Kings

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

kingstakeawaysap.jpg
AP

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

BOX SCORE

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.  

Active

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.

Double-Doubles

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. 

Kings' Marvin Bagley remains confident despite rusty showing in return

Kings' Marvin Bagley remains confident despite rusty showing in return

SACRAMENTO -- Midway through the first quarter, Kings head coach Luke Walton looked down his bench and called on Marvin Bagley to go to the scorer's table and check-in. It was a big moment for Bagley, who had missed the previous 22 games with a broken right thumb.

Moments later, Bagley faced up his defender and hoisted up an 18-foot jumper. The shot attempt sailed over the rim, missing everything, much to the chagrin of all 16,723 fans at Golden 1 Center.

The moment was a reminder that Bagley is a 20-year-old kid who hasn’t played in seven weeks and will need some time to find his rhythm before he takes the expected leap into stardom.

“He didn’t play his best, he’s trying to get his feet back,” Buddy Hield said after the Kings’ 94-93 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. “His best basketball is yet to come.”

Bagley showed flashes of brilliance and bouts of impatience. He finished the game with 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting to go with six rebounds and a block. He managed to make it through 23 minutes of play without needing an oxygen mask and he ran the floor like a gazelle.

“I had to get my wind back the first three times up and down,” Bagley admitted. “But then after that, I was kind of back to normal. I feel pretty good, I was able to get my second wind and keep pushing, so it was good overall.”

Taken with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Bagley opened the season as the Kings’ starting power forward. He’ll likely regain that spot, but for now, the team is playing well with Nemanja Bjelica at the four.

Walton used Bagley primarily at center, splitting minutes down the middle with Richaun Holmes. While Bagley has a more advanced offensive game, Holmes is a top-notch pick-and-roll player and a far superior defender at this point in his career.

The combination worked against the Thunder, but there will have to come a time when Walton figures out how to use both bigs on the court at the same time.

[RELATED: Kings in position to redeem themselves after playoff stumble last year]

What was evident from his time on the floor is that Bagley still has springs in his legs and his ability to get off the floor in traffic is elite.

It will take time for Bagley to completely find his game. A seven-week absence is a long stretch for any player, let alone a sophomore trying to work himself into a new role. The fact that he took 13 shots in his return to the court shows that he hasn’t lost his confidence and he’s ready to step in and being a primary scoring option.

“I mean, I’ll never lose confidence,” Bagley said. “My confidence is through the room no matter what’s going on during the game, no matter who’s coaching, no matter what. My confidence is always going to be there and that’s how I have always been. I know what I’m capable of doing. I know the kind of work I put in. My confidence is sky high so that’s never an issue for me.”

Bagley will get another opportunity to build on his first game back when the Kings host the New York Knicks on Friday. After losing 10 straight, New York held on to beat the Warriors on Wednesday evening for just their fifth victory of the season.

The Knicks are in the bottom of the NBA’s standings, but they have a big, physical, veteran frontline that will test Bagley and the rest of the Kings bigs.

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.