De'Aaron Fox

Kings struggle in second half, embarrassed on the road by Brooklyn Nets

Kings struggle in second half, embarrassed on the road by Brooklyn Nets

Sluggish. Slow to react. Embarrassed.

Some losses you can’t explain. After a bumpy start, the Kings looked solid through the first half against the Brooklyn Nets. And then the wheels completely fell off the bus in a 123-95 loss.

“The second quarter, we were much better defensively,” coach Dave Joerger told reporters in Brooklyn. “We just didn’t come out with that same intensity in the second half.”

Sacramento was outscored 35-28 in the third quarter, and then they didn’t even show up in the fourth. The Kings only scored nine points in the fourth quarter, while the Nets added another 30. 

The final outcome was a completely forgettable shellacking.

This happens on occasion in the NBA. One team loses their energy, and the other goes for the jugular.

Brooklyn is a quality opponent. They play extremely hard for coach Kenny Atkinson, and they have no issues scoring at an extremely high clip.

After starting the season 8-18, the Nets are 17-5 and in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff chase.

Sacramento is in the midst of a long road trip. They were coming off of an extremely emotional win over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night. They looked both mentally and physically exhausted in the second half, and the Nets took advantage.

During the final 24 minutes, the Kings shot just 15-of-47 (31.9 percent) from the field and 2-of-8 (25 percent) from behind the 3-point line. After turning the ball over four times in the first half, Sacramento gave it away 10 times after the intermission.

Iman Shumpert shot 1-of-10 from the field overall. De'Aaron Fox finished 4-for-14 and Buddy Hield scored just 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Kings were a mess in the second half. They were outrebounded 26-18 after the break, and 56-37 overall. They allowed the Nets to shoot 61.9 percent in the final two quarters, including 8-for-17 from behind the arc.

D’Angelo Russell did plenty of damage, scoring 18 of his game-high 31 in the second half. But, it was a team effort for Brooklyn. 

The Kings don’t have long to think about the loss. Following the game, they hopped a plane for Toronto, where they’ll face a tough Raptors team Tuesday evening of the second night of a back-to-back.  

They’ll need a much better effort, of Toronto will hand them another lopsided loss.

Kings Under Review: Buddy Hield to the rescue in win over Pistons


Kings Under Review: Buddy Hield to the rescue in win over Pistons

The shot heard 'round the Motor City. On the brink of an 0-2 start to their six-game road trip, the Kings found a way to turn a disappointing loss into a momentum-building victory Saturday night at Little Caesars Arena. 

Blake Griffin punished the Kings with one isolation play after another to build multiple double-digit leads. Sacramento trailed by as many as 13 in the fourth quarter, but in classic Kings fashion, they never gave in. 

Marvin Bagley showed some fight. De'Aaron Fox delivered dimes. Willie Cauley-Stein crashed the glass at the right time, and Buddy Hield turned into a flamethrower to put the Kings over the top for a stunning 103-101 win.

Hield's game-winner pushed Sacramento back to two games over the .500 mark at 24-22. Here are the positives and the negatives from the win.


Big Shot Buddy

Everyone gets a shot to hit a game winner with the Kings. De'Aaron Fox, Skal Labissiere, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Willie Cauley-Stein have all finished off a game with last-second shot over the past two seasons. You can now add Hield to the list.

The Kings' leading scorer finished off an incredible evening with a magical moment. After scoring 20 points in the first half, Hield went dormant in the the third quarter. When Dave Joerger released him on the Pistons with 6:53 remaining and the Kings trailing by 10, it was game on.

It wasn't just one basket. Hield almost singlehandedly shot the Kings back into the game. He scored 15 of his team-high 35 points in the final 3:26 of the game.

[RELATED: How Kings actually came out ahead after Cousins trade]


Bagley's Ready

Griffin put the entire Kings' front line on skates. He forced the action, got the calls and looked every bit the player that made five All-Star appearances early in his career.

First Griffin tore through Nemanja Bjelica. When Cauley-Stein tried to help out, he picked up two quick fouls. Harry Giles met the same fate, as Joerger searched for answers.

Marvin Bagley stepped up to the challenge. He wasn't perfect and Griffin continued his scoring barrage, but there was a fight in Bagley that the Kings need.

After taking a few shots from Griffin on a loose ball, the 19-year-old stepped up and had words with the Pistons star. Fox was there to pull him away, but that fact that he was willing to engage is a sign of competitive fire.

Joerger started Bagley in the second half and for a while, Griffin cooled off. The Kings' prized rookie finished the night with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting. He didn't rebound like you would expect, but it was a solid outing against a big time opponent.


The Disappearance of Bjelica

Bjelica was an impact player for Sacramento early in the season, but he's in a major-league slump. In 10 games in January, the 30-year-old forward is averaging 7.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 23.6 minutes per game. He's shooting just 39.1 percent from the field, and 28.1 percent from behind the arc over that stretch.

Against the Pistons, he struggled to stay with Griffin, which is to be expected. On the offensive end, he missed a few wide-open looks early and finished with five points on 2-of-5 shooting in 15 minutes of action.

Bjelica's lone make from behind the arc came early in the fourth, and it was from 30-feet out.

Whether teams have adjusted to his play style or he's getting fewer opportunities, the Kings need Bjelica. If he doesn't snap out of his slumber, expect Bagley to start picking up more time.


Fighting Fox

We've reached that point in the season when the toll of an 82-game schedule starts to wear on players. Fox is playing major minutes in his sophomore year, and his numbers have fallen off a bit in January.

Joerger has been mindful of the impact the minutes have had on Fox and others. The 21-year-old is the driving force behind the team's pace of play and he's been a target for the opposition.

Against the Pistons, he struggled with his shot, but still managed to post 14 points on 4-of-13 shooting in 35 minutes of play. With his shot not falling, he set up his teammates, dishing 10 assists without turning the ball over.

The All-Star break is just around the corner, which will give Fox some time to rest up for the stretch run.

Buddy Hield delivers in clutch as Kings stun Pistons: 'I’m blessed'

Buddy Hield delivers in clutch as Kings stun Pistons: 'I’m blessed'

Buddy Hield probably still is running. The team will meet him Monday morning in Brooklyn when the Kings face the Nets as part of the NBA's Martin Luther King Jr. Day festivities.

After drilling a buzzer-beating 3-pointer Saturday night to give the Kings an improbable 103-101 win over the Detroit Pistons, the Bahamian Bomber made a victory lap around Little Caesars Arena and disappeared through the tunnel.

It was as big a shot as it gets. Hield’s heroics saved the Kings from an 0-2 start on their season-long six-game road trip and sent the Pistons away salty.

“I’m so happy for him and our whole crew,” Kings coach Dave Joerger told NBC Sports California via text after the win.

The Kings have become known for their big shots late in games. Willie Cauley-Stein hit a game-winner earlier this season, as did Bogdan Bogdanovic. This was the first one of his NBA career for Hield, who finished with a team-high 35 points on 7-of-9 shooting from behind the arc.

“I’m blessed,” Hield told reporters after the game. “I can say I got one in the NBA at the highest level. It’s fun, man. As a kid, you always dream of hitting one of those types of shots, especially at a high level like this. It’s something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.”

It was the shot that almost wasn’t. Hield bobbled the inbound pass. He even thought of firing the ball to center Willie Cauley-Stein, who was open on the play. But Hield stepped through a group of defenders and found a wide-open look at the basket.

“It slipped, but I was able to regain it, and after that was able to split three guys, and I put it up in the air,” Hield said with a smile. “It’s all she wrote after that. It went in.”

The shooting guard carried the scoring early for Sacramento, with 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the field in the first half. He vanished in the third quarter, missing all three of his shots from the field.

Joerger started the fourth quarter with his second unit. With 6:53 remaining in the final frame and his team trailing by 10, the Kings coach turned to Hield and his starters to make one last run.

“We hung in there long enough with our defense to make it close at the end,” Joerger said. “Buddy gets it going.”

The sharpshooter responded with an incredible 15 points down the stretch, hitting 5 of 10 from the field and a perfect 4 for 4 from downtown.

“He was hot,” backcourt mate De’Aaron Fox said. "You saw the ball go in a lot today, and I had no doubt it was going in."

[RELATED: How the Kings actually came out ahead after Cousins trade]

It was a huge win for the Kings. After battling through a three game homestand to hit the road with a three-game win streak, Sacramento fell apart in Charlotte. Another loss would have been tough to take, and it would have dropped the Kings (24-22)  back to .500 on the season.

Instead, they stole some momentum and put a smile on everyone’s face.

Sacramento doesn’t have long to bask in the glow of victory, though. Monday’s game in Brooklyn marks the halfway point of the trip, and the Kings will face a difficult end of a back-to-back Tuesday night against the Raptors in Toronto.