Kosta Koufos

Two Kings do the dirty work, stand out in loss to Pelicans

Two Kings do the dirty work, stand out in loss to Pelicans

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.

Koufos takes blame, but Kings full of miscues down the stretch

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USATSI

Koufos takes blame, but Kings full of miscues down the stretch

SACRAMENTO -- At 13-28, the Sacramento Kings have lost in a variety of ways. Slow starts doom them early. Poor shooting nights have happened, as has the occasional blow out. They’ve lost eight games by 20 or more points and even a 46 point stinker to the Atlanta back in mid-November.

On Thursday night at Golden 1 Center, the Kings battled back multiple times from double-digit deficits. They entered the fourth quarter trailing the Los Angeles Clippers 100-89, but didn’t go away.

Sacramento battled back, taking a one point lead on three separate occasions in the final frame. They were in the game all the way down to the wire.

And then for one of the few times this season, the game appeared to shift on one play. Down two with 15.2 seconds remaining, big man Kosta Koufos came up with a steal in the backcourt, giving Sacramento an opportunity to tie or go ahead.

Koufos put the ball on the floor to advance it to the mid-court line and then made a quick pass to point guard George Hill. In the blink of an eye, Tyrone Wallace flashed in front of Hill, taking the ball straight to the rim for a dunk and a four point Clippers lead with 10.9 seconds remaining.

“Sometimes that stuff happens at the end of games and you’ve got to wrap your arms around your teammate and love on them, because we’re all going to feel, like, terrible,” head coach Dave Joerger said following the 121-115 loss to the Clippers.

It’s a moment that hurts. It’s also a moment that overshadows so many other issues that played out over 48 minutes of basketball.

Zach Randolph missed a tip-in at 2:34 mark and then turned the ball over with 1:38 remaining.

George Hill missed two free throws in the final 1:10 of the game and went 1-for-6 in the final quarter.

Buddy Hield shot 1-of-5 from the field in the fourth and missed all three of his 3-point attempts.

“That can happen to anyone,” Bogdan Bogdanovic said. “Game is not with one mistake. We so many mistakes from beginning to start of the second half and end of the game. Kosta was in that situation. Could have been me, could be anyone else. That happened. That’s basketball.”

Koufos had a monster game for Sacramento. He posted his first double-double of the season, finishing with 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting and chipped in 14 rebounds. He was on the court in crunchtime because of his strong play.

Following the loss, the 7-footer got dressed early and then waited in his stall to answer to the media. He was visibly shaken by the final moments of the game, but he’s a pro’s pro.

“It was an error on my part, just tighten it up, that’s it,” Koufos said.

To add insult to injury, the highlights of the game played on the TV screens in the locker room moments later. When it came time to watch the turnover, Koufos couldn’t look away.

It’s a season of development for the Kings. Moments like this are going to occur, even for veteran players like Koufos.

In another of many scheduling anomalies this season, the Kings will get another shot at the Clippers Saturday afternoon at Staples Center. There’s no time to overthink a loss in the NBA. It’s onto the next game.   

Rewind: Role players step up, lift Kings to win in Denver

Rewind: Role players step up, lift Kings to win in Denver

When you’re in the hunt, every game matters. Tuesday’s 120-113 win over the Denver Nuggets gave the Sacramento Kings a tiny bit of breathing room in the eighth spot in the Western Conference before they return home for a seven-game homestand.

It’s not often that you’ve heard Kings player talk in January about playoff chances over the last decade. But Sacramento holds a game lead over the Portland Trail Blazers and with the win, a game and a half lead over Denver and they get an opportunity to strengthen their position Wednesday against a depleted Miami Heat team.

“I think we just came out with a sense of urgency,” DeMarcus Cousins told reporters following the game. “We knew how important this game was. This is a team we are battling with for the eighth spot. Of course this is an important win because it can matter at the end of the year.”

Cousins put up big numbers, as he has in almost every game this season. But the story of this win was season-high performances from Arron Afflalo, Darren Collison and Kosta Koufos.

Afflalo missed the previous three games with a strained right elbow, but showed no ill effects against his former team. The veteran shooting guard went off for 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting, using a variety of post moves and even hitting two 3-pointers in the win.

“It’s always fun to play in a familiar building, but we’re in a tight race this year and I just wanted to come back and be ready to play,” Afflalo told CSN’s Kayte Christensen after the game.

Collison had a nice game over the weekend against the Grizzlies, but one night doesn’t end a slump. He built off the Memphis performance with 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting. He got his offense going early and then focused on getting his teammates involved in the third quarter.

“Before these last couple of games, I know I took a step back mentally, kind of deferring to the offense,” Collison said in postgame. “But they told me, ‘it starts with me, you’ve got to be aggressive,’ like I had been earlier in the season, so I’m getting back to that.”

With reserve point guard Ty Lawson out due to injury, Collison finished the night with a team-high seven assists and only turned the ball over twice in 36 minutes of action.  

“They were huge,” Cousins said. “Arron, to come in and play like that off of injury was huge for us. DC finally got rolling. He’s been struggling a little bit of late, but he came in, played with confidence and had a big game for us.”  

Not to be forgotten, Koufos started 81 games for the 57-win 2012-13 Denver team and looked completely comfortable in his old stomping grounds. The 7-footer hit a young, but talented Nuggets frontline with a season-high 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting and chipped in five rebounds.

It was a team effort. Garrett Temple scored all eight of his points in the fourth and finished the night with six rebounds, five assists and two steals. When the Kings needed a basket to stem the tide, Anthony Tolliver found the bottom of the net and Ben McLemore dropped in two 3-balls in the third quarter when the temperature of the game turned up.

“I’ll be the first one to say that we’re not a perfect team,” Cousins said. “We’re not a team that’s going to come out and blow out teams on a nightly basis, but we have to come and approach games the right way on a nightly basis. We got to grind it out, we’ve got to play together, we’ve got to defend at a high level all four quarters or games are going to be tough to win.”

A Denver-Sacramento road-and-home back-to-back is never easy, but the Kings get a Miami Heat team Wednesday night that is also playing a back-to-back after falling in Phoenix on Tuesday. If the Kings want to talk playoffs, they need to show up for games against lesser opponents, regardless of the circumstance.