Kings

NBA Gameday: Shorthanded Kings to face Harden, Rockets without Cousins

NBA Gameday: Shorthanded Kings to face Harden, Rockets without Cousins

The shorthanded Sacramento Kings take their show on the road Wednesday night when they begin a three-game trip with a stop in Houston to face the high-powered Rockets. The Kings are fresh off a blowout win over the Lakers and looking to build some momentum, but they'll have to do it without DeMarcus Cousins.

Due to Cousins' heavy workload so far this season, the Kings have decided to rest their starting center Wednesday night.

Forward Rudy Gay and guard Ben McLemore have both been ruled out due to injuries suffered against the Lakers.

When these two teams faced off in late November at Golden 1 Center, the Rockets put on an incredible shooting display. Houston shot an NBA record 51 3-pointers, making 21 on their way to a 13-point win.

James Harden led the way, nearly posting a triple-double in the victory, but it was veteran Trevor Ariza who did the real damage. Ariza knocked down 6-of-11 from long range on his way to 18 points.

Cousins led a late comeback, hitting a career-high five 3-pointers. Sacramento made it a game, but getting into a shootout with an offensive juggernaut like the Rockets isn’t advised.

OPENING LINE:
Rockets by 9.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH:
Garrett Temple vs. James Harden -- With McLemore ailing, there is no word on who will start alongside Darren Collison in the Kings backcourt. But who starts and who plays the majority of the minutes might not be the same player. Temple is as close as the Kings have to a lockdown defender. He’s athletic and long, but guarding Harden takes a special kind of patience. Harden is averaging 28.1 points, 11.6 assists and 7.6 points per game. If his shot isn’t on, he finds ways to draw fouls, where he shoots 10.4 attempts per night making him one of the more difficult covers in the game.

WHERE THEY STAND
Kings: 9-15, fourth place in Pacific

Rockets: 18-7, second place in Southwest

INJURY REPORT:
Kings: C DeMarcus Cousins (rest) out, SF Rudy Gay (hip flexor) out, SG Ben McLemore (quad contusion) out.

Rockets: No injuries to report.

SERIES HISTORY:
Houston took game one of the season series when they lit Sacramento up from behind the 3-point line for a 117-104 victory. The Rockets hold a 125-88 all-time lead over the Kings and an 84-42 advantage in the Sacramento-era.

QUOTE:
“I think we got more aggressive defensively. Shared the ball, played together - we had a good flow going towards the end of the game. I think we clicked as a team late down the stretch and that’s what helped us push through.” -DeMarcus Cousins on the Kings win over the Lakers on Monday night

How injury stints helped Marvin Bagley develop mental, physical game

How injury stints helped Marvin Bagley develop mental, physical game

LOS ANGELES -- Injuries are part of the NBA game and for a young player, they can be particularly cruel. A lot of first and second-year players have never experienced the lows that sitting out can bring. Watching from the sidelines can be a very lonely game.

If the right approach is taken, an injury can also be an opportunity to reassess what’s working and what’s not on the court. Watching a game from the sidelines, listening to a coach or a veteran and hitting the film room can help develop a player as well.

Marvin Bagley has seen action in 54 games this season for the Sacramento Kings, but two separate stints on the injured list cost the top prospect a total of 17 games. The injuries were spaced out and may have even helped break the season into smaller blocks.

The first injury came 26 games into Bagley’s career when he came down hard against the Warriors and sustained a bone bruise on his left knee. After missing 11 out of 12 games, he returned to action and instantly started to produce.

A second injury 21 games later cost Bagley another five contests and since his return, he’s become a double-double machine.

“I was still doing stuff while I was out - still working out, conditioning, and doing stuff like that,” Bagley insisted. “I feel pretty good. It’s just about finishing off these last few games we have strong and leading that into the next season.”

While away from the game, the former Duke star didn’t just sit around. He worked on both his body and his mind. The mental aspect of the game may have been the most important piece.

“Oh yeah, I was watching and studying it, watching film, seeing what I could do better,” Bagley said. “I’ve been trying to work on it. Ever since I got back in, it’s been working for me. I just have to keep going, keep playing, and, like I said, finish out strong.”

Bagley roasted the Lakers for 25 points and 11 rebounds Sunday evening in the Kings’ 111-106 loss to the Lakers. He played 36 minutes off the bench for Dave Joerger, seeing time at both the center and power forward position.

“He’s got lots to learn and we’re always trying to teach him throughout the course of games different things,” Joerger said.

Against the Lakers, it was trial by fire. Joerger even left the rookie in to face one of the greatest players the NBA has ever known.

“It was a good experience for him. He guarded LeBron [James], LeBron guarded him a little bit,” Joerger said. “There’s a lot of experience there.”

Following his first stint against James, the coaching staff took a moment to go over the positives and negatives they saw in his approach on both ends of the court. Bagley is a sponge and took it all in for the next time he saw the matchup.

“He jots all of that stuff down,” Joerger said. “He’s very cerebral and he’ll continue to learn and get better.”

Since returning from his latest setback, Bagley is crushing the opposition, despite playing on a minutes restriction for much of the time. In the seven games since his return, the athletic big is averaging 20.1 points and 8.6 rebounds in just 26.1 minutes per game.

[RELATED: What we learned from Kings' loss to Lakers]

He’s also added the 3-point shot to his game since his return, knocking down 8-of-16 from long range over the stretch. Bagley has always had the ability to shoot from the perimeter, but his confidence, despite coming off an injury, is at an all-time high.

The Kings have nine games remaining on the 2018-19 schedule. At 36-37, they are playing for pride and the possibility of finishing the season above the .500 mark.

As they get closer to the season’s conclusion, it’s clear that Bagley is a keeper. He has the look and feel of a franchise cornerstone. He has a nice long break coming up to continue his development both on and off the court.

Kings takeaways: What we learned from surprising loss to Lakers

Kings takeaways: What we learned from surprising loss to Lakers

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES -- In a game of runs, the Sacramento Kings ran out of gas Sunday evening at Staples Center. Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, the Kings couldn’t buy a bucket the entire night.

Sacramento continued to hang around throughout the game, but Kyle Kuzma put up huge numbers and LeBron James notched his 81st career-triple double to hand the Kings a 111-106 loss.

Here are three takeaways as the Kings dropped back under the .500 mark on the season at 36-37.

Energizer Bunny

Marvin Bagley has springs in his legs, even when the rest of the roster doesn’t. Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, the Kings’ rookie big looked fresh. The 20-year-old rolled through the Lakers' defense, scoring 25 points on 10-for-19 shooting in 36 minutes. He added 11 rebounds and a block, but it wasn’t enough to come away with the win. Since returning from injury, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft is crushing it, averaging over 19 points and eight rebounds per game.

A third to forget

The Kings couldn’t buy a bucket early, but they slowly came around in the second quarter to take a 49-48 lead into the half. Los Angeles came out hot in third and ran the Kings off the court. Led by the hot shooting of Kuzma, the Lakers outscored the Kings 39-28 in the period to take a 10-point lead into fourth. Kuzma torched the Kings for 21 of his 29 points in the 12-minute stretch, hitting 7-of-8 from the field and 4-for-5 from long range.

The Rally

Sacramento looked dead in the water coming out of the third, but the Kings never stop playing. Bagley and Bogdan Bogdanovic kept the Kings afloat in the fourth to make things interesting. After trailing by as many as 17 in the third, the Kings reduced the Lakers' lead all the way down to two multiple times in the final three minutes, but they couldn’t get the big shot to fall when they needed it.