Kings

Kings slow down Giannis Antetokounmpo, but still get blown out by Bucks

Kings slow down Giannis Antetokounmpo, but still get blown out by Bucks

SACRAMENTO -- Pick your poison. Slow Giannis Antetokounmpo and make someone else beat you, or focus on the rest of the Milwaukee Bucks and allow the reigning NBA MVP a chance to go crazy.

Friday night at Golden 1 Center, the Kings chose Option No. 1, and it didn’t go as planned.

“You always try to take away the best player and you kinda try to live with the results,” guard De’Aaron Fox said after the Kings' 127-106 loss. “Obviously, that’s one of the better teams in the league, and they have a lot of guys that can hurt you. Today, I feel like we did a good job of taking the best player out, and those other guys were able to hurt us.”

With the Kings double- and triple-teaming Antetokounmpo, first Eric Bledsoe got going. And then Khris Middleton, and finally Donte DiVincenzo.

“We did a nice job on Giannis, but by doing that, you’re kind of committing three guys to him all the time, which allows other guys to either get closeouts where they can shoot or they can re-penetrate,” Kings coach Luke Walton said. “And Bledsoe, Middleton and Dante, they hurt us tonight.”

The trio of Bucks combined to score 69 points on 26-of-42 shooting (61.9 percent) and it was too much for the Kings to overcome, regardless of how ineffective Antetokounmpo was.

“They’re efficient moving the ball, making the right reads,” Kings guard Buddy Hield said. “They utilize their players well.”

Antetokounmpo finished the evening with just 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting to go with 10 rebounds and five assists. When you hold one of the league’s top scorers to 17 points below his season scoring average, you should have a chance to win.

“Khris is an all-star. Eric is a vet who’s been playing well in this league for a lot of years,” Fox added. “Everybody knows those guys, but they had big nights. Obviously Giannis was the main focus, but you don’t want to cut off Giannis without being able to corral those guys because one of them can always have a big night.”

In a season of learning experiences, this was a tough one for the Kings. They trailed 53-44 at halftime, and then made a huge run in the third quarter to take a 63-60 lead. Milwaukee responded with a 28-7 run over a five minute and 38-second window in the third to put Sacramento away.

“They’re the No. 1 team [in the league] and they’re going to stick to what they do regardless of if they’re up, down [or] if someone is out,” Kings big man Harry Giles said. “With us, I just think we’ve got to learn how to stick to what we’re doing and just keeping the same level of intensity regardless of what goes on in the game.”

The box score has one glaring stat that stands out. Sacramento stayed close in almost every category, except free-throw attempts, where it was outshot 30-10.

“We shot 10 free throws and they shot 30, so, I mean …,” Fox said. “They made two more shots than us, we made the same amount of threes -- you lose by four. They shot 20 more free throws than us, and we end up losing by 21. It is what it is.”

Playing defense without fouling has been an issue all season for the Kings, but the home team was called for 24 personals, compared to just 12 for the Bucks. Sacramento was even the aggressor for much of the night, outscoring Milwaukee 64-54 on points in the paint.

[RELATED: How disgruntled Dedmon got shot in Kings' rotation]

The Kings made plenty of mistakes, which they need to clean up. They fouled the Bucks shooting 3-pointers on multiple occasions, and two moving screen calls that took Hield triples off the board.

The Kings have another two-day break to work out some of their issues before taking on the Orlando Magic on Monday at home. The Magic don't have a player like Antetokounmpo, but they play hard and currently sit at 18-21 on the season.

For Kings' De'Aaron Fox, NBA All-Star break was just what doctor ordered

For Kings' De'Aaron Fox, NBA All-Star break was just what doctor ordered

SACRAMENTO -- The NBA All-Star break is the last major milestone in the regular season before the mad dash to the finish line. It’s also a time for both mental and physical recovery, which was much needed for the Kings.

Buddy Hield went to Chicago to win the NBA's 3-point title. Cory Joseph made a visit to Maui and coach Luke Walton spent the weekend in Cabo with his wife. De’Aaron Fox took some time to heal up.

Coming off the best month of his career in January, Fox limped into the break. Following the team’s getaway game in Dallas, he was seen icing his left ankle that he injured early in the season. The issue caught the eye of at least one national writer.

According to ESPN’s Marc Spears: “Keep an eye on point guard De'Aaron Fox, who is still trying to recover from an early season ankle injury. The All-Star break came at a much-needed time for Fox. The third-year point guard is having issues with tightness in his ankle when he sits for long stretches during games, a source told ESPN.”

A league source confirmed to NBC Sports California that Fox’s ankle is nothing more than “normal grind of a long season.” The week away was just what the doctor ordered.

Fox originally injured his left ankle during practice on Nov. 11. He missed 17 games with a Grade 3 sprain, but came back much faster than originally predicted.

Following practice on Wednesday, Walton said he noticed that the time off might have done Fox some good.

“He looked really good yesterday and today, looks like he’s moving better,” Walton said. “He has some of that bounce back. The break, I think was great for everyone, including De’Aaron.”

[RELATED: Parker expects to make Kings debut against Grizzlies]

Fox is having another breakout season for the Kings. He went into the break averaging a career-best 19.7 points to go with seven assists and 4.2 rebounds in 31.5 minutes per game.

If the Kings have any chance of making a late run, they need their starting point guard healthy and ready to play a major role.

Kings' Jabari Parker ready for Sacramento debut; Alex Len getting closer

Kings' Jabari Parker ready for Sacramento debut; Alex Len getting closer

SACRAMENTO -- With 28 games remaining in the 2019-20 season, the Kings hit the practice court for one last workout before starting the stretch run Thursday night against the Memphis Grizzlies.

It was a lively practice, with Bogdan Bogdanovic hitting 90 consecutive free-throw attempts, a couple of new faces hitting the practice facility floor and the reigning 3-point champ speaking to the media.

Here are a few notes and quotes coming out of Wednesday’s practice.

Jabari Parker is ready

After sitting out since Jan. 3 with a shoulder impingement issue, and playing just once since Dec. 23, Parker is confident he’ll play Thursday night when the Kings face the Grizzlies.

“Yeah, I’ve been expecting to play the last couple of games,” Parker said following practice. “Hopefully I’ll get out tomorrow, keep my hopes high.”

Any enthusiasm regarding Parker should be tempered slightly. The 24-year-old forward has played just one game in almost two months. He isn’t in basketball shape and will take time to get up to speed with Sacramento. That doesn’t mean he won’t score the ball, he might just have to be used in short bursts.

“Hopefully just be that guy that can score, be that guy that can create on the offensive end, be uptempo on both sides of the floor,” Parker said, of what Kings fans should expect when he makes his debut.

Alex Len is getting closer

Len fully participated in practice, but he still needs more time before jumping back in the rotation. Acquired along with Parker at the deadline for Dewayne Dedmon, the 7-footer hasn’t played since Jan. 24 due to a strained right hip flexor.

Atlanta updated his condition on Jan. 31, putting him out of action for another 7-10 days. With the Kings short-handed in the post, they could use the former No. 5 overall pick from the 2013 NBA Draft.

"Last night's practice he did full contact, everything else he was in," Walton said. "Today he was a full go and he looked good out there. He was moving well and hopefully, we'll get him back this weekend if not early next week -- depending on how he feels in the morning."

Len is averaging 8.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and .8 blocks in 18.6 minutes per game for the Hawks. The only healthy and available center on the Kings’ roster heading into the stretch run is Harry Giles.

[RELATED: What Kings must do down stretch to make NBA playoff push]

Congrats

While it has nothing to do with the current state of the franchise, a heartfelt congratulations go out to former Kings coach Dave Joerger, who recently exchanged wedding vows with Kimberly Irons in Paso Robles.

Joerger spent three seasons as the Kings' coach from 2016 to 2019, compiling a 98-148 record.