Kings showing improvement despite loss to Raptors: 'We learn from it'

Kings showing improvement despite loss to Raptors: 'We learn from it'

The Sacramento Kings are in soul searching mode. Last season their identity was based on running teams ragged with their speed. They’re starting over at square one under new head coach Luke Walton and the transition hasn’t exactly been smooth.

After a sixth loss in eight chances, the Kings are showing signs of improvement. A four-point loss on the road in Toronto isn’t what the team was looking for, but it’s better than the 29-point loss to the Phoenix Suns in the season opener or the 30-point loss to the Utah Jazz in the third game of the season.

“A week ago, this was a game that was turning into a 25-point game, so to give ourselves a chance at the end is all you can ask for,” Walton told media members after falling 124-120 in Toronto. “At the end, they made shots and we missed them. You tip your hat to them, we learn from it.”

The early season is clearly a learning process for the Kings. Walton has torn the offense down to the bare bones and is rebuilding it from the ground up. In the meantime, he’s slowed everything down.

Some players are making the necessary adjustments, but for others, it’s a difficult transition. There will be highs and lows as the team works out the kinks.

After back-to-back strong showings against the Jazz and Knicks, De’Aaron Fox struggled against the Raptors. He turned the ball over a season-high seven times, including twice in the fourth quarter.

Fox is learning to use his incredible speed within a halfcourt set, instead of just in the open floor. Eventually Walton will loosen the reigns and allow Fox to combine the two ideas, but for now, growing pains are part of the process.

There were moments against the Raptors when Fox was unstoppable and other times where either focus or fatigue was an issue. If you take away the turnovers, he had a solid 17-point, nine-assist and seven-rebound night.

Despite Fox’s struggles against the Raptors, the Kings were in the game until the final moments. Walton has used his timeouts to stymie runs from the team’s opponents and his squad has shown a resiliency that wasn’t there during the 0-5 start to the season.

“They went on runs, they would take it to 12, 13 but we came down with composure, which is what we are talking about.” Walton said. “For us, it’s about always what are we doing next, what’s the next play that we can make for our team and tonight I thought we did a good job, even when they got up, staying within ourselves, trusting the system, trusting each other and just sticking around, close enough to make a run.”

Trust is a two-way street. Coming off a tremendous showing at the FIBA World Cup, shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic has struggled with his shot early in the season.

Against the Raptors, Bogdanovic missed all three of his field-goal attempts to start the first quarter and opened the second with a turnover and then another miss. Knowing that his team needs to get Bogdanovic going, Walton stuck with the Serbian scorer and Bogdanovic responded with his best game of the season.

After missing four straight to start the game, Bogdanovic knocked down seven of his next ten attempts, including six makes from behind the arc. He finished the game with a season-high 22 points in 32 minutes of play.

In order for the Kings to turn the tide on their 2-6 start to the season, they need to fire on all cylinders. Bogdanovic is a player that can be a difference-maker for the Kings and it’s possible that despite the loss, Walton may have gotten his sixth-man back on track by letting him play through his struggles.

[RELATED: Why Divac believes in Walton despite Kings' slow start]

The Kings still have a lot of work to do, especially on the defensive end, but there are clear signs of improvement overall. They’ll have another opportunity to continue to build on Friday evening when they face the Hawks in Atlanta.

Like Sacramento, the Hawks are a young team searching to find their way. After winning their first two games, they’ve lost three out of the last four and big man John Collins is out while serving a 25-game league suspension.

Kings' Nemanja Bjelica, Bogdan Bogdanovic deliver in win over Blazers

Kings' Nemanja Bjelica, Bogdan Bogdanovic deliver in win over Blazers

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings are not accepting condolence cards.

Despite an atrocious 0-5 start to the season and major injuries to both forward Marvin Bagley and point guard De’Aaron Fox, the Kings refuse to give up on the final 70-plus games of the season. The Portland Trail Blazers learned that lesson on Tuesday evening at Golden 1 Center.

It took a full 48 minutes, but the Kings staved off the Blazers late to come away with a 107-99 victory in front of an appreciative home crowd.

With two of their top scorers on the shelf, the Kings need more from every member of the rotation. Against a Portland team that made it to the Western Conference Finals last season, it was a pair of Serbian national team teammates that came to play.

Nemanja Bjelica was the only Kings player that could find the bottom of the net in the first 8:41 of the first quarter. The 31-year-old forward scored seven of the team’s first eight points, with Richaun Holmes putting in a lone free throw as Sacramento fell behind 18-8 early.

“Bjeli started off well and everybody is staying together as a group and just connecting with each other and supporting each other,” Buddy Hield said.

Bjelica posted his first double-double of the season, finishing the evening with 19 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in 36 minutes.

The veteran big started the game well and then came to the rescue late with a 26-foot three-pointer to give Sacramento an eight-point lead with 2:37 remaining in the fourth.

“Great win, especially in front of our fans,” Bjelica said. “I mean, we’re always talking about is we want to make the playoffs, we need to win every game at home, so it is very important for us.”

Needing a spark to wake up the offense, coach Luke Walton turned to the Kings’ other Serbian-born player, Bogdan Bogdanovic. The third-year wing changed the entire momentum of the game with his defense, scoring ability and playmaking.

Bogdanovic picked up three steals in just under six minutes of play in the first quarter and matched his career-high with four steals on the night.

On the offensive end, Bogdanovic hit Portland with a team-high 25 points, including 15 in the first half while the Kings were struggling to keep up.

“He’s fun to watch, man,” Hield said of Bogdanovic. “Playing with him, he’s such a good passer. He’s a good playmaker and he’s always about team. You see him making shots and scoring, but he’s always a team-first guy.”

With Fox sidelined, Bogdanovic took the reigns of the offense. He finished with 10 assists in 32 minutes of action and during crunch time, he made the right plays when it mattered.

“I think I’m an experienced player and I can adjust to any role here,” Bogdanovic said. “I’m just trying to help the team to get these wins and tonight it was 10 assists. I’m more happy with the win.”

It was Bogdanovic who fed Bjelica for the open three in the fourth. He had another pass to Cory Joseph for a three at the 2:01 mark of the fourth and he found a cutting Harrison Barnes with 1:30 remaining to help seal the win.

Bjelica and Bogdanovic put up the big numbers, but it was a team effort for Sacramento.

Hield struggled with his shot, but still managed to post 20 points on the evening. Barnes went scoreless in the first half but finished with 16 after a strong final 24 minutes. Joseph played solid defense on Damian Lillard and Richaun Holmes chipped in the team’s third double-double with an 11-point, 10-rebound, two-block performance.

[RELATED: What we learned as Kings take down Blazers without Fox]

The Kings have a long road in front of them, but they are playing a better brand of basketball after a tough start and they are starting to show improvements on both ends of the court. With the win, Sacramento is now 4-1 over their previous five games and they’ve climbed to 4-6 on the season.

They’ll have a much tougher test on Friday when they fly to Los Angeles to face LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the 8-2 Lakers.

Kings takeaways: What we learned in balanced 107-99 win over Blazers


Kings takeaways: What we learned in balanced 107-99 win over Blazers


No Fox? No problem.

Playing the first of what could be many games without their star young point guard De’Aaron Fox, the Kings were the aggressor Tuesday evening at Golden 1 Center in a matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum put up big numbers for Portland, but the Kings received huge baskets late from Nemanja Bjelica and Cory Joseph late to come away with a 107-99 victory over the Blazers. 

Here are three takeaways as the Kings picked up their fourth win in five games to improve to 4-6 on the season.  


With De’Aaron Fox on the shelf, the Kings need everyone to step up if they hope to compete. Against the Blazers, that player that shined the brightest was Bogdan Bogdanovic.

Sacramento’s super-sub put on a show from the moment he stepped on the floor. He wreaked havoc on the defensive end, coming away with four steals. 

On the offensive end, he scored 15 of his 25 points in the first quarter, when very few of his teammates could buy a bucket. Bogdanovic shot 8-for-19 from the field on the evening, including 3-of-8 from long range. He also chipped in a team-high 10 assists. 

If the Kings are going to survive the Fox injury, Bogdanovic needs to play like this every night.


When the season started, Bjelica and Richaun Holmes were supposed to be the Kings’ two bigs off the bench. We're a few weeks into the season, and the duo now is doing damage for Sacramento’s starting unit.

Bjelica was active early, hitting a pair of shots to get the Kings’ scoring going. He played well for stretches throughout the game, finishing with 19 points and 12 rebounds for his first double-double of the season.

With Bjelica working the perimeter, Holmes went to work in the paint, dropping in 11 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in 31 minutes. 

The two bigs complement each other well on the court. 

[RELATED: Kings rise in latest NBA power rankings]

If at first you don’t succeed, keep chucking

The basket looked extra small when Buddy Hield took shots in the first half against the Blazers. The Kings’ sharpshooter missed his first two 3-point attempts so badly it was as if he was aiming at the wrong basket.

Eventually, Hield settled in, hitting a pair of 3-balls in the third quarter to get going. He finished the night with 20 points on 7-for-21 shooting from the field and just 2-of-11 from 3-point range.

With Fox out, the Kings need Hield to shoot. It helps when it goes in, but just the threat of one of the game’s best shooters is enough to help the team on some nights.