The Sacramento Kings hadn’t beaten the Utah Jazz since 2016, a stretch of six games. That streak ended at Vivint Smart Home Arena on the eve of Thanksgiving when the Kings jumped all over Utah in the fourth quarter and then held on for a 119-110 win.
Kings general manager Vlade Divac has taken some grief for collecting players from his native Serbia. Maybe that noise will start to quiet down now.
Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nemanja Bjelica, teammates on the Serbian national team, came up huge for the Kings late in their stunning win.
After missing the first 10 games of the season, Bogdanovic crested the 30-minute mark for the first time this season. Bogdanovic struggled out of the gate, but with the game on the line, Kings coach Dave Joerger turned to his second-year wing.
“I’m happy for him, because we’re all looking for him, he’s a big part of what we do,” Joerger said about Bogdanovic. “I think there’s too much worry about how does he fit back in, can we play as fast? He can really play at both ends of the floor. He made a lot of big plays and hit some clutch shots.”
Bogdanovic finished the night with 18 points, four assists and five rebounds in 30 minutes of action. The 26-year-old shooting guard went crazy in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 points on 3-of-5 shooting from long range in the final 12 minutes.
Not to be outdone, Bjelica matched Bogdanovic’s 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting and added seven rebounds in the win.
The 30-year-old forward re-entered the game at the 7:05 mark of the fourth quarter with the Kings up five points. Midway through the period, Bjelica buried two 3-pointers over the span of 44 seconds to stretch Sacramento’s lead to a game-high 17.
The Jazz battled back, cutting the Kings’ lead to just four on three separate occasions in the final two minutes. With Sacramento leading 114-110 with 25.6 seconds remaining, Bjelica flashed to the rim, where De’Aaron Fox hit him with a pass. The 6-foot-10 big scored the basket, picked up the foul and stretched the Kings' lead back to seven.
The and-1 by Bjelica ended the Jazz threat and helped the Kings escape with the surprising win.
Bogdanovic and Bjelica combined to score 21 of the Kings’ 35 fourth-quarter points, and they knocked down all five of the team’s 3-point makes in the period.
With Buddy Hield playing well with the starters, Joerger has been reluctant to insert Bogdanovic back into the first team. Bjelica continues to earn minutes despite rookie Marvin Bagley nipping at his heels.
The Kings are finding new and exciting ways to beat teams. At 10-8 on the season, they are one of the best storylines in the NBA, and they have plenty of room to grow and improve.