty of small ball, three guard sets as the Nuggets try to turn up the pace and run the Kings off the floor.

BETTING LINE

Nuggets by 6

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Willie Cauley-Stein vs. Nikola Jokic -- Since being relegated to the bench two games ago, Cauley-Stein has become a monster. He’s posted 20 points and 9.5 rebounds over his last two outings and seems to have found himself with the second team. After a slow start to the season, the Joker has found his game. He’s posting 15.6 points, 11.3 rebounds and a team-high 4.5 assists. Jokic is one of the best passing bigs in the NBA and he’s knocking down 41.5 percent of his three-balls.

WHERE THEY STAND

Kings: 4-12, fifth place in Pacific

Nuggets: 9-7, 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.

Nuggets: SF Wilson Chandler (low back) out, PF Paul Millsap (left wrist) out.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

FINDING THE BOTTOM OF THE NET -- While Cauley-Stein has flourished with the reserves, Skal Labissiere has fallen on hard times with the starters. The second-year big has taken plenty of high quality shots, they just don’t want to settle in. He’s too talented of a player to continue missing shots, but over his first two starts, he’s hit on just 1-of-15 from the field and scored three total points. The Kings could use a breakout performance from their starting power forward.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR OPPORTUNITY -- Frank Mason has played roughly 21 minutes per night since Dave Joerger shook up his lineup last Friday. He’s done a nice job of holding down the reserve point guard minutes while George Hill has shifted to the shooting guard spot. The Kings need their rookie to continue to grow into his role and supply leadership with the second unit.

CONTINUE TO BUILD ON THE DEFENSIVE END -- For stretches over the last two games, the Kings have looked like a defensive juggernaut. They are long, quick and athletic. They need to find a way to hit shots to stay in ball games, but the effort has been there, especially on the defensive end.

SERIES HISTORY

Denver leads the season series 1-0 after an early season win at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets hold a slim lead the all-time series 89-88, but the Kings are up 65-64 during the Sacramento-era.

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