Kings break losing skid with narrow, 117-113 home win over the Thunder

November 20, 2018

NBA, Sacramento Kings

By Morris Phillips

SACRAMENTO — Winning may be the ultimate goal, but for the emerging Sacramento Kings early wins have created expectations and differences of opinion that could in the short run derail the club’s still fragile chemistry.

The latest? A report surfaced prior to Monday’s game against Oklahoma City that the Kings’ management would consider dismissing Dave Joerger because he’s awarded playing time to the club’s veteran players at the expense of the playing time and development of the young core, specifically 2018 first-round pick William Bagley III.

Both Joerger and general manager Vlade Divac dismissed the reports prior to Monday’s game, but no denial could more effective than the Kings dispatching the Thunder, and putting an end to their two-game losing skid.

And that they did, holding on to beat the Thunder, 117-113 at Golden 1 Center.

Buddy Hield scored 25 points, and Iman Shumpert added 23, as the Kings led most of the night only to have the Thunder rally late behind Russell Westbrook in an attempt to steal the ballgame. However, Hield, Shumpert and Bogdan Bogdanovic combined for 13 made threes, including Hield’s trio of threes late that helped the Kings seal it.

“In the first half we played maybe as fast as we’ve played since at Miami (a 123-113 win on October 29). We like to play that fast but we got tired,” Joerger said. “But we kept at it and kept battling.”

Prior to the game, Joerger explained that the Kings caught the league’s attention with their five-game win streak that ended November 1. Now, teams are far more conscious about their transition defense against a younger club that would prefer to move at the NBA’s fastest pace. Then on their most recent trip out of town, the Kings saw the Rockets and Grizzlies, a pair of clubs playing at a high level.

“It is about when you catch teams at a part of a season,” Joerger said in response to his teams’ recent struggles. “We caught two teams that are locked in right now. You get to that 20-game point, and everything is get into a rhythm, and both of those teams have found their rhythm.”

According to Joerger, the five-game win streak created expectations, and the stretch of five losses in seven games that followed, created questions. The report that Bagley’s playing time is an issue is a part of that, but not one Joerger was willing to address.

“I’m not going to get into that,” he said.

Against Oklahoma City, Bagley did see a spike in his time, playing 26 minutes off the bench and coming up with 15 points, 13 rebounds, the first double-double of his NBA career. Nemanja Bjelica–the veteran whose extended playing time was referenced in the report–started for the Kings on Monday, but only played 23 minutes. Still he was effective with 12 points, eight rebounds on 5 of 6 shooting.

De’Aaron Fox struggled with his shooting, going 1 of 10, but he contributed a career-best 13 assists in a team-high 35 minutes of action.

The Kings (9-8) face the Utah Jazz on Wednesday at 6:00 pm PT in Salt Lake City.

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