PHOENIX -- The suspense is over. The Sacramento Kings will not finish the 2019-20 with a record of 82-0.
After a promising final three games to the preseason, the Kings looked like a team with two new starters and four new rotational players in their season opener. The result was a brutal 124-95 loss at the hands of a Phoenix Suns team that tallied just 19 wins a season ago.
Sacramento took a 59-54 into the half, but point guard De’Aaron Fox picked up his fourth personal foul just 1:56 into the third quarter. Without their leader on the floor, the tide turned almost instantly.
“It kind of stopped the rhythm a little bit,” Marvin Bagley said. “Whenever you have players in foul trouble, it kind of throws things off.”
Phoenix seemed to seize on the moment. They turned up the defensive intensity, specifically on Buddy Hield, who had torched them for 22 points in the first half.
With Fox on the sidelines and Hield getting all of the attention, the Kings pressed. They were outscored 32-17 in the 12 minutes after the half and the game was all but lost.
The Kings looked like five individuals on the floor and not a team for long stretches. They turned the ball over in bunches and the many of those turnovers led to fastbreak opportunities for the Suns on the other end.
In the second half alone, Sacramento turned the ball over 19 times, which led to 27 points for the Suns. On the flip side, Phoenix gave it away just nine times and the Kings scored just four points off of those mistakes.
“It got contagious,” coach Luke Walton said. “It’s funny in the game of basketball how momentum changes things. Making the extra pass, making the right pass will become contagious. If you start turning the ball over, it is the negative type of energy out there that we have been king of struggling with in the preseason.”
The starting backcourt of Hield and Fox combined for 10 turnovers and Harrison Barnes added another four. All but one of the 13 players who stepped on the floor turned the ball over at least once for Walton’s squad.
“Turnovers were too much,” Hield said following the game. “We have to do a better job. First game might have brought some jitters. Everybody is trying to make a play. They were more active. They were the better team today.”
The Kings haven’t even had time to leave the drawing board, let alone get back to it. After a mini training camp and a week in India, Walton and his staff have had to throw everything together on the fly.
Adding to the issue, reserve point guard Cory Joseph missed a big chunk of time with a calf injury and then an illness. He’s practice the last few days and he was solid in his 21 minutes of action, but chemistry is always going to take time to form and the veteran point has had very little of that precious commodity with his teammates.
“It always takes a little bit, but that’s no excuse for tonight, they outplayed us,” Joseph said.
Joseph showed flashes on both ends of the court. He was physical on the defensive end with the Suns guards and came away with a steal and a block. On the offensive side, he bullied his way to the basket to finish with 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting.
But without Fox to push the tempo and get the team flying around the court, the lack of experience together was apparent.
“It’s a new team, so that comes with it,” center Dewayne Dedmon said. “That comes with it. We’re just working on our chemistry, trying to get a feel for each other and just play basketball at the end of the day.”
There is no time for the Kings to sulk after a bad loss. They flew home to Sacramento following the game where they might be able to squeeze in a practice on Thursday. They’ll face the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday for the home opener at Golden 1 Center and then head straight to Utah for a back-to-back on Saturday.
Complicating matters is that both Hield and Fox took a beating in the fourth quarter. Hield said he was OK following the game, but he tweaked his ankle. Fox left the floor late in the game as well and according to Walton, the team will have an update on the pair on Thursday.
[RELATED: Hield, Fox exit early with injuries]
This wasn’t the start the team was looking for. A 29-point loss was unexpected, but this is the NBA and things like this happen.
“You get 81 more games,” Hield said. “There is a lot of basketball left. Yes, stuff happens in basketball. As a team, we have to be better and be more composed.”
Be better. More composed. Less turnovers. Better communication. Better chemistry. Welcome to the start of a new season of Kings basketball.