Memphis Grizzlies

Gameday: Memphis homecoming for plenty of Kings

zbo-us.jpg
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'

kings-listless-loss-ap.jpg
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.

Gameday: Emotional 2017 finale for a pair of Kings vs Grizzlies

vince-carter-zach-randolph-kings-ap.jpg
AP

Gameday: Emotional 2017 finale for a pair of Kings vs Grizzlies

SACRAMENTO -- Which Kings team shows up? After a big win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, followed by a loss to the Phoenix Suns on Friday evening, Sacramento draws a Memphis Grizzlies team playing on the second night of a back-to-back on Sunday evening.

Seven players scored in double-figures against the Suns, including a team-high 14 from Zach Randolph. But the Kings struggled on the glass and couldn’t get stops in crunch time as they let a winnable game slip away on their home floor.

Memphis got a front row seat to Steph Curry’s return to the court on Saturday. The two-time MVP rained down from the perimeter, hitting 10-of-13 triples in the Warriors 141-128 win over the Grizz. Marc Gasol and Tyreke Evans put up big numbers, but it was all Golden State.  

BETTING LINE:
Kings by 3

MATCHUP TO WATCH:
George Hill vs. Tyreke Evans -- Hill has been up and down all season long for Sacramento. If the Kings hope to come away with a win, they need their $20 million man to play big against Evans. The two-time former King is having a revival in his first year with the Grizzlies. Evans is posting 19.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 30.8 minutes a night for Memphis. He may have found a home after bouncing around a bit over the last few years.

WHERE THEY STAND:
Kings: 12-23, fourth place in Pacific

Grizzlies: 11-25, last place in Southwest

INJURY REPORT:
Kings: PG De’Aaron Fox (thigh tear) out, PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) is out until January at the earliest.

Grizzlies: PG Mike Conley (Achilles) out, G Wayne Selden (quad) out, SF Chandler Parsons (rest) sat out Friday’s loss to Golden State and his status is unknown.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
Just another game? -- The Kings are chalked full of former Grizzlies, including Zach Randolph, Vince Carter and Kosta Koufos, as well as head coach Dave Joerger. This is the first time Z-Bo will face his former club since leaving for Sacramento over the summer. Eight seasons is long time to spend with one franchise in the modern NBA. It should be an emotional evening.

To Skal or not to Skal -- After three games on the shelf, second-year big man Skal Labissiere played 15 minutes Friday night against the Suns. He produced 12 points and four rebounds, but his spot in the rotation is anything but guaranteed. Will he see court time or head back to the bench?

Stop the rollercoaster, it’s time to get off -- The Kings looked bad in their loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday. They looked like world beaters against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday and then they came back to Earth against the Suns Friday night at Golden 1 Center. Consistently inconsistent is the only description that fits for this club right now.

SERIES HISTORY:
These two teams split their season series 2-2 last season. The Kings hold a 45-38 advantage over the Grizzlies all-time.  

QUOTE:
“It’s a game I look forward to, of course. I spent almost a decade there. All my friends on the team - it’s going to be fun.” -Zach Randolph on playing the Memphis Grizzlies for the first time since leaving for Sacramento