SACRAMENTO -- In an 82-game season, there are always a handful of games that feel off. Wednesday evening at Golden 1 Center was one of those games.
The Sacramento Kings couldn’t buy a bucket early. They lost De’Aaron Fox to injury in the first five minutes of the game to a stiff lower back and his backcourt mate, Bogdan Bogdanovic had one of the worst shooting night’s of his career.
New Orleans picked up their 10th straight win and even that was overshadowed by a rolled ankle for star big man Anthony Davis.
A box score often captures the look and feel of a contest, but even that failed to tell the story in the Kings’ 114-101 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.
Buddy Hield led the Kings in scoring with 20, but 11 of those came in the fourth quarter. Zach Randolph added 19 points, Frank Mason tossed in 16 points and six assists and Skal Labissiere and Justin Jackson both finished with 14 in the loss.
Praise for Kosta Koufos
Before Davis went down, he had a quiet first half against veteran Kosta Koufos. With Willie Cauley-Stein missing games with a lower back strain, Dave Joerger has asked Koufos to step in and play major minutes and he continues to impress teammates.
“Kosta did a hell of a job on him,” Garrett Temple said. “I can’t speak enough about his defense and professionalism. I’ve played with a lot of centers, Kosta is probably the best defensive center I’ve played with.”
When informed of Temple’s comments, Koufos was blown away.
“Oh, really? I’m humbled by that, especially from a defensive specialist like Garrett Temple,” Koufos said. “For me, I just play my minutes hard. That’s all I’m doing right now.”
In his post game comments, Dave Joerger made sure to call out the performance of Koufos as well.
“I thought Kosta Koufos probably had his best six or eight minutes of the season there,” Joerger said. “I know he missed two free throws , but what he did against Anthony Davis was terrific.”
Koufos finished the game with six points, 10 rebounds and a block in 20 minutes of action. The numbers don’t jump off the page, but he brings effort and a defensive presence every time he steps on the court.
About those free throws
Koufos airballed the first of two free throw in the third quarter and then bricked the second. The 29-year-old big man shoots just 46.9 percent from the line on the season, but it turns out there was a reason for the errant freebies against New Orleans.
It turns out that he was fouled hard on the possession and jammed the ring finger on his right hand. It’s the same finger that gave Koufos fits last season. Following the game, he was having the finger hand taped up by the Kings’ medical staff.
The Energizer Bunny
JaKarr Sampson and Jack Cooley, the team’s two two-way players, were in uniform and ready to play on Wednesday. Cooley didn’t see action, but Sampson brought the noise in his 18 minutes of action.
“His energy on the court is contagious,” Koufos said. “Even tonight - doing the little things right - protecting the rim, being aggressive, getting rebounds. He’s got heart and you have to respect that.”
In a game where five Kings players scored in double-figures, Koufos and Sampson, the two guys that did the dirty work, stood out the most. Sampson finished the game with six points, four rebounds, a block and a steal.
Both Cooley and Sampson are expected to be in uniform Friday evening when the Kings take on the Orlando Magic. Whether they travel with the team on the road over the weekend is unknown at this time.