It was a track meet from the opening tip Saturday night in Houston. The Rockets looked like an inspired team after a rough start to the season, running over the Kings over for a 132-112 win.
Houston rained down 3-pointers at a startling clip, and when it wasn't burying the 3-ball, it was finishing at the rim. James Harden dropped in a game-high 34 points, and Chris Paul added 24 points and nine assists in the Rockets' win.
The Kings had plenty of chances, but their inability to slow the Rockets' offense cost them any chance at a win.
Here are six notes as the Kings fell back to .500 on the season at 8-8.
After failing to reach the 20-point plateau for four consecutive games, Buddy Hield found the basket against Houston. The third-year guard posted 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting to go with seven rebounds and two assists.
Hield has taken a few games to adjust to Bogdan Bogdanovic's return, but the Kings' second-leading scorer should be just fine.
How good is Fox?
In his second season, De’Aaron Fox has put the NBA on notice. Not only is he a Most Improved Player candidate, he should be in the discussion for an All-Star bid.
Against a future Hall of Famer in Chris Paul, Fox finished with 19 points and three assists in 25 minutes of play. He can’t control whether his teammates hit open jumpers, but if he’s playing 36 minutes per night, the Kentucky product is putting up nearly 21 points and eight assists.
Bogdanovic completed the second biggest step in his recovery from offseason knee issues. First, he made his way back to the court. On Saturday, he completed his first back-to-back and should be cleared for regular duty ASAP.
The Serbian-born wing finished Saturday's game with 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting and added five assists in the loss. He’s ready for stage three, which is returning to the Kings' starting lineup.
Marvin Bagley struggled against the Grizzlies and clearly was outplayed by fellow rookie Jaren Jackson. Bagley had a bounce-back game in Houston, finishing with 16 points and eight rebounds in 27 minutes.
Bagley is a talent, but he needs time to figure out the defensive end. There will be a point this season when he jumps ahead of Nemanja Bjelica in the Kings' starting rotation, but he first needs to show activity on both ends of the floor.
The disappearance of Willie Cauley-Stein
If nothing else, Cauley-Stein has been consistent this season. Often times, he’s been extraordinary. Against Clint Capela, Cauley-Stein was less than serviceable.
Cauley-Stein shot 1 of 9 from the field and finished with three points and five rebounds in 18 minutes. It’s possible he was winded on the second night of a back-to-back, but he can’t have nights like this if he hopes to cash in this summer.
Play some D
The Kings struggled to contain the Rockets from the early stages of the game. In the end, Sacramento couldn’t stop penetration, struggled with the pick-and-roll and allowed Houston to shoot as many 3-pointers as it could muster.
The Kings gave up 132 points on 56.8 percent shooting, and allowed the Rockets to hit 20 of 47 from long range. It’s hard to stay in a game when your opponent outscores you 60-33 on 3-pointers. Sacramento's defense has to get better, especially against top-tier teams.