by Charlie O. Mallonee
Kings open the 2017-18 regular season with loss to the powerful Houston Rockets
The Sacramento Kings kicked off their new season before a sellout crowd of 17,583 at the Golden 1 Center on Wednesday night. Their opponent was the very powerful and talented Houston Rockets who started their season on Tuesday night with a last second win over the defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors in Oakland.
The Kings hoped to take advantage of catching the Rockets on the second game of a back-to-back set on the road. They also received some good news when they learned that Chris Paul would not play due to ongoing problems with a knee contusion.
Sacramento (0-1) kept the game close through all four quarters. They even won the third quarter 24-23. The lead changed eight times in the game and the contest was tied four times. Houston’s largest lead was 11 points while the Kings biggest lead was six.
James Harden struggled through the first three quarters of the game appearing to be tired from effort that expended versus the Warriors on Tuesday night. Unfortunately for the Kings, Harden caught a second wind in the final period and scored 12 of his game-high 27 points over those last 12 minutes. That performance really made the difference for the Rockets (2-0).
Despite being down by 11 points with 5:13 remaining in the game the Kings did not give up and cut the Houston lead to just three points with 26-seconds to go in the contest. It was at that point this game took a left turn that the Kings would never recover from.
The Kings George Hill sank two free throws to make it a 98-95 game with Houston in the lead with 26-seconds remaining. On the inbounds play, Hill appeared to disrupt the possession by Eric Gordon who lost control allowing the ball to go out-of-bounds. The big crowd went wild but settled as a video replay was ordered.
What the crowd, the Kings bench and the majority of the media did not understand was the replay was not to determine if Gordon was the last player to touch the ball before it went out-of-bounds. The replay was to confirm a foul call that made on Hill by the referee on the far-side of the court. The replay center in Secaucus upheld the foul call and Gordon was sent to the charity stripe to shoot two shots.
Gordon hit both shots to give Houston a five-point lead with 26-seconds to play essentially sealing the win for the Rockets. The Kings gave it their best effort but came up short.
Kings head coach Dave Joerger addresses the call in a very subdued manner in part two of his video comments.
Dave Joerger was very proud of the effort his team gave against the talented Rockets
- Sacramento shot 42-for-88 (47.7%) from the floor
- The Kings shot 8-for-23 (34.8%) from 3-point land
- The team went just 8-for-10 from the free throw line vs. 27-for-29 for the Rockets
Joerger was not happy about the foul call that was upheld by the video replay center
- De’Aaron Fox 14 points (7-for-15 shooting), five assists, four rebounds, 23-minutes of playing time
- Buddy Hield 19 points (8-for-17 shooting including three 3’s), five rebounds, four assists, one steal
Coach Joerger was pleased with the play of Willie Cauley-Stein
- Cauley-Stein with the double-double: 21 points (game-high for SAC), 10-for-15 shooting, 10 rebounds (four offensive), three blocked shots
This was a Tier One vs a Tier Three game
- Kings played without Zach Randolph who was sidelined by oral surgery
- Bogdan Bogdanovic did not play because of a sprained right ankle
The Kentucky connection was very important to the Kings on Wednesday
- Skal Labissiere 12 points, 10 rebounds to post a double-double
- Cauley-Stein, Labissiere and Fox = 47 points, 24 rebounds, seven assists
Up next for the Kings and Rockets
- Sacramento heads out on the road and will face the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night
- The Rockets will have their home opener on Saturday night when they host the Dallas Mavericks