Kings

Sharks set to face Coyotes in Pacific showdown

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Sharks set to face Coyotes in Pacific showdown

March 26, 2011

SHARKS (43-23-9) vs.PHOENIX (41-24-11)
CSN California Saturday lineup5:00 p.m. -- Shark Byte 5:30 p.m. -- Sharks Pregame Live6:00 p.m. -- Sharks vs. Phoenix
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PHOENIX (AP) -- The Phoenix Coyotes and first-place San Jose Sharks are separated by two points in the race for the Pacific Division crown.

For the Coyotes to capture the franchise's first division title, they need to figure out a way to win a game in this series.

Meeting for the first of three times in the final two weeks of the season, Phoenix looks to avoid losing its eighth straight to the Sharks and move into a first-place tie Saturday night in Glendale, Ariz.

The Coyotes (41-24-11) moved a point closer to San Jose (43-23-9) with Thursday's 3-0 win over Columbus, coupled with the Sharks' 4-3 shootout loss to Los Angeles. Phoenix now has 93 points, while San Jose has 95 and a game in hand on the Coyotes.
REWIND: Marleau's late pair forces overtime; Kings win

The division race might go down to the wire, with the Coyotes and Sharks set for a home-and-home series to conclude the season April 8 and 9.

"We've got six left and San Jose three times, so those are obviously going to be big games for us," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "Going into Saturday night's game you've got to recognize your opponent, and what could be at stake."

San Jose finished six points ahead of second-place Phoenix last season to win its third straight Pacific title.

The Coyotes could be in a first-place tie with a regulation win, but they've lost seven in a row to the Sharks since a 2-1 victory Dec. 12, 2009. They've been outscored 13-6 in this season's three meetings.

Phoenix was on the verge of snapping that losing streak in the last matchup Feb. 1, leading 3-0 late in the second period, but San Jose rallied for five unanswered goals. Joe Pavelski scored twice to start the comeback, and Patrick Marleau's short-handed goal with 6:05 remaining put the Sharks ahead.

RELATED: Joe Pavelski stats splits game logs

Antti Niemi was pulled midway through the second period after allowing three goals, but he's been instrumental to San Jose's playoff push lately. He has made 30 straight starts, going 21-4-4 with a 2.19 goals-against average and three shutouts.

Niemi and the Sharks were fortunate to earn a point Thursday.

Marleau scored the tying goal twice in the final 3:32 of the third period, getting his second with just 4.1 seconds left after the Kings went back in front with 1:42 remaining. Marleau has six goals in his last four games.

"Patty's really played well lately and he's scored big goals for our team," coach Todd McLellan said of Marleau, who has seven goals in his last five contests against Phoenix.

While Marleau is carrying San Jose, which had a four-game winning streak snapped Thursday, goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov is leading a Phoenix team seeking its first division title in the franchise's 31-year history.

Bryzgalov made 27 saves Thursday to move into a tie with Nikolai Khabibulin for the franchise lead in shutouts with 21. He is 6-1-0 with a 1.29 GAA and two shutouts in his last seven starts.

"He is top notch, and we rely on him heavily," Tippett said.

Bryzgalov, though, has a 3.56 GAA in two starts against San Jose this season.

The Coyotes have won seven of eight, but Bryzgalov feels his team must get off to a better start to have a chance against the Sharks. Phoenix has no goals in the first period of its last four games, averaging just 6.5 shots.

"If we start the game against San Jose like (Thursday) and the previous game, we're going to be behind," Bryzgalov said. "We need to be ready as soon as the puck drops."

Kings' second unit steals show from Fox-Ball, fuels victory over Lakers

Kings' second unit steals show from Fox-Ball, fuels victory over Lakers

SACRAMENTO -- The fans came to watch De’Aaron Fox and Lonzo Ball square off for the first times as professionals Wednesday night at Golden 1 Center. They ended up being treated to a breakout performance by Sacramento’s second team.

“It’s not all about Fox and Ball, it’s about Kings and Lakers,” Frank Mason said after another solid performance. “I’m just happy we got the win as a team.”

Coming into Wednesday night, the Sacramento Kings ranked first in the league in bench scoring at 48.1 points per game. The Los Angeles Lakers weren’t far behind, posting 40.6 a contest, good enough for fourth in the NBA.

Sacramento received solid contributions from almost every player that stepped on the floor, including 22 points, seven rebounds and seven assists from starter Zach Randolph. But the group that came off the bench put on a show, outscoring Los Angeles 67-38.

In his fourth game in a reserve role, Willie Cauley-Stein scored a game-high 26 points in 28 minutes, including 13 in the fourth quarter as the Kings pulled away. He drew a crowd around his locker during post game, but he was the direct beneficiary of some stellar play by others.

Mason and fellow rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic broke down the Lakers defense countless times and found Cauley-Stein for the poster dunk. According to the official scoresheet, nine of Cauley-Stein’s 10 made baskets were assisted, including five alley-oops from Bogdanovic.

“We talked about it yesterday when we were icing,” Cauley-Stein said of his Serbian guard. “We were both sitting in the cold tub and exactly what happened is what we were talking about.”

Cauley-Stein is gifted athletically and he’s extremely long. He was a star receiver in high school and he knows how to go up and get a ball.

“I think he realizes, (he’s) just got to get it up there and I’m going to go get it,” Cauley-Stein said of Bogdanovic.

Bogdanovic hit his first two 3-point attempts and it seemed to open the floor up for Sacramento. With defenders going over screens to defend the long ball, Bogdanovic used his dribble to get free.

When the Laker’s bigs stepped in to stop his dribble, Bogdanovic tossed the ball near the rim and Cauley-Stein finished with authority.

“It’s easy to play with Willie, because he can catch,” Bogdanovic said. “I didn’t pass perfectly those alley-oops, but he likes to be a little higher than usual.”

Both Bogdanovic and Mason set new career-highs in assists, finishing with seven dimes apiece off Dave Joerger’s bench. Bogdanovic dropped in 14 points and picked up two steals. Mason added 11 points and five rebounds.

The smallest player to step on the floor, Mason brings a physicality the Kings have lacked early in the season. Since earning rotational minutes four games ago, the 23-year-old is posting 9.8 points and 4.3 assists in 22 minutes a game.

“That’s who I am, that’s who I’ve always been,” Mason said when asked about his toughness. “I take a lot of pride in someone scoring on me and I play every possession like it’s game point.”

With the win, the Kings improved to 4-4 on their home floor and 5-13 overall this season. They’ll take Thanksgiving off, but return to practice Friday in preparation for the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday evening. They’ll need another big evening from the bench unit if they hope to build momentum going forward.

One thing is pretty clear about these Warriors after 2-2 road trip

One thing is pretty clear about these Warriors after 2-2 road trip

The Warriors are not ready to flip their seek-and-destroy switch. Not yet.

They’re closer to being ready than, say, their longtime rivals in Cleveland, but in going 2-2 on this four-game road trip the Warriors showed they are nowhere near full annihilation mode.

They went into Oklahoma City Wednesday night and, in gulping down a 108-91 loss on national TV, came away looking more vulnerable than they have in any game this season. The 17-point loss was their largest margin of defeat and this was awful close to being a wire-to-wire rout.

The Warriors defense, so splendid during the seven-game win streak they took out of town last week, was inconsistent throughout and downright atrocious by their standards as they concluded the trip.

Their offense, which had begun reducing the turnovers to acceptable levels, came apart like a pair of $3 sneakers.

Even their body language, aside from two well-deserved technical fouls, seemed to mostly vacillate between whispers and a whimpers.

“We didn’t have any focus or concentration,” coach Steve Kerr said. “The ‘millennials’ couldn’t lock in tonight. And their coach couldn’t do much either. Long night for us.”

These were not the Warriors who posted seven consecutive double-digit wins, and they’re certainly not the team that found its competitive blowtorches last April. They weren’t visible in this game, nor were they seen for most of this road trip.

This, ahem, regular-season road trip.

That’s the catch. Last April is when the playoffs got underway, and next April is when the 2018 playoffs begin. The time between now and then is for experimenting, fine-tuning and fighting through the monotonous joys of victory -- a factor on vivid display Wednesday night.

“We played with some decent energy,” Stephen Curry said. “We just didn’t play smart.”

“They completely outplayed us, outcoached us,” Kerr said. “It was just their night. It was absolutely their night. They brought the energy, they brought the juice, they brought the intelligence. And we didn’t bring any of that.”

The Warriors entered the game after studying video and stats that illustrated OKC’s ability to disrupt an offense. The Thunder leads the NBA in steals, deflections and -- this one punches the Warriors in the gut -- forcing turnovers.

The Warriors committed 22 giveaways, leading directly to 34 Thunder points.

“Thirty-four points off turnovers, you can’t win like that,” Draymond Green said.

“I’ve got to do a better job of getting them ready to play,” Kerr said. “We have a pretty loose, fun atmosphere around here. That’s great, but there are certain times where it’s like, ‘All right guys. Let’s throw it to our team. Let’s execute the play. Let’s remember the play.’ ”

Kevin Durant bemoaned the “silly turnovers” that were such a factor in the game, blaming it players rather than Kerr and his staff.

“For the most part he can’t control that type of stuff,” said Durant, whose four turnovers were second to Curry’s team-high six. “We’ve got to be better at keeping the ball in our hands, shooting more shots than our opponents and playing defense.”

Added Green: “We were pretty well-prepared. We just played bad.”

That happens to even the best of teams, a category in which the defending champions fit quite snugly. No team, not even the Chicago Bulls of the maniacally competitive Michael Jordan, is able to bring its best for 82 games a season.

The Warriors blew two 17-point leads, one in second quarter and another in the third, in losing at Boston.

They fell behind by 24 in the third quarter to the 76ers before coming back to win in Philadelphia before recovering the next night to submit their best performance of the trip in routing Brooklyn.

And in OKC, against a Thunder team that would seem to get their full attention, the Warriors were outhustled, outsmarted and played with considerably less fury.

“Right now, we’re just in a little bit of rut, where we’ve got to focus,” Kerr said. “And I know we will. We’ve done this many times in the past and bounced back. And we’ll bounce back. We need to lock in and tighten up everything.”

They will, eventually. It could happen next week, or next month, or after the calendar turns to 2018. They’ll turn it on and become the team of terror, punishing all before them. It might be April, though.

This road game indicated some truth, though, which is there will be games over the next four months in which they will lose the battle with themselves.