Kings

Two positives, two negatives from Kings' nine-point loss to Raptors

Two positives, two negatives from Kings' nine-point loss to Raptors

The upstart Sacramento Kings are turning heads around the league, but they’ve run into one of the tougher patches in the schedule this week.

After dropping one on Sunday to the Bucks, the Kings hosted another top of the standings team in the Toronto Raptors at Golden 1 Center Wednesday evening. Things did not go as planned for Sacramento. 

Sacramento fell behind early, but they fought back in the third and fourth quarters, drawing to within single-digits on multiple occasions. In the end, the experience of the Raptors proved too much.

The Kings currently stand at 6-5 on the season after the 114-99 loss to Toronto.  Here are two positives and two negatives from the game. 

POSITIVES

Big 3 

De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein continue to produce huge numbers for the Sacramento Kings early in the season. Against the Raptors, the trio was at it again.

Fox dropped in 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting and dished out four assists in 36 minutes. He turned the ball over five times, but he continues to thrive in team’s uptempo style.

Hield wasn’t as efficient as he has been this season, but he still managed to drop 24 points on 9-of-22 shooting with four rebounds and three assists. Through 11 games, he’s averaging a team-high 20.1 points per game for the Kings.

Coming off his worst statistical game of the season on Sunday (Giannis Antetokounmpo aided), Cauley-Stein attacked the basket to finish with 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting. He led the team with eight rebounds and added four assists, a steal and a block in 33 minutes. 

Return of Bogi

Lost in the fast start to the season is the fact that one of the Kings best players had missed the first 10 games of the season with a knee injury. 

Bogdan Bogdanovic returned to action against the Raptors and played well in limited minutes. The versatile wing played three or four positions on the evening, finishing with seven points on 3-of-7 shooting in 18 minutes.

The Kings are going to bring Bogdanovic along slowly, limiting his minutes for the first few games. He came off the bench against the Raptors, but there is a good chance he rejoins the starting lineup once he’s back to 100 percent.

Bogdanovic gives the Kings another high basketball IQ player to throw in the mix. He’s a knock down perimeter shooter and one of the best creators on the team. He should fit perfectly into the team’s new style of play. 

NEGATIVES

Fouls 

The officiating crew called personal fouls on the Kings like Oprah Winfrey giving away cars to her studio audience. Every player that stepped on the floor for Sacramento picked up at least one foul, with nine players notching two or more. 

Coach Dave Joerger and his players were cautious not to criticize the crew of Kane Fitzgerald, Ben Taylor and Aaron Smith following the game. That didn’t stop Joerger and Nemanja Bjelica from picking up technical fouls during the contest for arguing calls.

Toronto is a seasoned veteran team and the Kings are young and play out of control at times. The final tally of 26 fouls for Sacramento and 20 for Toronto doesn’t really capture the entire story. During the first half, the foul disparity was 15-7 to the Kings’ disadvantage. The whistles killed the momentum of the game and the delays to conversate about calls came at crucial moments of the game. 

There are plenty of reasons the Kings lost, but the officiating crew didn’t do the home team any favors.

The disappearance of Bjelica 

The Kings are off to a great start on the year, partially due to the addition of Bjelica. Through the first nine games of the season, the 6-foot-10 shooter provided much more than just a perimeter threat, he scored, rebounded well and made his teammates better. 

Whether it’s a matchup issue or just a bad stretch, Bjelica has all but disappeared in Kings’ last two games. After posting four points and four rebounds Sunday against the Bucks, the 30-year-old power forward went scoreless in 19 minutes in the loss to the Raptors.

Bjelica is still finding ways to help out. Despite the poor shooting night, he dished out three assists and picked up four steals. 

With his former team rolling through Sacramento on Friday evening, the Kings need Bjelica to wake from his slumber.

Count Chris Webber as a firm believer in the new era of Kings basketball

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USATSI

Count Chris Webber as a firm believer in the new era of Kings basketball

The Kings have had quite the presence at All-Star Weekend.

First, De'Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Marvin Bagley III all stood out during the Rising Stars game.

Then Fox participated in the Skills Challenge, falling to eventual runner-up Trae Young.

He was followed by Hield, who took third place in the 3-Point Contest.

It represents just the second time in franchise history that the Kings have had four players participate in events at NBA All-Star Weekend. The last time it happened, well, it was a different era of Kings basketball.

In 2002, Chris Webber and Peja Stojakovic were All-Stars, Stojakovic won the 3-Point Contest, Hedo Turkoglu played in the Rising Stars game, and Gerald Wallace competed in the Slam Dunk contest.

That season, of course, finished with a memorable Game 7 loss to the rival Los Angeles Lakers in the 2002 Western Conference finals. The Lakers went on to win the championship that season, and the Kings have never been closer to a title since.

Sacramento entered the All-Star break with a record of 30-27, one game back of the Clippers for the final playoff spot in the West. A new era of Kings basketball has been established, and a prominent member of the former has certainly noticed.

Webber has been in attendance at All-Star Weekend in Charlotte as an analyst for TNT, and in speaking with Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee, he related that he's not surprised by what his former teammate, Kings general manager Vlade Divac, has been able to accomplish.

"Vlade has believed in these guys, especially Fox and Buddy, telling me a long time ago they were going to change the trajectory of the team,” Webber said. “The great part about it as a Sacramento fan is, I know Vlade, he doesn’t just work for the organization, but he is a fan of the city. He wants it to be great, not only on the court but in the community as well.

"And, yeah, he’s going to (turn) it around. He already has. He said, ‘Give me two years.’ He’s done that. Just wait till we give him a little bit more time."

[RELATED: Webber joins 12 others as Basketball Hall of Fame finalist]

Webber has fond memories of his time in Sacramento, particularly of the fan support during the years of playoff contention.

"During that time, I remember that was the most passionate basketball experience, professionally, that I ever witnessed, from the city shutting down for the playoffs to the first playoff series we had (when) J-Will and myself took pizzas out to the fans who were out there tailgating before the games,” Webber said. “From the fans and how passionate they were to the cowbells to Sign Lady and just everyone there, from the vendors all the way to the owners, you knew it was a feeling of community. Vlade is trying to recapture that."

Sacramento will have plenty of work to do over the final 25 regular-season games, but there's no denying the new era of Kings basketball has impressed that of the old.

2019 NBA All-Star Saturday Night: Buddy Hield shines in 3-Point Contest

2019 NBA All-Star Saturday Night: Buddy Hield shines in 3-Point Contest

Taking advantage of his first invitation to the 3-Point Contest at NBA All-Star weekend, Kings shooting guard Buddy Hield put on a show on Saturday in Charlotte. 

Hield crushed it in the first round, scoring 26 points to advance. He joined Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Harris and Warriors superstar Stephen Curry in the finals.

After watching Harris go for 26 to open the final round, Hield struggled early. He cleaned up in the final rack, but his 19 points weren’t nearly enough to come away with the win. 

Curry made his first nine to open his final round, but he went cold from the top of the key. He needed five makes on the final rack to force another round, but the two-time MVP only hit four

With the win, Harris became the first Nets player in team history to win the 3-point contest. Hield came in third place, but represented Sacramento well in his first visit to the event.

Messed around and got burned...

Speed kills, but in the Skills Challenge, the 3-point shot is just as important as every other skill. 

Matched up against Hawks rookie Trae Young in the first round, Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox raced through the course like a dart. He flew through the dribbling portion, had no problems with the pass or the lay-up. 

Fox’s lead seemed insurmountable. 

After missing his first 3-point attempt, Fox released a second shot which was on line. But Young sent a laser from deep, which flew past Fox’s second attempt hit pay dirt first.

Young looked like was going to walk away with the Skills Challenge trophy in the finals, but Boston’s Jayson Tatum chucked a half-court shot to stun the crowd and steal the hardware.