Nemanja Bjelica

Five things to watch from Kings' wild road win vs. Grizzlies last season

Five things to watch from Kings' wild road win vs. Grizzlies last season

Programming note: Watch the re-air of the Kings’ victory over the Memphis Grizzlies from Jan. 25, 2019 tonight at 6:00 p.m. PT on NBC Sports California.

With the NBA on shutdown, NBC Sports California has decided to start replaying some entertaining games from the last few seasons of Kings basketball to quench the thirst of fans. 
Tuesday’s re-air of the Kings’ road win over the Grizzlies from the 2018-19 season is the fourth installment of the series.

While we know the final outcome of the game, sometimes the details become murky over time. Here are five things to watch in a nail-biting 99-96 win from FedEx Forum.

Coming of age

In his second NBA season, De’Aaron Fox showed flashes of brilliance and this was one of those moments. While he struggled to hang onto the ball, turning it over seven times on the night, Fox went at veteran point guard Mike Conley and got the best of him.

In the closing minutes, coach Dave Joerger turned to his young point guard and he responded with four of his 22 points in the final 39 seconds. His 19-foot jumper with 11 seconds remaining put the Kings up by four points and helped seal the win.

Buddy in the third

Buddy Hield had a breakout 2018-19 season for the Kings, posting a career-high 20.7 points per game as the team’s starting shooting guard.

In this contest, Hield got off to a slow start, but exploded for 13 of his game-high 26 points in the third quarter. 

When Hield starts knocking down the triple, he can change a game quickly.

Bagley vs. Jackson

This game pits the No. 2 and No. 4 picks in the 2018 NBA Draft against each other. Bagley did more than hold his own in the matchup. 

In his role as a primary scorer off the bench, Bagley posted 14 points and nine rebounds in 29 minutes of action. With Bagley playing just 13 games this season due to injury, games like this remind us of his incredible potential. 

Double-Double

Nemanja Bjelica isn’t the most athletic player in the NBA, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be effective against a talented young big like Jackson.

The sharpshooting Serbian drew the Grizzlies rookie outside and buried all four of his 3-point attempts on the night. He fouled out late in the game, but not before dropping 17 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and three blocks in 33 minutes of play.

A blast from the past

Omri Casspi was drafted by the Kings in the first round of the 2009 NBA Draft and spent two tours of duty in Sacramento. In his final game in the NBA, Casspi torched his former team.

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Casspi came off the Grizzlies bench to score 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting. He chipped in five rebounds and four steals in 25 minutes

After playing 10 seasons in the NBA for seven different teams, Casspi returned home to Israel following the 2018-19 season. He signed a three-year contract with Maccabi Tel Aviv, th teame he played for before joining the NBA.

Luke Walton's Buddy Hield benching frustrates very vocal Kings fan

Luke Walton's Buddy Hield benching frustrates very vocal Kings fan

SACRAMENTO -- You can’t please everyone. That goes for players vying for minutes, and it sometimes also means the fans.

In the Kings’ 118-113 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday night, one fan, in particular, took exception to Kings coach Luke Walton’s rotations. Specifically, Walton's decision not to put Buddy Hield back in the game late in the fourth quarter.

You could hear the fan berate Walton on NBC Sports California's telecast, calling for Hield to return to the court.

“You have the 3-point champion right there,” the fan screamed.

He then broke into a “Where is Buddy? Where is Buddy?” chant that at least one other fan jumped in on.

Walton was asked following the loss about his decision to not play Hield in the final 12 minutes of the game, including the final 13.7 seconds when the Kings were trailing by three points with the ball. 

“We were scoring, we really were scoring on every play, we scored 39 points in the third quarter,” Walton said Sunday. “You score 39 in a close game, and you’re doing enough to win offensively. Buddy, I thought was playing a good game and we were going to get him back in there, and then Bogi (Bogdan Bogdanovic), he started really turning it on and then that group that was out there was really in a good rhythm. So, we stuck with them.”

“Multiple guys made good plays,” Walton added. “Fox stepped up, hit free throws, hit threes. Bogi hit some. Bjeli’s (Nemanja Bjelica) hit game winners for us before. So, we have faith in all our guys and I’ve said before that when a group is rolling, we’re going to stay with them. And you score 39 points in a quarter, then we’re most likely going to stay with that group.”

Bjelica missed a 28-footer that could have tied the game with 9.6 seconds remaining. Norman Powell rebounded the ball, and Bogdanovic immediately fouled him. Powell hit both free throws, which put the Raptors up five with 6.1 seconds remaining and the game out of reach.

Hield played 24 minutes for the Kings, finishing with 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting, including 3-for-8 from 3-point range. He added five rebounds, an assist, a steal and had two turnovers during his time on the court. 

Walton chose to ride with the players who had tied the game and took the lead over the Raptors on multiple occasions during the fourth quarter. Hield struggled in his nine-minute stretch in the third quarter, going scoreless on three shot attempts and turning the ball over twice.

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Hield won the NBA’s 3-point Contest at All-Star Weekend in February, and he is also shooting the second-highest 3-point percentage on the Kings this season (39.5 percent). Bjelica leads the team at 43 percent.

The 27-year-old has had a slow start to March. In five games, he's averaging 18.2 points per game on 47.8 percent shooting from beyond the arc, but he has played just under 25 minutes per night. That's well off his high of just over 35 minutes per game in December.

Whether the decision ultimately cost the Kings a win or not is unknown. Hield refused to speak to the media following Sunday's loss. 

How De'Aaron Fox's return sparked Kings' crucial win over Grizzlies

How De'Aaron Fox's return sparked Kings' crucial win over Grizzlies

The Sacramento Kings took a step back on Thursday night when they allowed the Oklahoma City Thunder to erase a 19-point third quarter deficit and come away with a 112-108 victory.

A loss like that typically triggers a series of frustrating events for the Kings. The snowball effect is usually just a game away for this team at any given moment.

That is not what happened this time. In perhaps their biggest game in a decade or more, the Kings rallied from a slow start, built a big lead and then held on for dear life against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday.

With a 104-101 win, the Kings moved to within three games of the eighth place Grizzlies, sent Memphis to a fifth straight loss and showed a resilience this franchise has lacked since their last postseason appearance during the 2005-06 season.

There are plenty of reasons for the Kings’ surge in the standings, but the turnaround is stunning.

In the span of five games, they have cut a seven-game deficit to just three. With home games against the Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards and a depleted Philadelphia 76ers club on the horizon, Sacramento is now in the unusual position of having even a whisper of a shot at the playoffs after a 13-year drought.

After missing the Thunder game, De’Aaron Fox returned to the floor and once again ignited the Kings’ strong play.

The 22-year-old looks like a football player on the court. He has tape on his left shoulder that is visible, but plenty of other padding to hold him together. Fox has a sore right abdominal muscle that kept him out of action the game before, but there was no way he was missing out on a chance to climb closer to the Grizzlies in the standings.

“If I can play, I’ll play,” Fox told NBC Sports California’s Grant Napear and Doug Christie following the game. “Especially, we lost yesterday and we needed this game. We knew we really needed this game."

Fox didn’t just show up. He took over the game for stretches against gritty Memphis team. He played well against rookie phenom Ja Morant, showing the high-scoring guard that life in the NBA isn’t going to be easy.

“We know the position that we are in and we know how we have to come out every single game,” Fox told reporters following the win. “We have to bring that type of intensity if you want to win in this league for one. When everyone is fighting for positioning and teams trying to get into the playoffs so you got to bring it every night right now.”

Despite a myriad of ailments, Fox posted a team-high 25 points on 10-of-19 shooting. He chipped in five assists, four rebounds and two steals in 33 minutes of action and he registered just one turnover. With the scoring outburst, he is now the team’s leading scorer on the season, coming in just a hair over Buddy Hield at 20.03 points per game.

“I love it,” coach Luke Walton said to the media following the game. “I saw him yesterday and he wasn’t moving so good so my prep coming into tonight’s game was that he was not playing. He told me he wanted to play and for him to come out and test it - he came over once early this morning and then he came over once tonight to test it - and to play through that in a game we need.”

Fox has quietly developed into the leader of this team. He isn’t the most vocal player on the court, but he is the straw that stirs the Kings’ drink and the team needs him as healthy as possible if they hope to continue their hot play down the stretch.

“It is important for us right now,” Walton said of getting Fox back in the fold. “They are all important but this one, to kind of finish off a good road trip; he showed a lot of leadership and then went out there and played a very high-level game, too.”

Fox wasn’t the only player to post a nice game. Harry Giles went to work in the post, finishing with 16 points and five rebounds. Nemanja Bjelica chipped in a 13-point, 11-rebound double-double and Kent Bazemore was a tremendous spark off the bench, scoring 13 points and playing tough defense in 29 minutes of work.

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Sacramento currently sits a half game behind the Portland Trail Blazers for the 10th spot in the standings and just a game behind the Pelicans for ninth overall. They have a series of winnable games in front of them, including seven of their next eight games at Golden 1 Center.

They’ll need a little luck and to stay healthy from here on out, but the Kings have a shot at shocking the league and stealing away a postseason slot after 13 years of misery in Sacramento. They’ll need a healthy Fox if they have any shot of pulling off the improbable.