Kings need 'resilient' Willie Cauley-Stein to slow 76ers All-Star Joel Embiid


Kings need 'resilient' Willie Cauley-Stein to slow 76ers All-Star Joel Embiid

SACRAMENTO -- Sipping on Shirley Temples and dominating the Eastern Conference -- that's how Joel Embiid rolls. The talented 24-year-old center is in Sacramento for a Saturday night clash with the Kings.

There won’t be a reenactment of the Embiid, DeMarcus Cousins butt swatting incident. Those days are long gone in Sacramento, but someone is going to have to slow the All-Star big or the Kings are in a lot of trouble.

Willie Cauley-Stein will give it a go early and he’s had some success against Embiid in the past. In their lone matchup last season, Philly’s star big posted 22 points on 7-of-20 shooting to go with 15 rebounds and two assists. But with the game on the line, it was Cauley-Stein who was clutch.

“Resilient,” Cauley-Stein said of how he approaches the battle with Embiid. “When I play against dudes like that, that [are] a load, [I am] just always coming. I feel like dudes that play that aggressive, they’re waiting for you to fall, they’re waiting for you to just give in.”

In the final 1:13 of the game, Cauley-Stein blocked Embiid twice in the paint, once on a layup attempt and the second time on a hook shot with Sacramento trailing 108-107 with 25 ticks remaining.

After De’Aaron Fox drilled a jumper to give the Kings a 109-108 lead, Cauley-Stein once again came up with a defensive stop against Embiid on a jumper to seal the victory for Sacramento.

Embiid looks like a different player this season. He’s averaging 27.2 points, 13.4 rebounds, and 3.6 assists and 1.9 blocks in 33.4 minutes per game. In addition, he’s played in 48 of the Sixers 52 games, which is amazing when you consider that he played in a total of 94 games in his first four seasons in the NBA.

“He’s got some moves and his footwork is really great,” Cauley-Stein said. “He plays with a lot of power up top and his base is so strong that you can’t let him get to that spot. If you let him get to that spot, it’s over with.”

On Friday, Embiid was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month and he’s coming off a 26-point, 20-rebound performance in Philly’s win over the Warriors. Cauley-Stein, as well as Harry Giles and maybe even Kosta Koufos will have their hands full.

In order to keep Embiid from having a monster night, Cauley-Stein has to do his work early and he needs to keep him off the glass.

[RELATED: Cauley-Stein takes light-hearted jab at critics]

That’s easier said than done.

“I just try to give him different looks and keep on coming,” Cauley-Stein said. “He’s going to score, he’s going to get rebounds, that’s what he does, he’s really good at it. It’s just, how many times can you stop him from doing that.”

The Kings won both matchups against the 76ers last season, but Philly is rolling. They’re 7-2 over their previous nine games and Embiid is a huge part of that success.

Kings' De'Aaron Fox battles through nagging injuries in win vs. Warriors


Kings' De'Aaron Fox battles through nagging injuries in win vs. Warriors

SAN FRANCISCO -- No team needed the All-Star break more than Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox. An early-season ankle injury was getting heavy. Bumps and bruises were adding up and the time away was an opportunity to both heal up and mentally reset.

That worked for all of one game. 

Fox woke up on Friday morning with a sore left shoulder. He’s had it taped up the last two games, but he’s playing through the issue.

In the team’s 112-94 win over the Warriors on Tuesday, Fox disappeared to the locker room due to tightness in his right groin. He returned to the game and looked no worse for wear.

Fox is fighting through the pain because his team needs him on the court if they have any hope of continuing what has become a hot streak. 

“It’s motivating,” veteran wing Kent Bazemore said of Fox playing through pain. “You can see him wincing out there, but he’s pushing through. It means a lot that he’s bought in. We have his back and he is still demanding a lot of attention, dominating the game.”

Against the Warriors, Fox stuffed the stat sheet, finishing with 21 points, five assists, two rebounds, a steal and a block in 32 minutes of play. He shot just 4-of-9 from the free-throw stripe, but that has nothing to do with the nagging issues he’s currently struggling with.

“I don’t know,” Fox said when asked about shooting freebies. “I think we just gotta get there and get better. I don’t really know what else to say about it.”

Is there concern that the injuries will take Fox off the court or decrease his effectiveness? Absolutely, but in the NBA, injuries always are part of the game.

“They tell me he’s good to go, I asked him at halftime and he said, ‘play me’,” Luke Walton said. “Between our medical staff and talking to him, I feel confident. He came out and made some big-time in that second half and seemed to be alright.”

The team will be cautious with the 22-year-old budding star, but they also are going to forge ahead. 

[RELATED: Bazemore is ingredient Kings missed during early struggles]

“We’ll go about it smartly and we’ll give him off days where he needs it and rehab and treatment and all that,” Walton added.

Fox is averaging 19.9 points and 6.9 assists for the Kings this season. He’s taking another leap forward in his production and growth, but Sacramento needs him at full strength if they are going to continue to stay in the hunt for the postseason. 

Kings takeaways: What we learned in satisfying 112-94 win vs. Warriors


Kings takeaways: What we learned in satisfying 112-94 win vs. Warriors


SAN FRANCISCO -- These aren’t your championship Warriors. 

The Kings walked into Chase Center Tuesday night and while it wasn’t always pretty, they put the smackdown on the team from the Bay Area.

Golden State struggled from the perimeter, hitting just 4-of-28 shots from long range. Sacramento countered by knocking down just 19-of-34 from the free-throw line to let the Warriors stick around. 

In the end, it was too much Buddy Hield in the fourth for Golden State (12-46), and the Kings came away with the 112-92 win.

Here are three takeaways as Sacramento (24-33) picked up their third straight victory to improve to 24-33 on the season.

Better late than never

Hield had a quiet game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday, scoring just seven points in 15 minutes of action. 

The Kings’ leading scorer got off to a slow start at Chase, but then let it fly to open the fourth. Hield hit the Warriors with three straight 3-pointers to open up a 17-point lead with 10 minutes remaining.

Hield scored 15 of their 19 points in the final period and chipped in six rebounds. Buddy showed up when his team needed it and put the game away. 

Barnes does it again

Harrison Barnes came into Tuesday averaging 17.2 points on 54.8 percent shooting from 3-point range over his previous five games. He put on another show against the Warriors.

The Kings’ starting small forward posted 14 points in the first quarter to get the ball rolling. He was quiet late but still managed to post 21 points on 9-for-12 shooting including a pair of makes from long range.

Barnes decided back in December that he wouldn’t shave his face until the team got to .500. He now seems to be harnessing the power of the beard. 

[RELATED: Bazemore is ingredient Kings missed during early struggles]

Making an impact

After failing to notch a double-double in his first 87 career games, Harry Giles almost got a streak going.

The second-year center scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds against the Warriors' frontline. He struggled in the pick-and-roll against Marquese Chriss, but was active and made an impact on the floor. 

If Giles can continue to play like this, Walton will have plenty of options in the post when Richaun Holmes eventually returns to the court.