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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.

Sacramento native Rhys Hoskins reaches Home Run Derby semis


Sacramento native Rhys Hoskins reaches Home Run Derby semis

WASHINGTON — Bryce Harper thrilled the home crowd and surely made his father proud, winning the All-Star Home Run Derby on Monday night with an exceptional display of power that carried him past Kyle Schwarber of the Chicago Cubs 19-18.

Harper hit the contest-winning blast in extra time, the reward for hitting two homers at least 440 feet during the 4 minutes of regulation. After he connected with the game winner, the Washington Nationals slugger threw his bat in the air and pointed both index fingers toward the sky as a shower of streamers rained upon the crowd of 43,698.

The six-time All-Star arranged to have his dad, Ron, pitch to him in the annual contest on the eve of the All-Star Game. Harper responded with a performance that drew the loudest cheers of the night at Nationals Park.

It’s been a trying season for Harper, who’s hitting only .214 for the disappointing Nationals. He won a contest that many sluggers avoid, fearful it might wear them out and throw them off.

Harper can only hope this helps him get back into the swing.

The 2015 NL MVP beat Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves and Max Muncy of the Dodgers before trumping the fifth-seeded Schwarber, who put the pressure on with a solid outing before Harper stepped to the plate.

Wearing a headband that resembled the District of Columbia flag and displaying a right sleeve with stars and stripes, Harper trailed 18-9 with 1:20 left before rallying. He homered on nine of his last 10 swings before entering extra time.

Hours before the session, Harper spoke excitedly about having his dad pitch to him in the contest. The 25-year-old said his father “worked his tail off every single day to provide for me and my family” and “now being able to have him throw to me in a big league ballpark is the cherry on top.”

Harper advanced to the final with an astonishing spree of long-ball hitting. He trailed Max Muncy of the Dodgers 12-4 with 2:20 left, then peeled off six homers in 47 seconds before calling a timeout.

Harper returned to hit three more home runs in 22 seconds, the last of them inside the right-field foul pole.

The semifinal matchup between Schwarber and Philadelphia’s Rhys Hoskins was a thriller. After stunning top-seed Jesus Aguilar of Milwaukee in the opening round, the eighth-seeded Hoskins ripped 20 long balls to put the pressure on Schwarber.

Using a late surge, Schwarber pulled one ball after another over the right field wall to squeeze out a 21-20 victory — by far the highest-scoring matchup of the night.

The fans dutifully cheered most home runs during the first round, but they saved their loudest cheers for Harper, the last player to step to the plate.

After Freeman hit 12 home runs over the 4-minute span, Harper unleashed six shots of at least 440 feet and secured the victory with a drive to center long before the clock expired. As the ball cleared the wall, the left-handed hitting Harper walked out of the batter’s box and thrust both arms in the air.

Freeman was the oldest player in the field at 28, and the first Braves participant since Andruw Jones in 2005.

Milwaukee’s Aguilar, the NL home run leader at the break, was eliminated in the opening round by Hoskins 17-12.

Aguilar hit too many balls to straightaway center, where the wall stands over 400 feet from the plate. Hoskins pumped most of his drives into the left-field seats, where it’s 336 feet down the line.

The most thrilling first-round match featured a near buzzer-beater by Houston’s Alex Bregman, who fell to Schwarber 16-15. The difference was the pair of homers that Schwarber hit during 30 seconds of extra time, the reward for hitting two long balls of at least 440 feet.

Bregman — the lone AL representative — appeared defeated with a minute left, but he mounted a late surge and lost when his final swing produced a drive that landed at the base of the center-field wall.

Muncy advanced by defeating No. 6 seed Javier Baez of the Cubs, 16-15. Baez hit the longest shot of the Derby, a 479-footer.

Aaron Rodgers hits fan jumping off a boat in Tahoe in stride with perfect throw


Aaron Rodgers hits fan jumping off a boat in Tahoe in stride with perfect throw

Green Bay Packers quarterback (and former Cal Golden Bear) Aaron Rodgers is known for his downfield accuracy. 

Rodgers has three successful Hail Marys to his name. The first, on Dec. 3, 2015 against the Detroit Lions, kept his team's playoff hopes alive. Another, on Jan. 16, 2016 against the Arizona Cardinals, sent the Divisional game to overtime, and a third came en route to a Wild Card game win against the New York Giants on Jan. 8, 2007. 

At the American Century Championship Celebrity Golf Tournament in Lake Tahoe on Friday, Rodgers added another notch to his belt.

His latest effort won't be confused with the other three, but it's not like any of those receivers landed in a body of water, either. 

The real question? Whether or not that's a catch under the NFL's new rules.