Kings

Kings takeaways: What we learned in high-scoring 120-116 win vs. Suns

Kings takeaways: What we learned in high-scoring 120-116 win vs. Suns

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SACRAMENTO -- It wasn’t always pretty, but the Kings moved one step closer to the .500 mark Tuesday evening with a 120-116 win over the Phoenix Suns.

Sacramento led by as many as 26 in the third quarter, but the Suns kept playing hard and made it a game, cutting the Kings’ lead to just three points in the final minute of the fourth.

Devin Booker led Phoenix with 30 points and eight assists. Mikal Bridges and Kelly Oubre each dropped in 20, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the early deficit.

Here are three takeaways as the Kings continued their hot streak to improve to 6-7 on the season.  

King of the Day

NBC Sports California mic’d up Bogdan Bogdanovic before the game as part of the "King of the Day" celebration. Once the contest tipped off, Bogdanovic let his game speak for him.

The third-year guard caught fire from long range in the final 6:15 of the second quarter for 16 of his career-high 31 points. 

In addition to the hot shooting, Bogdanovic added seven assists, four rebounds and two steals as the Kings survived a late run by the Suns. 

Over his last six games, Bogdanovic is averaging 21.3 points and 6.7 assists while shooting 26-for-46 (56.5 percent) from 3-point range. 

[RELATED: How Kings' Serbian connections help make Bogi feel at home]

Bogdanovic left the game late with an apparent injury and watched the end from the bench.

Bring it Holmes

Richaun Holmes looked extremely comfortable against his former Phoenix teammates Tuesday evening at Golden 1 Center.

With DeAndre Ayton and Aron Baynes sidelined, the Kings attacked the soft middle of the Suns' defense for 20 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks. 

Whatever led the Suns to move on from Holmes is fine by the Kings. The 26-year-old big has been a breath of fresh air for Sacramento and a dynamic force in the middle.

Rollin’

After an abysmal 0-5 start to the season, the Kings have won two straight and six of their last eight to move to within a game of .500.

A big reason for the improvement is on the defensive end, as the Suns were made well aware on Tuesday. Phoenix shot just 42.7 percent from the field, including a rough 12-for-36 shooting from long range. 

Kings' De'Aaron Fox targeting return to lineup vs. Hornets on Tuesday

Kings' De'Aaron Fox targeting return to lineup vs. Hornets on Tuesday

De'Aaron Fox won't play Sunday against the Warriors in San Francisco, but the injured Kings point guard is close to returning.

"Right now, after talking to [the training staff], it could be as early as the Charlotte game," Fox told reporters in Sacramento before the Kings lost to the Knicks, 103-101 on Friday night. "I don't see it being as late as after Christmas, or even the Houston game right before Christmas. So right now, we're looking at between the Charlotte game and the Memphis game."

After making the drive down to San Francisco, the Kings head out on a three-game road trip. On Tuesday, they face the Hornets, followed by the Pacers on Friday. They finish the trip with a game against the Grizzlies on Saturday, Dec. 21.

Fox has been out since Nov. 11 when he sprained his ankle during practice. The team diagnosed him with a Grade 3 ankle sprain.

In Fox's absence, the Kings have gone 8-8, including Friday's fall to the lowly Knicks.

Offseason acquisition Cory Joseph has started every game since Fox got hurt and is averaging 5.7 points and 4.9 assists in 15 contests. Once Fox returns to the starting lineup, Joseph will move back to his bench role and lead the second unit.

[RELATED: Lack of intensity costs Kings against Knicks]

When Fox returns, the Kings will be fully healthy and should be poised to go on a run.

Kings' lack of maintaining intensity costs them game vs. lowly Knicks

Kings' lack of maintaining intensity costs them game vs. lowly Knicks

SACRAMENTO -- By the time the media arrived in the Sacramento Kings’ locker room Friday evening at Golden 1 Center, half of the locker room was already gone.

A few players stayed by to answer for the team’s disappointing 103-101 loss to the New York Knicks, but not nearly enough.

In classic Kings fashion, they went up big on a less than stellar opponent and then let off the gas. The victory by New York was just their sixth of the season against 20 losses.

“We took our foot off the pedal and let them come back and stick around the game when we had them kind of buried,” veteran Cory Joseph said.

In front of a sold-out crowd on their home floor, the Kings took a 16-point lead with 4:45 remaining in the third quarter. After a series of substitutions, Sacramento stopped moving the ball and settled for perimeter shots.

New York hit the Kings with an 11-3 run to finish the third to pull within eight points going to the fourth.

“We got up big and we just stopped doing the things that got us there,” Joseph said. “We stopped playing with that aggression and they out physicaled us down in the paint.”

The Knicks destroyed the Kings down low, outscoring them 56-32 in points in the paint, including an 18-10 advantage in the third as they tightened the game up.

“I’ve got to watch the film,” Marvin Bagley said. “They started getting easy buckets. I’ve got to go see what went wrong, but I really don’t know.”

The final 12 minutes was more of the same, except New York started to hit an occasional perimeter shot to help open the lane even more. The Knicks knocked down 4-of-8 from the perimeter in the fourth. Sacramento matched the number of makes with four, but they took 15 3-pointers in order to do it.

“We didn’t play enough of the 48 minutes to secure a win tonight,” coach Luke Walton said. “Give the Knicks credit. They knocked down shots. They made plays as that game went on.”

This isn’t the first time this season that the Kings have struggled against a beatable opponent on their home floor. They fell apart early in the season against the Hornets and then lost a game to the Chicago Bulls to open then December schedule. For a team with playoff aspirations, these are must-win games.

“Our guys were ready to play, we came out and were the aggressors, we built up a double-digit lead and then we didn’t do a good enough job of maintaining that type of play,” Walton said.

[RELATED: Walton suits up at Folsom to support criminal justice reform]

It’s back to the drawing board for the Kings. They’ll face another struggling opponent on Sunday when they travel to San Francisco to face the Golden State Warriors.

After playing in five straight NBA Finals, the Warriors are just 5-22 to start the season and they’ve lost three straight. Instead of playing to get back to .500, the Kings are 11-14 and back on the outside looking in of the Western Conference playoff standings.