Kings

Kings in position to redeem themselves after playoff stumble last year

Kings in position to redeem themselves after playoff stumble last year

SACRAMENTO -- Is it too early to scoreboard watch? Not if you’ve missed the playoffs 13 consecutive seasons like the Sacramento Kings.

After an emotional road trip that included a brutal overtime loss followed by two incredible wins in the final seconds of games in Dallas and Houston, the Kings looked tired Wednesday night at Golden 1 Center.

And then they looked like someone reminded them what a win would do for the team in the standings.

Behind a lively crowd, the Kings stormed back against the Oklahoma City Thunder and pulled off a come-from-behind 94-93 victory to move to 11-13 on the season.

With the Phoenix Suns losing on Wednesday, the Kings caught them in the standings. After an 0-5 start to the season, Luke Walton’s squad is now locked in a three-way for the seventh spot in the Western Conference standings with the Suns and the Thunder.

“It was hard, the first five games, especially after the Charlotte game at home,” Bogdan Bogdanovic said after hitting the game-winning 3-pointer with 13.4 seconds remaining. “It was really, really hard and we should never forget that feeling, especially right now when we feel good.”

Sacramento fans booed the Kings off the court following the team’s 118-111 loss to the Hornets on Oct. 30. There was confusion and anguish in the locker room, but the players accepted responsibility and came back out two days later and beat the Utah Jazz.

“We should use that as an experience, as an advantage and motivation,” Bogdanovic said of the dark times the team has already gone through this season.

The Kings aren’t counting their chickens before they hatch. They learned that lesson the hard way last year when they faded down the stretch in a season filled with promise.

After moving into the seventh and eighth positions on multiple occasions throughout the 82-game schedule, they dropped seven of their final 10 contests and finished nine games out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

“Now we know how hard it is and how every game is important and we have to be locked in,” Bogdanovic insisted. “First game after a road trip was sloppy, like this one and we have to be locked in to play a much better game against New York.”

[RELATED: Fox feeling better, believes he's close to Kings return]

This is an important stretch of games for the Kings. They have climbed within two games of the .500 mark with games against the Knicks and Warriors on the docket. New York and Golden State have a combined 10-41 record on the season, but Sacramento is not in a position to look past anyone.

It’s really early to scoreboard watch. It was also really early when the Kings went winless to start the season.

Sacramento is motivated by the chase for the postseason. The Kings have a little taste of it now and a soft spot in the schedule. Let’s see how they react to the opportunity this time around.

Kings rookie Kyle Guy scores his first NBA points in win over Bulls

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USATSI

Kings rookie Kyle Guy scores his first NBA points in win over Bulls

Since being picked No. 55 overall in last year’s NBA draft, Kings two-way guard Kyle Guy has spent most of his season in the G League.

In 23 games down in Stockton, Guy has averaged 20.9 points and 4.4 assists per game. Before Friday night’s win over the Chicago Bulls, Guy had just one shot attempt in an NBA game under his belt, a missed 3-pointer in a Jan. 12 blowout loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Guy came in late during the victory in Chicago, finally adding “scoring in an NBA game” to his resume.

The Kings understandably were excited for Guy, especially forward Harry Giles, who got the assist on the jumper.

[RELATED: Buddy embraces bench role, carries Kings to win over Bulls]

Buddy Hield made sure to secure the game ball after the win, ensuring that his teammate can cherish the memory forever.

As Giles mentioned, Kings fans can look forward to seeing a lot more buckets in the future from Guy.

Buddy Hield embraces bench role, puts Kings on his back in win vs. Bulls

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Buddy Hield embraces bench role, puts Kings on his back in win vs. Bulls

Something had to change. The Sacramento Kings were in a tailspin of epic proportions and head coach Luke Walton made the difficult decision to move Buddy Hield out of his starting lineup for Bogdan Bogdanovic.

This wasn’t necessarily a Hield issue and Bogdanovic isn’t the savior that will turn the entire season around, but the chemistry on the floor with the starting unit wasn’t working.

The swap seemed to work early. The spacing was better with Bogdanovic playing alongside De’Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes, Nemanja Bjelica and Dewayne Dedmon.

When Walton went to the bench, Hield instantly took off. There was no hesitation on his 3-point shot and he was active on the defensive side of the ball as well.

“You’ve got to come in, be ready and when coach call your number, go out there and hoop,” Hield told Grant Napear on the NBC Sports California telecast following the Kings’ 98-81 win.

Hield scored a quick 10 points in the first half to help the Kings take a double-digit lead into the intermission. After the break, Chicago’s Zach LaVine caught fire and wiped out the Kings’ lead in the first two minutes of the period.

“Today I was just locked in and more confident,” Hield said. “I’m just trying to be myself and do what I do best, which is score the basketball.”

Walton called a timeout and turned back to Hield and a few reserves to spark the team. Hield once again let it fly from the perimeter and helped his team get some separation.

“When they made that run in the third and we kind of looked like we got shook a little but, Buddy put us on his back and knocked down some big shots and really kind of got us going again,” Walton told media members following the game. “I’m really pleased with him.”

Hield finished the game with 21 points and eight rebounds in just 23 minutes of action. He hit 7-for-12 from the field, including 5-of-9 from 3-point range.

“For him to be all about the team after we took him out of the starting lineup says a lot about him and the group,” Walton added.

Hield had started 126 straight games for the Kings before Friday evening and he’s been the teams leading scorer for the last two seasons. Going to the bench was an unexpected move, but with the team dropping six straight and 14 of their previous 17 games, something had to give.

“He was ready,” Fox told reporters. “He came out, he made shots, he defended well. Everybody was fine with it. He was fine with it. There was nothing big made of it. We all still came to the game ready to play basketball.”

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It will take time for the players to adjust to the new situation. Bogdanovic posted a modest 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting. He missed some open looks, but his ability to handle the ball took pressure off of Fox for stretches.

The Bulls aren’t exactly a playoff contender, but you play then schedule in front of you. Saramento faces another struggling franchise in the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday. There is no word on if Walton will stick with the starting lineup we saw Friday in Chicago, but he can’t really argue with the results.