Kings

Joerger shakes things up, Cauley-Stein responds with big game

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USATSI

Joerger shakes things up, Cauley-Stein responds with big game

SACRAMENTO -- Faced with demotion, you have two options, sulk or come out swinging. Willie Cauley-Stein chose option two Friday evening at Golden 1 Center.

After starting all 14 games to begin the season, Cauley-Stein found himself relegated to the second unit against the Portland Trail Blazers. The 7-footer looked energized by the move and made one play after another as the Kings came away with the 86-82 victory.

“I felt free - period,” Cauley-Stein said following the win. “Both offensively, defensively. I’m quarterbacking on defense. I’m getting to make plays on offense. I just feel liberated. I feel like it’s unlocking.”

The third-year big began the 2017-18 campaign with back-to-back double-doubles, but hadn’t notched double-figures in rebounds since. Over his previous eight games, the Kings’ starting center was averaging just 4.3 boards per game.

Against Portland, Cauley-Stein played sparkling defense, hit 9-of-17 from the floor for a team-high 22 points and hit the glass for 10 boards. He skied above the Blazers bigs for a rebound with 3.4 seconds remaining and his second free throw attempt sealed the win for a Kings team in desperate need of a win.

“Willie’s a hell of a player, obviously,” veteran big Kosta Koufos said. “He’s really athletic, he’s a special talent.”

Koufos and Cauley-Stein made a devastating defensive duo for Sacramento. Both bigs showed on the high pick-and-roll and avoided fouling the Blazers high-powered guards.

“That’s a crazy defensive lineup right there, me and Kosta play really well together,” Cauley-Stein said. “I’ve been waiting for that lineup since we started.”

Damian Lillard scored 29 points, but he shot just 9-of-25 from the field and 5-for-14 from long range. C.J. McCollum knocked down 8-of-15 from the floor, but he missed all four of his 3-point attempts as Sacramento closed out and pressured the shooter all night long.

Cauley-Stein wasn’t the only starter to find himself on the bench to start the game. Dave Joerger turned to a dual point guard backcourt, using De’Aaron Fox and George Hill side-by-side, while bringing rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic in with the second unit.

Playing off the ball for long stretches, Hill responded to the move with 14 points and five assists in 27 minutes. Fox had a quiet offensive night, but his defense on both Lillard and McCollum was inspired.

“We can both attack and he’s a great shooter so that really helps me,” Fox said of Hill. “He’s a mentor on the court. It’s a lot easier to play with him then to watch him play.”

Sacramento held Portland to just 37 percent shooting overall and 28 percent from behind the arc. They pressured the Blazers in the backcourt and slowed the game to screeching halt.

With the win, the Kings snapped their three-game losing streak and improved to 4-11 on the season. They jumped a plane for Portland following the game where they’ll face the same Trail Blazer team Saturday in a rare back-to-back against the same team.

The Kings likely be without the services of shooting guard Buddy Hield, who left the game in the fourth quarter with a sprained right ankle. Hield limped into the locker room on crutches following the victory and the initial indications point to him missing the rematch.

Kings coach Dave Joerger sidesteps Yahoo report about his job status

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AP

Kings coach Dave Joerger sidesteps Yahoo report about his job status

Dave Joerger wasn't in a mood to talk about his job status moments after his Kings lost to the Rockets on Saturday night.

Asked by reporters about a Yahoo Sports story claiming "substantial disconnect" between him and the Kings' front office, Joerger tried to deflect the question back to basketball.

"Well, usually, I would say, 'I'd be happy to answer all your questions about tonight's game,' but in this case, I'm going to tell you that my focus is with our team," Joerger said. "And coaching our team and getting better every single night. And we've got young guys, and they're mixed with older guys, and go in there and rally them up.

“This is a tough five-game stretch for us, so I want to make sure we stick together, grab onto each other ..."

Pressed on the reported disconnect, Joerger refused to address it.

"I'm not going to get into that stuff," the coach said before exiting the scrum after no other questions were asked.

The Yahoo story came out about 30 minutes before the Kings and Rockets tipped off in Houston. During the game, Kings general manager Vlade Divac issued a statement to NBC Sports California's James Ham and denied there was any issues between Joerger and the front office.

"Dave has our full support and confidence,” Divac said in the statement. “We continue to work together to develop our young core and compete.”

Kings takeaways: What we learned from 132-112 loss to Rockets

Kings takeaways: What we learned from 132-112 loss to Rockets

BOX SCORE

Never get in a shootout with the Houston Rockets.

The Sacramento Kings learned this fact the hard way Saturday night at Toyota Center, dropping their second consecutive game, this one by a final of 132-112.

Chris Paul, James Harden and Clint Capela all posted huge numbers for the Rockets, who they pushed their record over .500 for the first time this season. 

Here are three takeaways as the Kings dropped back-to-back games on the road and fell to 8-8 on the season.   

Offensive defense

The Kings left their defense somewhere between Memphis and the hotel in Houston. They allowed the Rockets to get in the lane, finish at the rim and shoot as many 3-pointers as they wanted.

Houston is waking up after a very slow start to the season. They were an offensive juggernaut last season, and they seem to be finding their stride.

The Rockets shot 56.8 percent from the field and knocked down 20 of 47 from long range. 

The Guards

Kings coach Dave Joerger is using De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic in a three-man rotation, and the trio played well in Houston.

Fox posted 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting and chipped in three assists. Hield let it fly from long range, hitting 3 of 7 from behind the arc on his way to a 23-point, seven-rebound performance. Bogdanovic played in his first set of back-to-backs and finished with 14 points and five assists in 19 minutes.

The group pushed the tempo and hit shots, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

Bounce-back game for Bagley

Rookie Marvin Bagley had a rough Friday night in Memphis, scoring just seven points with a single rebound in 22 minutes of action.

He looked like a different player against the Rockets. 

Coming off the bench, Bagley posted 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds in 27 minutes. He would have seen more time on the court if the game was competitive late. 

Joerger turned to Harry Giles and Skal Labissiere to play most of the fourth quarter with the game out of reach.