Rewind: Kings' loss to the Blazers a 'good learning experience'

Rewind: Kings' loss to the Blazers a 'good learning experience'

When you are the Sacramento Kings, you don’t have the luxury of overlooking any team, especially a wounded group like the Portland Trail Blazers. Sacramento waltzed into the Moda Center looking for their fifth straight win Wednesday night and they came away with a 102-89 loss to a short-handed Blazers team.

“It was a game that we wanted and it’s a good learning experience for our guys,” coach Dave Joerger told the media following the game.

Sacramento has had plenty of ups and downs early in the season, but their climb back towards .500 was impressive. They took a step back against Portland, but the demeanor of this team continues to stand out.

“This is the NBA, we weren’t going to go undefeated the rest of the season,” DeMarcus Cousins said with a smile during post game. “That’s not even realistic.”

Sacramento struggled to find a rhythm, hitting just 31-of-79 (39.2 percent) from the field and 9-for-28 from 3-point range. They had plenty of wide open shots and couldn’t knock them down.

“The offense was stagnant at times and then when we were behind, we tried to make a 14 point shot,” Dave Joerger said. “At one point in the quarter, we got nine stops out of ten possessions and we took three one pass jumpers.”

Portland had no problem finding the net, shooting 47.3 percent from the field and a stellar 12-of-25 from three. Led by the sharpshooting C.J. McCollum, who finished the night with a team-high 20 points, Portland led by as many as 20 and never really let the Kings get within striking distance late.

“We weren’t physical enough with them, we played too soft, especially early on,” Garrett Temple told reporters in the locker room. “And they were able to knock down some shots.”

Six Blazers scored in double-figures as they turned to a team game to replace injured All-Star Damian Lillard’s 27 points per game.

“The shots won’t fall all the time, but you have to be able to compete and play hard on defense every possession,” Temple said. “If they were making tough shots, then it is what it is. But they were getting a lot of easy shots.”

While Portland was busy running their offense, Sacramento rushed their shots and the movement on the court all but stopped.

With Rudy Gay missing his seventh game in eight opportunities, the Kings needed someone to take up the scoring slack next to Cousins. Temple stepped forward to score 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting while providing solid defense against the Blazers wings.

Cousins went off for his customary 28-points, eight-rebounds, six-assist night, but Portland made life difficult on the Kings’ star center. Cousins shot just 8-for-19 from the field, although he hit an impressive 3-of-6 from long range.

“They really focused in on me,” Cousins told media members from his locker stall. “You could tell their game plan was to make everybody else have big games instead of myself. It was successful tonight -- it worked.”

In addition to Temple and Cousins, Matt Barnes added 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting, but Joerger needed more from his role players.

The point guard combination of Ty Lawson and Darren Collison scored just 14 total points on 4-for-15 shooting. Ben McLemore shot 2-of-9 from the field and Anthony Tolliver hit 1-for-6. It was a rough shooting night for Sacramento, but those game happen during an 82 game schedule.

The Kings return home where they will practice Thursday and possibly Friday leading up to Saturday’s mid-day game against the Memphis Grizzlies at Golden 1 Center.

They travel to Denver to face the Nuggets on Tuesday before settling in for seven straight at home beginning Wednesday against the Miami Heat.


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


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.