Rewind: Kings 'starting to realize what it takes to win games' under Joerger

Rewind: Kings 'starting to realize what it takes to win games' under Joerger

We’ve got a win streak. For the third straight game, the Sacramento Kings turned the screws on a team late to come away with a huge victory. This time it was in Minnesota against a young, but extremely talented Timberwolves by a final of 109-105.

With the win, and losses by both the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets, the Kings gave their fans a little bit of extra joy heading into Christmas weekend. Although it’s early in the season, Sacramento now holds sole possession of the eighth seed in the race for the Western Conference playoffs. 

This is unfamiliar territory for a franchise that has been on the outside looking in of the NBA’s postseason for a decade. 

“I just think the team’s playing the right way, we’re all buying in,” DeMarcus Cousins told reporters following the game. “I think we’re starting to realize what it takes to win games. I think we’re doing a great job of playing together, moving the ball, getting everybody involved - guys are having fun right now.”

Cousins got off to a slow start, but he came out in the third quarter on fire. The Kings’ star center hit all three of his 3-point attempts in the third on his way to another huge statistical night. 

“He just like sneezed 32 - it’s amazing, he’s amazing,” coach Dave Joerger said of Cousins in his postgame press conference.

Not only did Cousins drop in 32, but he stuffed the stat sheet in almost every other category. With shots falling for both teams, he managed to grab just seven rebounds, but he dished out a team-high seven assists, snared four steals and blocked two shots in the win.

Minnesota came at the two-time All-Star and he found his teammates for open shots on the perimeter. 

Anthony Tolliver was the beneficiary of plenty of those passes. The veteran forward has been in and out of the rotation all season, but he’s earned a longer look with his solid play over the last week. 

“I think he hit me for about three or them four tonight of them tonight,” Tolliver told CSN’s Kayte Christensen following the game. “I told him, ‘If you want an assist, just pass it to me.’ I told him that about three or four times. He kept listening and I kept knocking them down.”

Tolliver finished the night with 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting from behind the arc in 31 minutes of action.

“Professional - he can sit five games in a row and his name is called and he’s going to come out and play like it’s his last game,” Cousins said of Tolliver. “True professional. He’s always ready to play.”

Point guard Ty Lawson made a huge impact as well. The 29-year-old speedster came off the bench to score 15 points and hand out four assists. Over the last few wins, it’s been Lawson and not starter Darren Collison who has finished games for coach Joerger.  

“We’re just playing for each other,” Tolliver said. “Obviously it’s a little different mix on the court, but once you decide that you’re going to play for each other and play unselfishly, things happen in the right way,” 

Tolliver and Lawson did the heavy lifting on the offensive side of the ball and Garrett Temple was asked to slow down the red-hot Zach LaVine. Temple did what he could, but LaVine is coming into his own as a player and on Friday night, he was spectacular. 

LaVine dropped in a game-high 40 points on 7-of-12 shooting from long range. He’s a super athlete that continues to refine his offensive skill set. 

While LaVine went off for big numbers, Temple still managed to run a positive plus/minus, finishing the night a plus-seven. He added nine points, six rebounds and four assists off the bench. 

It seems like someone new is stepping up for Sacramento every game and their second unit is playing extremely well right now. The Kings reserves outscored Minnesota’s bench Friday night 45-11 and once again helped lead the Kings to victory. 

“Our bench has been incredible this year,” Cousins said. “They’re stepping up, they’re ready to play and when they’re not playing, they’re great cheerleaders on the bench.” 

The Kings return home to face the Philadelphia 76ers Monday night at Golden 1 Center. This is their first three-game win streak of the season. At 13-17, they sit just four games under .500 and they play nine of their next 11 constests in Sacramento. 

Kings rookie Kyle Guy scores his first NBA points in win over Bulls


Kings rookie Kyle Guy scores his first NBA points in win over Bulls

Since being picked No. 55 overall in last year’s NBA draft, Kings two-way guard Kyle Guy has spent most of his season in the G League.

In 23 games down in Stockton, Guy has averaged 20.9 points and 4.4 assists. Before Friday night’s win over the Bulls, Guy had just one shot attempt in an NBA game under his belt, a missed 3-pointer in a Jan. 12 blowout loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Guy came in late during the victory in Chicago, and finally added “scoring in an NBA game” to his resume.

His teammates understandably were excited for Guy, especially forward Harry Giles, who got the assist on the jumper.

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Buddy Hield made sure to secure the game ball after the win, to ensure that his teammate can cherish the memory forever.

As Giles mentioned, Kings fans can look forward to seeing a lot more buckets in the future from Guy.

Buddy Hield embraces bench role, puts Kings on his back in win vs. Bulls


Buddy Hield embraces bench role, puts Kings on his back in win vs. Bulls

Something had to change. The Sacramento Kings were in a tailspin of epic proportions and head coach Luke Walton made the difficult decision to move Buddy Hield out of his starting lineup for Bogdan Bogdanovic.

This wasn’t necessarily a Hield issue and Bogdanovic isn’t the savior that will turn the entire season around, but the chemistry on the floor with the starting unit wasn’t working.

The swap seemed to work early. The spacing was better with Bogdanovic playing alongside De’Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes, Nemanja Bjelica and Dewayne Dedmon.

When Walton went to the bench, Hield instantly took off. There was no hesitation on his 3-point shot and he was active on the defensive side of the ball as well.

“You’ve got to come in, be ready and when coach call your number, go out there and hoop,” Hield told Grant Napear on the NBC Sports California telecast following the Kings’ 98-81 win.

Hield scored a quick 10 points in the first half to help the Kings take a double-digit lead into the intermission. After the break, Chicago’s Zach LaVine caught fire and wiped out the Kings’ lead in the first two minutes of the period.

“Today I was just locked in and more confident,” Hield said. “I’m just trying to be myself and do what I do best, which is score the basketball.”

Walton called a timeout and turned back to Hield and a few reserves to spark the team. Hield once again let it fly from the perimeter and helped his team get some separation.

“When they made that run in the third and we kind of looked like we got shook a little but, Buddy put us on his back and knocked down some big shots and really kind of got us going again,” Walton told media members following the game. “I’m really pleased with him.”

Hield finished the game with 21 points and eight rebounds in just 23 minutes of action. He hit 7-for-12 from the field, including 5-of-9 from 3-point range.

“For him to be all about the team after we took him out of the starting lineup says a lot about him and the group,” Walton added.

Hield had started 126 straight games for the Kings before Friday evening and he’s been the teams leading scorer for the last two seasons. Going to the bench was an unexpected move, but with the team dropping six straight and 14 of their previous 17 games, something had to give.

“He was ready,” Fox told reporters. “He came out, he made shots, he defended well. Everybody was fine with it. He was fine with it. There was nothing big made of it. We all still came to the game ready to play basketball.”

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It will take time for the players to adjust to the new situation. Bogdanovic posted a modest 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting. He missed some open looks, but his ability to handle the ball took pressure off of Fox for stretches.

The Bulls aren’t exactly a playoff contender, but you play then schedule in front of you. Saramento faces another struggling franchise in the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday. There is no word on if Walton will stick with the starting lineup we saw Friday in Chicago, but he can’t really argue with the results.