SACRAMENTO -- With playoff chances a distant memory, fans want to see the young players take the court. That is exactly what they got Monday night at Golden 1 Center. The Kings rested four of their veterans, leaving two rookies and a second-year player to start. Somehow the still found a way to drop a sputtering Orlando Magic team by a final of 120-115.
“We needed it for sure,” rookie guard Buddy Hield said of the win. “Confidence, that’s all we needed, this helps with our confidence. As a young team, you just want to keep your head down all the time, you want to keep building.”
Hield scored 17 points with a variety of runners in the lane and a pair of 3-pointers. In 10 games with the Kings, he’s posted double-digit scoring all but once and he is averaging 14.2 points per game.
Second-year big Willie Cauley-Stein destroyed the Magic’s frontline in the pick-and-roll. The 7-footer finished with 18 points on 9-of-16 shooting and added seven rebounds. Since the All-Star break, Cauley-Stein is averaging 13.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game for Dave Joerger.
Forward Skal Labissiere’s length and athleticism were on full display as the 20-year-old big flew all over the court in his 20 minutes of action. He went toe-to-toe with one of the most athletic players in the game in Aaron Gordon and came away with 11 points, seven rebounds and a career-high four blocks.
“I like playing with him, he makes good plays and he’s young, so he’s going to learn not to make the bonehead plays,” Cauley-Stein said of his fellow Kentucky alum. “We all go through it. Once he gets that under his belt, he’s going to be a hell of a player in this league.”
Even seldom used rookie, Georgios Papagiannis held his own in a career-high 12 minutes of action.
With just nine players in uniform, it took a team effort for Sacramento to snap their eight-game losing streak. While the young players were on full display, the five healthy veterans that saw action also helped out.
“It’s a good group and they get along and they go play hard,” Joerger said during post game.”That’s kind of the identity that we’re hoping to have going forward. Whoever plays, this is how we do it here. We have great fans, a wonderful arena and we go out and and we play really hard.”
Seven players scored in double-figures for Sacramento. It was a free flowing offensive explosion, that included 16 made 3-pointers and a stellar 53.7 percent shooting percentage overall.
Darren Collison broke down the Magic defense and found Cauley-Stein for dunks at the rim. It was the second game of 10 or more assists in the last three contests for the Kings starting point guard. He’s building a chemistry with Cauley-Stein on the floor that wasn’t there early in the season.
“That’s that trust,” Cauley-Stein said. “Whenever you need an outlet, throw that thing to the rim, I’m going to go get it. I’m not going to let you get a turnover.”
When Orlando took away the roll option, Collison found the Kings’ perimeter players for open 3-pointers. The veteran point guard finished the night with 19 points, 13 assists and three steals.
“Offensively, we did a great job of spreading the ball around and helping each other score,” Garrett Temple said.
Veteran power forward Anthony Tolliver got hot from long range, hitting 5-of-7 from deep for 19 points. Temple knocked down two 3-pointers as well on his way to 14 points. Ben McLemore hit 3-of-6 from long range for 14 points and Langston Galloway came off the Kings bench to drop in two makes from behind the arc.
With the win, the Kings improved to 26-41 on the season. The losing streak is in the rear window and they take their show on the road beginning Wednesday in Phoenix. With only 15 games remaining in the season, the youth movement is in full-effect in Sacramento.