Kings

Kings' season being defined by injuries but they're not making excuses

Kings' season being defined by injuries but they're not making excuses

PORTLAND -- No one is making excuses. The Sacramento Kings expect to win basketball games. When they don’t there is a lot of frustration to go around.

After a difficult 127-116 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers where the Kings were forced to play without Bogdan Bogdanovic, the team is limping through the early schedule and looking for some kind of boost.

“It’s difficult, we’re banged up,” Cory Joseph told NBC Sports California as he sat in his locker with an ice wrap on his back. “We are all banged up, but it’s the NBA, it happens. It’s a next man up mentality, we just got to figure out how to put a couple of wins together.”

Coach Luke Walton’s group has done a nice job of playing the next man up game, but losing Bogdanovic might be a tipping point for this team.

It’s not just that the Kings have lost three players. They’ve lost their starting point guard in De’Aaron Fox, their best interior scorer in Marvin Bagley and now their sixth man who has helped hold everything together.

“You don’t want any of your guys to get hurt, but a lot of what we built, we built around having certain guys, and they haven’t been with us,” Walton said. “Again, that’s why I go back to giving our guys credit, they’ve adjusted, adapted, continued to work. The NBA is tough, and the West is a monster, and even with that our guys are out there giving everything they have most nights.”

It’s become the theme of the season. Bagley broke his thumb in the first game of the season and has yet to make it back on the court. He wasn’t with the team in Portland as he prepared for another re-evaluation. It’s possible that he joins the team on the current trip, but nothing is certain.

Fox severely sprained his left ankle in practice a little over three weeks ago. He stayed back in Sacramento to continue his rehab and is still 2-3 weeks away from suiting up.

Nemanja Bjelica and Cory Joseph have stepped up to fill in, but neither player fits the mold of the one they are replacing. Bjelica is shooter and a high-basketball IQ player, but he doesn’t have Bagley’s post game or rebound ability.

Fox is an offensive weapon and the fastest player in the league. Replacing him with the defensive-minded Joseph is a difficult transition and that’s not a knock on Joseph.

“The biggest thing is, the people who are out there, we’ve got to get it done,” Harrison Barnes told NBC Sports California. “Tonight wasn’t a great performance on either side of the ball for myself and I know I can be better, but for everybody. We just have to find a way and we’ve done that this season and we’ll continue to do that. Hopefully at some point, we’ll all be healthy and on the court at the same time.”

Outside of Fox, Bogdanovic is the team’s best playmaker. Walton used Yogi Ferrell and Trevor Ariza to eat the minutes, but the second unit combined for five assists, which is really close to what Bogdanovic averages for the season on his own.

Bogdanovic is confident he’ll be ready to play on Friday when the Kings fly to San Antonio to take on the Spurs. He’s struggled with left hamstring tightness for the last week, but he told NBC Sports California during pregame that he was feeling much better. He had ice on his right knee, which has a contusion, but he’s a gamer that rarely sits out.

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At 8-12, the Kings are still in the thick of things in the Western Conference. If they can get healthy, there will be an adjustment period, but the added pieces are exactly what the team needs.

The key is to continue to play hard, regardless of who steps on the floor, with the hopes of keeping within striking distance. It’s not the script the Kings hoped for this season, but this is the reality of their situation.

Kings' narrow overtime loss to Heat all too familiar in trying season

Kings' narrow overtime loss to Heat all too familiar in trying season

The Miami Heat are the best home team in the NBA. They came into Martin Luther King Jr. day with an 18-1 record at AmericanAirlines Arena, and they picked up their 19th win in 20 chances with a nail-biting 118-113 overtime win against the Kings.

It’s another tough pill to swallow for Sacramento. After trailing late in the fourth quarter, Heat big man Bam Adebayo appeared to push off of Kings point guard Cory Joseph at the rim. Adebayo made a bucket with 0.8 seconds remaining that likely will show up on Tuesday’s Last Two Minute Report. 

The Kings fell behind early in overtime, but a couple of huge three-pointers from Buddy Hield gave them a late lead. Miami didn't give in, though, eventually handing Sacramento a fifth straight loss. 

“That’s more of our team that I’m used to seeing as far as how hard we competed,” Kings coach Luke Walton told reporters in Miami. “That kind of has to get back to being the standard of how we play each and every night. All guys giving everything they have. Unfortunate loss. Give Miami credit, they had a lot of big shots.”

In a season filled with bad beats and last-second misses, this one felt familiar. The Kings now have played 20 games decided by five points or fewer, and they are just 7-13 in those contests.

It’s not one player or one reason for the record, but an assortment of issues that always seem to pop up at the wrong moment. 

Nemanja Bjelica put up big numbers for the Kings in Miami, finishing Monday with 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting. His rebound and putback with 1.9 seconds remaining in regulation looked like the game-winner for the Kings.

Marvin Bagley put in a strong game as well, scoring 15 points and grabbing 15 rebounds in 38 minutes in just his fourth game back from injury. 

“I thought he gave a winning effort tonight,” Walton said of Bagley. “It’s unfortunate it didn’t turn into a win for us.” 

Hield gave the Kings a late lead in overtime, but the Heat kept charging back once again.  

“He’s always a constant threat to score quickly and he’s evolving as an all-around player too, taking more responsibility on defense and the other things that we ask him to do,” Walton said. 

Hield finished the night with 20 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, but he also shot just 5-of-17 from 3-point range in 43 minutes of action.

“I don’t necessarily consider ourselves a bad team, we just can’t figure it out,” Hield said. “Guys hurt, in and out of the lineup. We’re trying to figure out coverages.”

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The Kings have been in a tailspin since mid-December, and it could continue. 

They are 3-13 over their last 16 contests, and they currently sit a season-worst 13 games under .500 at 15-28. The Kings also are in the middle of their longest road trip of the season with stops in Detroit, Chicago and Minnesota on the schedule before their next home game on Feb. 7.

Kings takeaways: What we learned in 118-113 overtime loss to Heat

Kings takeaways: What we learned in 118-113 overtime loss to Heat

BOX SCORE

The best way to avoid the South Beach flu? Spend an extra day in Utah.

After a blowout loss to the Jazz in Salt Lake City on Saturday, the Kings (15-28) took their time getting to Miami. They looked fresh and focused from the opening tip Monday night against the Heat (30-13) and put up a strong showing against one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.

Unfortunately for the Kings, it wasn’t quite enough to come away with a win.

Playing without All-Star Jimmy Butler, veterans Goran Dragic and James Johnson stepped up to combine for 40 points off the Heat bench. Rookie Kenrick Nunn scored 25 and Duncan Robinson hit some huge threes to give Miami a boost in a 118-113 win over Sacramento. 

Here are three takeaways from the Kings' fifth straight loss. 

From Serbia with love

Nemanja Bjelica and Bogdan Bogdanovic have plenty of chemistry from their time playing together on the Serbian National team. Against the Heat, the two looked completely in sync. 

Bjelica hit his first five shots and finished the game with 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting. He added six rebounds, three assists and a steal in 36 minutes of action.

In his second game back from injury, Bogdanovic came off the bench to score 14 points for Sacramento. He had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds, but Johnson blocked the 3-point attempt.

Battling Bagley

Marvin Bagley struggled with his pick-and-roll defense against Rudy Gobert on Saturday. That wasn’t the case Monday against the Heat. 

Bagley scored 15 points on 7-of-13 shooting and grabbed a season-high 15 rebounds. He was active on the defensive end and even had a couple of big hustle plays. 

This is the type of game the Kings need from their second-year centerpiece. Bagley held Bam Adebayo in check, and he was opportunistic on the offensive end. 

In the final minutes of regulation, Bagley attacked the glass and came up with a pair of huge putbacks to help the Kings keep it close.

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Stuff the stat sheet

Buddy Hield is known for his scoring, but he did a little bit of everything against the Heat.

With his 3-pointer on the fritz, Hield became a distributor for Sacramento and dished out seven assists. He hit the glass for seven rebounds and even picked up three steals and a pair of blocks. 

When the shot isn’t falling, this is the type of outing the Kings need from Hield. He was active on the defensive end and made an impact on the game.

After hitting just 3-of-14 from deep through the first 48 minutes of the game, Hield finally got a pair of triples to drop in the overtime session and finished the game with 20 points.