Kings

Kings' accumulated depth paying dividends as team creeps back to .500

Kings' accumulated depth paying dividends as team creeps back to .500

SACRAMENTO -- Coming out of a busy summer of additions, the Kings looked like one of the deeper teams in the Western Conference. 13 games into the 2019-20 season, that depth is paying dividends and Sacramento is scrambling back towards the .500 mark.

In a 120-116 win over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday evening, head coach Luke Walton’s crew almost blew a 26-point lead, but it somehow managed to pull together and win as a team in the final minute.

“That’s what Luke says -- a lot of teams, they lose these games and then maybe they learn,” Bogdan Bogdanovic said. “We are lucky enough to learn and smart enough to learn from this game and get a win.”

Players stepping up is a trend in Sacramento, and it’s a big reason the team has bounced back after a brutal 0-5 start.

When Marvin Bagley broke his right thumb on opening night, Nemanja Bjelica stepped back into a starting role and he has flourished. When Dewayne Dedmon struggled with his shot, Richaun Holmes took over the starting center job, and he is making a huge difference for the Kings. And after De’Aaron Fox severely sprained his ankle, Cory Joseph has come to the rescue.

Balancing out the roster once everyone is healthy and playing to their potential won’t be easy for Walton, but on Tuesday night at Golden 1 Center, his team picked up its sixth win in eight games and did it with a rotation that has constantly been in flux.

With Buddy Hield under the weather and missing his 3-point attempts, Bogdanovic was the star of the evening. The reserve shooting guard notched a career-high 31 points on 7-of-9 shooting from long range to lead all scorers.

The seven makes from distance also a career-high for Bogdanovic, but he wasn’t the only difference-maker for the Kings.

“Bogi is crazy, he’s good,” Hield said of Bogdanovic. “You never know who’s going to go on a run. It could be Bjeli, it could be me, it could be Bogi. Those are guys that can hurt you at any second.”

Joseph hasn’t looked for his own shot since taking over for Fox at point guard, but he has played spectacular defense and managed the game like a pro against Phoenix.

In his ninth NBA season and first in Sacramento, the veteran guard set a new personal best with 14 assists to go with six points, five rebounds and just two turnovers in 39 minutes of action.

“Obviously we have a couple of guys down, which is unfortunate,” Joseph said. “It’s the next man up mentality. Everybody that stepped up played good.”

After playing with the Suns a season ago, Holmes looked like a man possessed. He attacked a depleted Phoenix front line, scoring 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting to go with a career-high 15 rebounds.

“Every time I’ve coached against him, he’s killed us.” Walton said of his experience with Holmes before this season. “But he’s never really played major minutes, at least from what I’ve seen. We were excited to get him. He’s been as solid and steady as anyone that we’ve had on our team.”

Bjelica continued his strong play for the Kings as well. The 31-year-old veteran finished with 17 points, eight rebounds, a block and a steal. His 28-foot 3-pointer with 1:42 remaining in the fourth momentarily helped stem the tide and put the Kings back up by 12.

“He's able to stretch the floor so we've got more of a lane when I'm going down the lane on the rolls," Holmes said of Bjelica. "He can pass the ball, he can play-make, he can just do so many different things. He's very important to this team.”

The Kings still are developing an identity, but they were solid on defense again and there always seems to be someone new stepping up to help carry the load.

[RELATED: How Kings' Serbian connections help make Bogi feel at home]

“That’s what’s so fun about us -- we enjoy everybody’s success and we love that about everybody,” Hield added. “We love to share the ball, we love to play together. That’s great for us and that’s going to help us keep growing and help us win ball games down the stretch.”

Sacramento flies out to New York on Wednesday afternoon in preparation for a Friday matchup with the Brooklyn Nets. The Kings will play a tough four-game road trip heading into Thanksgiving, but after a rough start to the season, they seem to be back on the right track.

Injury Note

After posting a career-high in scoring, Bogdanovic was forced to leave the game with 1:22 remaining. Following the win, Bogdanovic said he had a cramp in his left hamstring and thought that he would be okay for Friday's game against the Nets. We will have an update on his hamstring as more information becomes available.

Kings' tailspin continues as team hits rock bottom in loss vs. Pistons

Kings' tailspin continues as team hits rock bottom in loss vs. Pistons

What happened to the Sacramento Kings? They’ve been treading just above rock bottom for the better part of a month, but it doesn’t get much worse than the performance they put forth Wednesday in Detroit.

The Kings looked completely disinterested through the first half, almost as if they were just going to show up in the third quarter and blow a completely depleted Pistons team out of the water.

That didn’t happen. In fact, the Kings were embarrassed by a team missing 60 percent of its starting lineup, falling by a final of 127-106.

“Basketball is a simple game, defend without fouling, make the right play and knock down shots early,” Luke Walton told reporters following the loss. “I feel like we didn't do any of those things. Now, I don't know where our competitive spirit was or because of injuries we thought the game might be easy.”

The Kings looked like a team that has completely lost its way. Players started hunting for shots in the third quarter and throwing up one bad 3-point attempt after another.

Instead of attacking the rim, it was a series of misses, followed by defensive rebounds for Detroit. The only time the offense looked anywhere near cohesive was when Walton went to the bench, turning to a group that included Cory Joseph, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver and Harry Giles.

Giles has played sparingly over the last week and Bazemore and Tolliver made their debuts with Sacramento after coming over in a trade over the weekend.  

[RELATED: Kings players react to Bazemore-Tolliver trade with Blazers]

“I think our bad stretches are happening for too long, too many times,” De’Aaron Fox told media members. “There are times where we are out there playing good basketball and there are times where we're not. I said it before, you just try to play the best basketball you can for the most amount of time. I don’t think we're doing that right now.”

On the defensive end, the Kings didn’t move their feet and they fouled at will. 12 of the 13 players who stepped on the floor were called for personal fouls, including five each for Buddy Hield and Dewayne Dedmon.

In total, the Kings picked up 28 personal fouls as a team and sent the Pistons to the line for a staggering 44 free-throw attempts, of which they hit 37. Sacramento was outscored by 25 points at the foul line in a 21-point loss.

“There are times where our defense looks great and then we're not making shots,” Fox said. “There are times where we're making shots but we're trading baskets. We just have to be able to piece it together for as long as we can. Like I said before, we can't let our offense affect our defense or vice versa.”

The Kings have now dropped six straight and they are just 3-15 over their last 18 games. At 15-29, they are rudderless and in desperate need of a win.

“It's about where we're going and I'm a very patient person,” Walton said. “I believe in our group, but we need to do a lot of things including starting games with a much more competitive, engaged mindset. So, I still have all the belief in the world in our team. It's still surreal to be coaching this team, but there are some things that we need to improve on and improve on quickly because it's too late in the season to be having these same types of mistakes so frequently.”

With 38 games remaining in the season, the Kings have officially hit a new low. There is still time to make the season respectable and build for next year, but changes have to be made.

Whether that is a rotational move or a trade or something more drastic, the team needs a shock to the system and the current path the Kings are on is completely unacceptable by any standard.

Kings takeaways: What we learned in tough 127-106 loss to Pistons

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USATSI

Kings takeaways: What we learned in tough 127-106 loss to Pistons

BOX SCORE

Are the Sacramento Kings starting to break?

In a season filled with lows, the Kings dropped their sixth straight game Wednesday night to a completely depleted Detroit Pistons team by a final of 127-106. 

Former league MVP Derrick Rose put on a show, finishing with 22 points and 11 assists. Reserve Christian Wood more than doubled his scoring average, dropping in 23 points on 7-for-8 shooting and Reggie Jackson added 22 points in the blowout win.

Here are three takeaways as the Kings look listless in Detroit and fall to a season-high 14 games under .500 at 15-29 on the season. 

Free Throws

The Kings continue to struggle not only with getting to the free-throw line, but with taking advantage once they get there. 

Sacramento got the stripe lust 23 times on the evening and missed 11 of those shots. It was a team-wide issue with seven players missing at least one freebie.

In addition to struggling with their chances, the Kings put the Pistons at the line 44 times, where they hit 37. 

It’s hard to compete when you get outscored at the free-throw line by 26 points. Sacramento needs to be more aggressive in their attack and they have to stop fouling teams at will.

New Guys

With Marvin Bagley and Richaun Holmes out with injury, coach Luke Walton turned to Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver to eat some minutes. 

Bazemore brought the same energy he’s been known for during his eight-year NBA career. With the Kings needing easy buckets, he got to the free-throw line and finished with seven points, three rebounds and a steal.

Tolliver went scoreless in six minutes of action, missing his only two attempts from the field. 

Bombing Bogi

Bogdan Bogdanovic is starting to get his legs under him after a six-game absence. The Kings need even more from their super-sub.

Against the Pistons, the Serbian-born wing went 3-for-8 from long range to finish with 19 points and three assists.

With Buddy Hield struggling to get anything to fall from the perimeter, Walton might need to rely more on Bogdanovic that originally expected if the Kings have any hopes of pulling out of the spiral. 

Would trying a starting backcourt of Bogdanovic and De’Aaron Fox make sense for Sacramento at this point?