Kings

NBA Gameday: All eyes on DeMarcus Cousins, Meyers Leonard

NBA Gameday: All eyes on DeMarcus Cousins, Meyers Leonard

The Sacramento Kings are finding ways to win. They take a four-game win streak into Portland Wednesday night looking to gain some much needed separation from the Trail Blazers in the standings.

The last time these two teams faced off, DeMarcus Cousins was ejected from the game in the final seconds. Cousins was summoned back to the court in one of the strangest sequences in recent memory. He finished the Blazers off at the free throw stripe and followed it up with a huge defensive stop to seal the victory.

Losers of six straight, the Blazers are spiraling. All-Star point guard Damian Lillard is doubtful with an ankle injury, but his backcourt mate has shown the ability to carry the scoring load in the past. C.J. McCollum posted 35 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists against the Kings on Dec. 27 of last year while Lillard was out. Portland is a different team without their star guard, but they are still very dangerous.   

OPENING LINE

Kings by 1

MATCHUP TO WATCH

DeMarcus Cousins vs. Meyers Leonard -- These two went at each other last time they faced off, both on the floor and in the media. Cousins got the best of Leonard in the stats department, dropping 55 points and 13 rebounds on the 7-footer. Leonard picked up five fouls and finished the night scoreless in 19 minutes of action. He had harsh words for Cousins following the game, while the Kings’ star big acted like he didn’t even know who Leonard was when asked about him.

WHERE THEY STAND

Kings: 14-17, third place in Pacific

Trail Blazers: 13-20, fourth place in Northwest

INJURY REPORT

Kings: SF Rudy (hip flexor), SG Arron Afflalo (elbow sprain) are out.

Trail Blazers: PG Damian Lillard (ankle) doubtful, C Festus Ezeli (knee) out.

SERIES HISTORY

The Kings snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Blazers last week, coming from behind to beat Portland by a final of 126-122 at Golden 1 Center. During the Sacramento-era, Portland holds an 87-46 advantage and they lead the Kings 128-77 all-time.

QUOTE

“It’s going to be like a playoff atmosphere because we’re fighting with them for the eighth spot and also, the last game was kind of rough, so we’ll see how we do.” -Ty Lawson on facing the Trail Blazers

Dirk Nowitzki likely makes last trip to Sacramento, talks Kings future

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AP

Dirk Nowitzki likely makes last trip to Sacramento, talks Kings future

SACRAMENTO -- During pregame of the Kings and Mavericks game on Thursday evening, a tribute video for future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki played on the monstrous scoreboard hanging high above the court at Golden 1 Center.

While the 40-year-old power forward hasn’t officially announced his retirement yet, it is likely that his 21st NBA season is his last.

When Nowitzki entered the court midway through the first quarter, Kings fans gave the 14-time All-Star a standing ovation. It was a nice moment and Nowitzki was appreciative.

Following the Kings’ 116-100 victory, Nowitzki spoke to the media and was extremely complimentary about the squad they are building in Sacramento.

“[De’Aaron] Fox is fantastic, he’s so fast, he’s probably one of the fastest players I’ve seen in this league and he got better from year one to year two,” Nowitzki told reporters following the game. “[Marvin] Bagley’s looked great off the bench. There’s not a lot of guys that get you 20 and 10 off the bench. He’s an instant problem off the bench.”

“All these young guys, they have great upside and they’ll be fun to watch for a long, long time,” Nowitzki added.

While the Mavericks fell out of the playoff race early, Nowitzki thought the Kings would snap their 12-year drought, especially after the addition of Harrison Barnes from the Mavs at the deadline.

“I actually thought the race for the eight would be there's, so it was just a tough stretch there,” Nowitzki said. “They’re a great set up for the future with Fox and Hield and now Giles and Bagley looked fantastic. They have a couple of veterans with Harrison now. They’re set up great for the future.”

Prior to tip-off, he caught up with Kings assistant general manager, Peja Stojakovic. The two battled during international play, at the NBA level and even won a championship together in Dallas during the 2010-11 season.

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Nowitzki ranks sixth all-time on the NBA’s scoring list and he is widely considered the greatest European player to ever play in the league. In likely his last trip to Sacramento as a player, the German-born star hit 1-of-2 from long range to finish with three points in 12 minutes.

Marvin Bagley continues to showcase star potential in win vs. Mavs

Marvin Bagley continues to showcase star potential in win vs. Mavs

SACRAMENTO -- The Marvin Bagley III era of Sacramento Kings basketball is upon us. He can hit you with a spin move, rise over you for a half hook and on Thursday evening at Golden 1 Center, he starting dropping in 3-pointers.

At 20-years-old, there is no telling where the ceiling is for the No. 2 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft. Since returning from injury, five games ago, he’s been on fire, despite dealing with a minutes restriction.

“It was just a matter of time before I was able to show out and just go out and play,” a confident Bagley said following the Kings’ 116-100 victory. “Play without thinking and just play basketball. Whenever I’m playing like that I just play free and I’m not worried about mistakes.”

For the third straight game, the former Duke star posted 20 points or more for Sacramento, finishing with 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting. He added 12 rebounds four the 14th double-double of his rookie campaign and blocked four shots as well.

Suiting up for the first time against fellow rookie, Luka Doncic, Bagley looked fresh and ready for the challenge. Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, Doncic looked every bit the part of a rookie who has had to carry the scoring load for his team all season. The Slovenian-born guard finished the night with just 13 points on 4-of-19 shooting to go with 10 rebounds.

Following the game, Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle raved about the Kings’ rookie.

“Bagley is terrific,” Carlisle told reporters following the game. “He’s much improved. Shooting the three consistently, so he’s a big problem.”

While Bagley knocked down the 3-ball at the college level, it was in limited attempts. Since joining the Kings, he’s taken a cautious approach when it comes to hoisting from the perimeter, shooting just 69 3-pointers through his first 51 games.

Tuesday against the Nets, Bagley shot and made two 3-pointers. On Thursday versus the Mavs, he looked confident in his five attempts, hitting a career-best three makes from behind the arc.

“It’s just a progression,” coach Dave Joerger said. “I’ve never told him not to, I’ve asked him that I prefer if the ball comes from inside the line where you’re getting your momentum going forward.”

For Bagley to take the next step in his progression and move into the starting lineup, the Kings need him to at least be a threat from the perimeter. If opposing defenses have to stay with him behind the 3-point line, it keeps the lanes open for De’Aaron Fox to attack the rim.

“He’s a special talent, man,” Buddy Hield said. “Sometime you don’t even run a play for him. He just gets our misses and puts it back in. That’s what comes with a special talent. He’s just going to keep growing and getting better. He’s still not to his potential.”

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In 10 games since the All-Star break, Bagley is averaging 20.1 points and 8.9 rebounds in 27 minutes per game. He’s quickly living up to the hype and showing improvement at almost every step.

With just 11 games remaining in the season, Bagley would like to end on a high note. The Kings need him to continue to develop his perimeter skills during his first real offseason and build some up his strength for the grueling 82 game NBA schedule.