Kings

Failure to finish: Disastrous final minute buries Kings vs Bulls

Failure to finish: Disastrous final minute buries Kings vs Bulls

SACRAMENTO -- The locker room was a lonely place Monday night in Sacramento. After erasing a 27-point deficit and tying the game in the final minute, DeMarcus Cousins came up short on a free throw that would have given the Kings the lead. The final half minute played out like so many others this season -- disastrous. 

Dwyane Wade knocked down a 20-foot fadeaway jumper that was reminiscent of Devin Booker’s buzzer beater Friday night. Matt Barnes’ turnover on the ensuing inbounds play led to a breakaway dunk by Wade and the game was over -- Bulls 112, Kings 107

“It’s tough,” veteran point guard Ty Lawson said. “We just didn’t have a good start. [Chicago] was knocking down tough shots at the same time and we were helping them with our offense. Our offense was putting up tough shots and missing them. They were able to run, get into the lane and get easy shots.”

Bad offense leading to bad defense plagued this team a season ago. Sacramento scored just 11 points in the first quarter while shooting 5-for-20 from the field. They added six turnovers as they fell behind by as many as 18. 

“Obviously, it was a slow start -- a very slow start -- that’s probably an understatement,” Darren Collison said. “Inexcusable. [If] we don’t put ourselves in the hole, probably gives us a shot to win.”

Sacramento bounced back a bit in the second quarter with a strong showing from the second unit, but they still trailed by 15 going to the intermission.

“It’s just energy,” Collison said. “It seemed like when we first came out, we didn’t have enough energy defensively or offensively. [Chicago] just took advantage of it.”

Coming out of the half, the Kings looked like a team waking up from a nap. They fell behind by 25 and coach Dave Joerger called a timeout. He left the same group on the floor coming out of the stoppage, but that didn’t last long. 

“I kind of did a quick pull in the first and I didn’t think it was right to do that a second time,” Joerger explained in post game. “I wanted to give them a chance to figure it out a little bit. Balls weren’t going in, they made some shots, we couldn’t get anything to go down in that quarter and then we got it turned around a little bit.”

With just under five minutes remaining in the third, the Bulls' lead had grown to 27 and Joerger was forced to make changes. 

Lawson is a tempo changer for Sacramento and his insertion into the lineup paid huge dividend again Monday night. He attacked Chicago in the paint, which opened the perimeter up for his teammates. By the end of the third, the 5-foot-11 reserve had his team down 16 and with momentum fully in the Kings favor.

Lawson’s 3-pointer with 5:41 remaining in the fourth cut the Bulls' lead to three. With 37.9 seconds remaining and the Kings trailing by two, his defensive stop on 6-foot-6 Michael Carter-Williams set up a jump ball situation. Somehow the Kings came down with the possession and Cousins tied the game with a basket and a foul with 30.8 seconds remaining.  

But the final 30 seconds was a horror show. Wade was nothing short of spectacular. His jumper and breakaway sealed the deal. 

For the 13th time this season, the Kings fell behind by 20 or more points. They often fight their way back into these games, but with the loss to Chicago, they are 1-12 in those situations.

To add insult to injury, Cousins picked up his 16th technical foul with 1.1 seconds remaining and barring a late reprieve from the league, he will miss Wednesday’s matchup against the Celtics due to league suspension.

“Big Cuz has a lot of production for us -- rebounding and scoring,” Lawson said. “Somebody’s got to pick it up. Everybody’s been working hard, so we have to pick up the slack.”

With the loss, the Kings fell to 20-32 on the season. They remain in the hunt for the eight seed in the Western Conference, but they now trail the Denver Nuggets by 3.5 games. 

Iman Shumpert's breakout game in OKC 'pretty special to see'

Iman Shumpert's breakout game in OKC 'pretty special to see'

Following the Sacramento Kings loss on opening night, one player couldn’t stop smiling. He wasn’t happy about the loss, but after a year of injuries and setbacks, Iman Shumpert was just excited to be back on the court, no matter how much he played. 

Shumpert sat out all but 14 games last season. Knee surgery put him on the shelf for the Cleveland Cavaliers and during his rehab from the injury, the eight-year NBA veteran developed plantar fasciitis and missed the remainder of the season.

Needing an experienced player to match up against All-Star Paul George, coach Dave Joerger called Shump’s number Sunday afternoon. There was no way to tell how he would respond on the court, but if nothing else, Joerger knew he would play tough defense. 

Shumpert hit the ground running, knocking down a 3-pointer 38 seconds into the first quarter. That was only the start. 

“I’m happy for him, I’m happy for his family,” Joerger told reporters following the game. “I’ve always had a belief in him and we get along very well. So it’s an opportunity for him. I don’t know that we’re going to get that every night, but that was pretty special to see.”

The 28-year-old wing kept hitting 3-pointers in the opening quarter, knocking down 4-of-6 from behind the arc in the games first 10 minutes on his way to 16 points. 

Shumpert’s play put a charge in a young Kings team as they rallied to take a 34-32 lead heading into the second quarter. He continued his strong play throughout the game, finishing with a team-high 26 points to go with four assists, three rebounds, three steals and two blocks in 30 minutes of action. 

With Sacramento focused on a youth movement, there are no guarantees that Shumpert will be a regular in the rotation for the entire season. He’s in the final year of a four-year, $40 million contract he signed in July of 2015. The veteran wing is owed $11 million this season and is an unrestricted free agent next summer. 

The Kings are scoring at will through three games, averaging over a 125 points per game. They’ve struggled on the defensive end and could use a player with Shumpert’s skill set, especially while Bogdan Bogdanovic recovers from a knee issue.  

For one night, Shumpert looked like his old self and maybe more than that. He’ll need to stay healthy, but if he continues to perform, he might have a shot to rebuild his value after a rough year of rehabbing from injury.

Kings takeaways: What we learned from first win of the season over Thunder

Kings takeaways: What we learned from first win of the season over Thunder

BOX SCORE

The search is over.

After dropping their first two games of the NBA season, the Sacramento Kings jumped all over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Russell Westbrook's return. 

The Thunder kept it close, but the high-powered Kings offense kept rolling, coming away with a shocking 131-120 win on the road.

Iman Shumpert came up huge for Sacramento, but it was a team effort. Seven Kings players scored in double figures, including a big -time double-double from De’Aaron Fox. 

Westbrook and Paul George combined for 61 points, but it wasn’t enough for the still-winless Thunder to keep up with a young Kings team. 

Here are three takeaways as the Kings start 1-2 on the season.

Shumpert wants minutes

The easiest way to earn minutes in the NBA is to take advantage of every opportunity. After playing just 14 games last season, Shumpert started Sunday for the Kings and made the coaching staff take notice. 

Shumpert scorched the Thunder for 16 points in the first quarter to get the Kings off to a fast start. He finished the evening with 26 points on 9-of-13 shooting. He added four assists, three rebounds, three steals and two blocks in 30 minutes. 

That’s how you earn more minutes. 

Fox vs. Westbrook 

Fox grew up idolizing Westbrook. After averaging 11 points and 7.7 assists versus against the Thunder last season, the second-year pro went to work in OKC. 

Fox scored 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting and added 10 assists in 42 minutes of action. More importantly, he helped lead the team to its first win on the season.  

Westbrook returned from injury after missing the first two games and put up a typical 32-point, 12-rebound, eight-assist performance.  

Harry and Marv

The rookie bigs will have struggles some nights, and on others, they’ll find ways to help the team win. Against the Thunder, Harry Giles came in and found a way to slow NBA strongman Steven Adams, finishing with eight points, six rebounds, two assists and two blocks in a solid 17 minutes of action. 

Marvin Bagley got his scoring game going late, dropping in 13 points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench. He was active on the glass and earned some crunch-time minutes. 

The young guys are showing signs of improvement every time they step on the floor.