Kings

Rewind: Role players step up, lift Kings to win in Denver

Rewind: Role players step up, lift Kings to win in Denver

When you’re in the hunt, every game matters. Tuesday’s 120-113 win over the Denver Nuggets gave the Sacramento Kings a tiny bit of breathing room in the eighth spot in the Western Conference before they return home for a seven-game homestand.

It’s not often that you’ve heard Kings player talk in January about playoff chances over the last decade. But Sacramento holds a game lead over the Portland Trail Blazers and with the win, a game and a half lead over Denver and they get an opportunity to strengthen their position Wednesday against a depleted Miami Heat team.

“I think we just came out with a sense of urgency,” DeMarcus Cousins told reporters following the game. “We knew how important this game was. This is a team we are battling with for the eighth spot. Of course this is an important win because it can matter at the end of the year.”

Cousins put up big numbers, as he has in almost every game this season. But the story of this win was season-high performances from Arron Afflalo, Darren Collison and Kosta Koufos.

Afflalo missed the previous three games with a strained right elbow, but showed no ill effects against his former team. The veteran shooting guard went off for 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting, using a variety of post moves and even hitting two 3-pointers in the win.

“It’s always fun to play in a familiar building, but we’re in a tight race this year and I just wanted to come back and be ready to play,” Afflalo told CSN’s Kayte Christensen after the game.

Collison had a nice game over the weekend against the Grizzlies, but one night doesn’t end a slump. He built off the Memphis performance with 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting. He got his offense going early and then focused on getting his teammates involved in the third quarter.

“Before these last couple of games, I know I took a step back mentally, kind of deferring to the offense,” Collison said in postgame. “But they told me, ‘it starts with me, you’ve got to be aggressive,’ like I had been earlier in the season, so I’m getting back to that.”

With reserve point guard Ty Lawson out due to injury, Collison finished the night with a team-high seven assists and only turned the ball over twice in 36 minutes of action.  

“They were huge,” Cousins said. “Arron, to come in and play like that off of injury was huge for us. DC finally got rolling. He’s been struggling a little bit of late, but he came in, played with confidence and had a big game for us.”  

Not to be forgotten, Koufos started 81 games for the 57-win 2012-13 Denver team and looked completely comfortable in his old stomping grounds. The 7-footer hit a young, but talented Nuggets frontline with a season-high 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting and chipped in five rebounds.

It was a team effort. Garrett Temple scored all eight of his points in the fourth and finished the night with six rebounds, five assists and two steals. When the Kings needed a basket to stem the tide, Anthony Tolliver found the bottom of the net and Ben McLemore dropped in two 3-balls in the third quarter when the temperature of the game turned up.

“I’ll be the first one to say that we’re not a perfect team,” Cousins said. “We’re not a team that’s going to come out and blow out teams on a nightly basis, but we have to come and approach games the right way on a nightly basis. We got to grind it out, we’ve got to play together, we’ve got to defend at a high level all four quarters or games are going to be tough to win.”

A Denver-Sacramento road-and-home back-to-back is never easy, but the Kings get a Miami Heat team Wednesday night that is also playing a back-to-back after falling in Phoenix on Tuesday. If the Kings want to talk playoffs, they need to show up for games against lesser opponents, regardless of the circumstance.
 

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.