Memphis Grizzlies

Kings find themselves as underdogs against last-place Grizzlies in Memphis

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USATSI

Kings find themselves as underdogs against last-place Grizzlies in Memphis

Down to just three games on the season, the Sacramento Kings travel to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies. It’s a homecoming for Dave Joerger and his staff, as well as veterans Zach Randolph, Kosta Koufos and Vince Carter, who all spent time with the Grizz. 

Sacramento is coming off a tough 97-94 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday evening. Bogdan Bogdanovic led the way with 22 points, but rookie Justin Jackson also posted a solid game. Jackson finished the night with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting and added eight rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block in a career-high 42 minutes of action. 

After dropping 19 straight, the Grizzlies have played better of late, going 3-7 over their last 10. They sit most of their team against Sacramento as they look forward to the 2018 NBA Draft Lottery.

BETTING LINE 

Grizzlies by 3

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Buddy Hield vs. MarShon Brooks -- Hield is finishing strong for Sacramento, posting big scoring numbers on a nightly basis. He’s found a home coming off the Kings’ bench and is showing major signs of improvement during the post All-Star break schedule. Brooks has been out of the league for three seasons, but since joining the Grizzlies three games ago, he’s posting 23.3 points a night on 57.1 percent shooting from the field and 64.7 percent from long range. Before signing with Memphis, Brooks averaged 36.6 points per game for Jiangsu Nangang of the Chinese Basketball Association.  

WHERE THEY STAND 

Kings: 25-54, fourth place in Pacific

Grizzlies: 21-57, fifth place in Southwest

INJURY REPORT 

Kings: PF Skal Labissiere (left ankle sprain) out, SG Garrett Temple (left ankle sprain) out, SG/SF Iman Shumpert (knee rehab and plantar fasciitis) out, PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) is out for the season.

Grizzlies: C Marc Gasol (rest) out, PG Mike Conley (left heel) out, SG Andrew Harrison (wrist and shoulder) out, SF Chandler Parsons (knee) out, PF JaMychal Green (knee soreness) out, SG Wayne Selden (knee soreness), SF Tyreke Evans (personal) out, PF Jarell Martin (ankle) out.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

Ignore the DNP -- Memphis is sitting most of their roster. The Kings will face a group of fringe NBA players, like Brooks, Kobi Simmons, Myke Henry and Ivan Raab. Even former King, Ben McLemore, is hanging onto his career by a thread. Sacramento is sitting plenty of players as well, but not like what we are seeing from the Grizz. At some point the league needs to make changes. Until then, you play the man lined up across from you, many of which are playing for their NBA lives.

Find your shot -- Nigel Hayes is getting an opportunity to play with Sacramento. He’s shooting just 15.4 percent from the floor in his first two games, but his teammates have been seen encouraging him to continue to hoist it up. He has three more games to make an impression. There’s no time to be shy when you’re fighting for your NBA dream.  

Finish strong -- The Kings finish the season with San Antonio and Houston. The Rockets are the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and the Spurs are a perennial contender. The Grizzlies might be Sacramento’s last chance to pick up a win in the 2017-18 season. With Memphis laying down, the Kings might as well run over the them. 

SERIES HISTORY 

Memphis owns a 2-0 lead in the season-series and have an opportunity for a sweep. The Kings hold a 45-40 advantage over the Grizzlies all-time.  

Gameday: Memphis homecoming for plenty of Kings

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USATSI

Gameday: Memphis homecoming for plenty of Kings

Want to get away? After dropping six straight games, the Sacramento Kings hit the road for a season long six-game trip beginning Friday in Memphis. 

It’s a homecoming game for plenty of Kings coaches and players, including Zach Randolph, who is playing in front of a Memphis crowd wearing an opposing jersey for the first time in eight years. Dave Joerger and most of his staff came over from the Grizzlies in the summer of 2016 and Vince Carter and Kosta Koufos spent time in Memphis as well.

Memphis has had a rough season, but two-time former King, Tyreke Evans, has made a tremendous impact in his first season with the team. He’s posting big numbers and looks as healthy as he’s been in years.

BETTING LINE 

Grizzlies by 5

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Willie Cauley-Stein vs. Marc Gasol -- Cauley-Stein is blossoming in his third NBA season. He’s become a reliable scoring and rebounding option for the Kings. He’s improved on the defensive end as well, but guard Gasol is as tough as it gets. The 7-foot-1 Spaniard has an old school game. He can pass, hit you from the outside and work you over in the post. Cauley-Stein will have his hands full with the three-time All-Star big.

WHERE THEY STAND 

Kings: 13-31, fifth place in Pacific

Grizzlies: 15-28, fourth place in Southwest

INJURY REPORT 

Kings: PF Skal Labissiere (left shoulder strain) questionable, PG Frank Mason III (heel) out, PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) is out for the season.

Grizzlies: C Marc Gasol (illness) questionable, PG Mike Conley (Achilles) out, SG Andrew Harrison (shoulder) questionable, SF Chandler Parsons (knee) out, SF James Ennis (calf) out, .

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

Homecoming -- This should be an emotional night for plenty around the Kings team, especially Randolph. The Grizzlies retired the 36-year-old’s No. 50 jersey, making him the first in franchise history to receive the honor. 

Show Improvement -- The Kings are in a funk, but we are seeing steady improvement from plenty of the team’s young players. Bogdan Bogdanovic continues to post up big numbers, including a career-best 25 against the Jazz on Wednesday.

Break the Streak -- A six-game trip is daunting, especially after a rough stretch. If Sacramento can get out of Memphis with a win, it would take plenty of stress off a young team. 

SERIES HISTORY 

These two teams split their season series 2-2 last season, but Memphis went up 1-0 for the 2017-18 campaign with a win at Golden 1 on New Year’s Eve. The Kings hold a 45-39 advantage over the Grizzlies all-time.  

Kings listless in loss to Grizzlies: 'Every one of us [needs] to look in the mirror'

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AP

Kings listless in loss to Grizzlies: 'Every one of us [needs] to look in the mirror'

SACRAMENTO -- Some losses you can’t hide from. It’s not about losing to a better team or dropping a tough one at the buzzer.

There is no excuse in the book for trailing by as many as 33 points to the team with the worst record in the Western Conference. Especially when that team is playing on the road for the second night of a back-to-back.

“We got our butt kicked,” George Hill said following the Kings 114-96 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on New Years Eve. “It’s not fun losing. We’ve got to figure it out.”

The Kings fell behind big early. Despite starting four veterans and a 25-year-old rookie, Sacramento went down by as many as 16 in the first quarter.

“I don’t know if we were just exhaling being at home or relaxing from being on the road a long time, but this is not a good performance,” Dave Joerger said following the game. “Lack of focus and lack of force. ”

After falling behind by 24 in the second quarter, they made a run to cut the Grizzlies lead to 14 at the 2:28 mark, but it was all downhill from there.

“Sometimes we let our offense dictate our emotions and things like that,” Hill added. “When we’re not making our shots, we kind of go into a slump.”

The Kings couldn’t find the basket and they couldn’t stop Tyreke Evans. The 2011 Rookie of the Year looked like an All-Star, hitting his former team for 26 points, seven rebounds and five assists in just 25 minutes of action. Evans was the only Memphis player to score more than 11 points on the night.

“He was in a rhythm, man,” Joerger said of Evans. “He’s very comfortable and he was very locked in. When he is able to make his jumper at that ease, he is very difficult to guard.”

With the loss, Sacramento fell to 12-24 on the season. They have now lost two in a row and four of their last five. Following the game, the coaching staff asked the players to take a solid look at what they are bringing to the table and how they can help the team snap out of the current funk.

“Each guy just has to own his own stuff,” Joerger said. “It’s not a finger pointing deal, it’s a ‘how can I get better?’ This is a little bit part of the process of maturing, locking in and getting focused.”

Joerger has turned to countless lineups to start the season. He’s found some combinations that work, but overall, each game has its own challenges. At some point, the players need to show consistent production.

“Like coach said, each and every one of us [needs] to look in the mirror and figure out what we can do better,” Hill said. “It’s not about making shots or this or that. How can we help the team get better in every aspect of the game.”

The Kings are taking New Year's Day off with the hopes of starting fresh Tuesday evening when the Charlotte Hornets roll into Sacramento. It’s another opportunity to get a win against a sub-.500 team.