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.
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.
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.