NBA Gameday: Young Kings look to kick Spurs while they are down

NBA Gameday: Young Kings look to kick Spurs while they are down

The Sacramento Kings struggled Saturday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, dropping their 42nd game of the season. Sunday’s task isn’t any easier as they travel to San Antonio to face the star-studded Spurs on the second night of a back-to-back.

First round pick Georgios Papagiannis had a breakout 14-point, 11-rebounds performance against the Thunder, setting new career-highs in both stats. The 19-year-old 7-footer out of Greece had played just 53 total minutes on the season before registering 22 against Steven Adams and the OKC frontline.

The Spurs are fresh off a 104-96 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday and they currently trail the Golden State Warriors by 2.5 games for the best record in the Western Conference. It’s a team built for a long playoff run centered around reigning two-time Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard and big man LaMarcus Aldridge.  

Spurs by 14.5

Youth vs. Experience -- The Kings roll into the AT&T Center with three rookies and a second-year pro playing rotational minutes. While Papagiannis, Skal Labissiere, Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein have talent, they lack the experience of the Spurs veteran lineup. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have played together for the last 15 years and Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills and Danny Green have played six or more seasons in San Antonio.

Kings: 27-42, third place in Pacific

Spurs: 52-16, first place in Southwest

Kings: SG Ben McLemore (personal) out, SG Arron Afflalo (personal) out, SG Malachi Richardson (right hamstring partial tear) out, F Rudy Gay (torn left Achilles) out for season.

Spurs: PG Dejounte Murray (groin) and SG Manu Ginobili (rest) are out.

The Spurs have won nine straight over the Kings, including a 3-0 lead in the season series this year. During the Sacramento-era, San Antonio holds an 86-39 advantage and they lead the Kings 114-55 all-time.

“Because I couldn’t get any playing time here, it was the best thing for me to through the whole year (in the D-League). It was a great opportunity for me. Great coaches, great players, great teammates, actually. They helped me everyday get better.” -Papagiannis on his experience with the Reno Bighorns

Marvin Bagley makes case to join starting lineup despite Kings' loss

Marvin Bagley makes case to join starting lineup despite Kings' loss

At some point, Marvin Bagley III is going to force Dave Joerger’s hand with his play. Sacramento’s head coach has been reluctant to start his prized rookie, instead choosing to go with 30-year-old Nemanja Bjelica at the power forward position.

There are reasons you start a player like Bjelica over an unproven rookie, but those reasons are starting to fade. The veteran forward is a high IQ player that stretches the floor with his jumper. He’s seldom out of position and he can stuff the stat sheet.

But over the last few weeks, Bjelica has struggled mightily and Bagley is starting to build momentum to move into the starting lineup with his energetic play.

With Bjelica taking an evening off to rest and recover on Tuesday evening in Toronto, Bagley picked up his first NBA start. The 19-year-old didn’t disappoint.

“I think I played pretty good,” the former Duke star told reporters following the game. “I made a couple of mistakes here and there, but that’s the part of being out there and learning and growing as a player.”

Bagley dropped in a career-high 22 points on 10-of-20 shooting in the Kings’ 120-105 loss to the Raptors. It was first time a Kings player has scored 20 or more in his first NBA start since Omri Casspi achieved the feat in Dec. 16, 2009.

He also added a game-high 11 rebounds to go with a pair of blocks in 38 minutes of action. His double-double was the first 20-plus point, 10-plus rebound double-double in a first career start for the Kings since Nov. 29, 1972, when Mike Ratliff dropped in 20 points and 19 rebounds against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Bagley continues to say the right things when asked about whether he would prefer to start or come off the bench. But he made it pretty clear with his play that he’s open to bigger role.

“I love playing and being out there,” Bagley said. “I’ll do whatever I can to help the team win. We came up short tonight, but every game I try and come out and play like it’s my last game.”

Taken with the No. 2 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft, Bagley is a walking double-double. He’s missed 14 games this season with two separate injuries, but his ability to act as a primary scorer in the post adds a new dimension to the Kings’ offense.

Where Bjelica helps spread the floor, Bagley has an advanced offensive game down low. He also has incredible potential as a rebounder and he continues to lead the team in blocks per game.

Joerger’s cautious approach to the development of the talented young big was the right move. Bjelica’s play helped the team get off to a shocking start and he is a valuable piece to what the Kings are trying to do.

But the time is coming when Bagley will step into the starting lineup on a regular basis. It might already be here.

Kings takeaways: What we learned from 120-105 loss to Raptors

Kings takeaways: What we learned from 120-105 loss to Raptors


Playing without three starters, the Sacramento Kings gave an equally shorthanded Toronto Raptors team a run for their money Tuesday evening at Scotiabank Arena.

With De’Aaron Fox, Nemanja Bjelica and Iman Shumpert all resting and recharging, Dave Joerger’s squad stayed within striking distance throughout three quarters. But with the game on the line, the more experienced team got some separation in the fourth to pull out the win on their home floor. 

Here are three takeaways as the Kings drop one in Toronto by a final of 120-105 to fall back to .500 on the season at 24-24.

Rookie First

19-year-old Marvin Bagley III picked up his first career NBA start in Bjelica place. The No. 2 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft answered the call and put up big numbers against a quality Raptors frontline.

The rookie patrolled the paint and ran the floor to finish the game with a career-high 22 points on 10-for-20 shooting. Bagley added 11 rebounds and two blocks in 37 minutes of play.

Bjelica was lights out to start the season, but he’s faded over the last month. It’s only a matter of time before Dave Joerger and his staff make the move to Bagley as a full-time starter. Games like this might expedite that decision.

The Other Rookie

Harry Giles continues to build momentum with his play. He makes plenty of mistakes, but he also shows flashes of brilliance on both ends of the court.

In 22 minutes of action, Giles finished with 11 points on 4-for-8 shooting. He also chipped in four rebounds, two assists and blocked two shots. 

He’s improving every time he steps on the floor.

Buddy and Bogi

Without Fox in the Kings’ lineup, the Raptors focused on stopping Bogdan Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield. 

Bogdanovic started at the small forward spot and finished the night with 16 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and three steals. 

The Raptors locked down Hield for much of the game, but he still managed to score 15 points on 5-of-14 from the field. He added five assists, but he wasn’t much of a factor after dropping 10 points in the first quarter.