Another Night in Sacramento: Rockets race to big lead, then hold on to beat the Kings, 113-104

By Morris Phillips

SACRAMENTO–You know the story: since the Kings’ last playoff appearance in the spring of 2006, they’ve accumulated 13 losing seasons, run through 10 coaches, two arenas and finished last in the Pacific Division five times.

But that’s just the surface. Below the surface–or below .500–the Kings’ story gains greater focus. Eliminating the first 10 games of each of the last 14 seasons, including the current one–a sample size of 956 games–the Kings have held a winning record just 66 times.

That’s a winning record 6.9 percent of the time in 13 plus seasons. The most significant Kings’ won-loss record since 2006? March 6 when the Kings were 33-32. They lost three of their next four games and haven’t been over .500 since.

51 of the 66 occasions with a winning record happened last season under coach Dave Joerger, but the occurrence wasn’t treated as an upswing. Joerger was fired by GM Vlade Divac after the season.

So Monday was business as usual: a new Kings’ coach, Luke Walton, a losing record, and a tough loss–113-104 to the Houston Rockets–at home. The Kings have dropped four straight, and are just 12-13 since their 0-5 start to the season that foreshadowed continued playoff irrelevance.

By one measure, the Kings put themselves in harm’s way on Monday by beating the Rockets 119-118 at the buzzer on Nemanja Bjelica’s 3-pointer December 9 in Houston. Since then the Rockets have won six of seven and seen the one-two punch of James Harden and Russell Westbrook grow more cohesive. The pair came into Monday’s contest averaging 62 plus points per game. They scored 62 Monday after combining for just five points in a first quarter in which the Rockets exploded to a 37-21 lead.

After leading by 16 points after a quarter and 86-63 with 4:34 remaining in the third quarter, the Rockets made it interesting. Houston clanked through a 16-point fourth while seeing their lead paired to 102-96 at one point. But that’s as close as it got: the Rockets responded with a pair of Clint Capela free throws then Westbrook’s 3-pointer that increased the lead to 107-96 with 4:13 remaining.

The Rockets shot 3 for 17 in their uncharacteristic fourth quarter, but all three of the makes were 3-pointers.

“You get up 18, 20 points and you start doing things that you weren’t doing to gain the lead,” Harden said. “It happens.”

De’Aaron Fox led the Kings with 31 points, 19 of those in the fourth quarter. Fox didn’t get much help; starters Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield missed 12 of their combined 13 3-point attempts and finished with nine and 10 points, respectively. The Kings outrebounded the Rockets, 49-39, but couldn’t fully take advantage of Houston’s smallish lineups with Capela the only player over 6’6″ to see action.

Hield, the Kings’ leading scorer, was a spectator in the fourth quarter as the Kings mounted their comeback. Walton explained afterwards.

“It wasn’t a punishment at all. It was more, `Look, we’re a team and we’re trying to win out here and if these guys are going well, well then we keep rolling with them,'” Walton said.

Bogdan Bogdanovich missed his second straight game with a sore ankle. Harry Giles continues to be out, he’s missed the last 13 games for the Kings.

Capela contributed 15 points, 14 rebounds in 41 minutes on an admittedly sore right heel. Harden played 38 minutes with a brace on his knee that coach Mike D’Antoni revealed was bothersome. Still, the NBA’s leading scorer put up 34 points, five assists with Westbrook adding 28.

The Rockets conclude their road swing in San Francisco in a meeting with the Warriors on Christmas Day.

The Kings host the reeling Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday.





Kings surprise the Rockets on a last-second 3-point prayer

By Charlie O. Mallonee 

The Sacramento Kings shocked the 18,055 fans at the Toyota Center in Houston — when with one-second left to go in the game — Nemanja Bjelica put up a 33-foot, 3-point jump shot that went in for the winning basket. The Kings players ran off the bench to mob Bjelica, while the Rockets stood around with mouths wide open trying figure out what had just happened.

What had happened was the Kings had beaten the Houston Rockets 119-118 to close out their four-game road trip. What was even more of a surprise was this was the second game of a back-to-back set on the road. On Sunday, the Kings beat the Dallas Mavericks on a last-second basket also by Bjelica.

The Kings finished the road trip 2-2. SAC suffered back-to-back losses in Portland and San Antonio before putting together consecutive wins over Dallas and Houston (15-8). After losing the first two losses, the Kings could have easily gone 0-4 on this road trip. Finishing with two last-second victories over two of the best teams in the Western Conference is a testament to the Kings tenacity and response to the new coaching staff.

Sacramento (10-13) has endured a very tough time without two of their star players – Marvin Bagley III and De’Aaron Fox. The good news for the Kings is that Bagley — who has been cleared for full basketball contact — may well be back in the lineup on Wednesday night when the OKC Thunder visits the Golden 1 Center. The team reports that Fox’s rehabilitation is going well, but no timetable has been set for his return.

This game was truly a battle that featured 12 lead changes and 14 ties.

Leading Scorers

  • Russell Westbrook was the high scorer in the game putting 34 points in the scorebook.
  • Buddy Hield led the Kings scoring attack with 26 points.

The Glass Cleaners

  • J.P. Tucker pulled down 19 rebounds and made it a double-double game by scoring 10 points.
  • Harrison Barnes was the Kings top rebounder with eight.

Dishing out dimes

  • James Harden was the leading assist distributor dishing out 10 dimes to go with 27 points.
  • Trevor Ariza contributed seven assists for the Kings.

Game Notes

  • The Kings hit 40 of 88 (45.5%) field goal attempts in Houston. 20 of those buckets were 3-point baskets.
  • SAC worked the free throw line in this game. The went to the line 22 times and put the ball through the hole 19 times.
  • The Kings kept the turnovers to a minimum again making just 10 giveaways that resulted in 13 Houston points.
  • Both coaches used just eight players in the contest.
  • The Kings bench outscored the Rockets second unit 27-23.
  • Cory Joseph must be given credit for the incredible job he did on defense. He spent most of the game guarding “The Beard”. Joseph put up 14 points and added six assists while guarding Harden.

Up next

The Kings return to action on Wednesday night when they will host the OKC Thunder at the Golden 1 Center.

The Rockets head out to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers on Wednesday night.

It’s heartbreak deep in the heart of Texas for the Kings losing in OT to the Spurs 105-104

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Graphic: @NBC Sports CA

By Charlie O. Mallonee

The Sacramento Kings played game two of their four-game road trip on Friday night in San Antonio. The Kings lost game one on Wednesday night in Portland. It took 53 minutes to decide the winner of game two in the “Alamo City”, but when the final buzzer sounded, the Spurs had won the game 105-104 in overtime.

The Kings have now lost five of their last six games and have fallen five games under .500 with a record of 8-13. Not only are the men of SAC headed in the wrong direction in the standings but their immediate future prospects are not great. Their final two games of this road trip are with the Dallas Mavericks (15-5) and the Houston Rockets (14-7) – two of the hottest teams in the NBA.

When the Kings left on this road trip, we projected that they would win one game and lose three. We expected the one win to happen in Portland or San Antonio. Now that Sacramento has lost to both the Trail Blazers and the Spurs, our projection has changed to the team finishing the road trip 0-4. That would put the Kings nine games under .500 by the time they return to Sacramento.

The Kings could have won this game
The game was tied at 89-89 with 3:44 to go in the game. The Kings went on a 9-0 run to take what looked like a commanding lead with just 1:43 remaining in the contest, but this is the NBA and you can never assume anything.

The Spurs scored eight unanswered points in less than a minute. The Kings were stunned. San Antonio possessed the ball with 14.3 seconds to go in regulation time. The Spurs worked the ball to Marco Belinelli with 4.1 seconds on the clock. Belinelli let a 3-pointer fly from the right angle and put it through the hoop to tie the game at 100 apiece and force OT.

Overtime was not pretty
The first point in OT wasn’t scored until the 3:07 mark when DeMar DeRozan hit the first of three free throw attempts. There would be only a total of nine points scored in the entire five minutes of overtime. It was just plain ugly.

The Kings wound up with the final possession of the game when it was ruled that Spurs last touched the ball that went out of bounds after a jump ball.

Sacramento did their best putting up four shots in the final 17.4 seconds to try and take the lead. They fought ferociously to get rebounds to have the opportunity to take another shot but none of their four final attempts would fall. When time expired, the Spurs had won the game 105-104.

Leading scorers

  • Buddy Hield scored a game-high 23 points for the Kings.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge led Spurs scoring attack with 19 points.

The Glass Cleaners

  • Richaun Holmes pulled down 14 rebounds to go with 13 points for a double-double game.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge also had a double-double by grabbing 13 rebounds to go with his 19 points.

Tossing out the dimes

  • The Spurs DeMar DeRozan dropped nine dimes in the game.
  • Harrison Barnes – who also scored 21 points and had 10 rebounds – distributed 5 assists.

Think about it

  • The Kings starters scored 69 points while their second unit added 35 points.
  • The Spurs starting five scored 52 points and their bench put 53 points. That’s called depth.

Up next

The Kings will have Saturday off and will play the Mavericks in Dallas on Sunday.

The Spurs go on vacation as they are off until next Thursday when they will host Cleveland.

Kings suffer frustrating loss to the Bulls, 113-106, when their comeback falls short

By Morris Phillips

SACRAMENTO–The rope-a-dope strategy employed by the Kings that shocked the Nuggets on Saturday didn’t translate on Monday against the visiting Chicago Bulls.

The Kings again spotted their opponent a sizeable lead, but this time the comeback fell short. Behind 28 points from Laurie Markkanen, and 20 from Zach LaVine, the Bulls survived Sacramento’s fourth quarter rally to win 113-106.

The Kings failed to climb within one game of .500, falling to 8-11 on the season. The loss also dropped the Kings a game behind the Suns–who won in Charlotte Monday–for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The Kings had won 8 of 13 coming in, including their unquestioned best win of the season to date over the Northwest Division-leading Nuggets, in which they trailed by 17 at the half, only to rally for an overtime win, 100-97. Against the Bulls, the Kings trailed by 11 at the half, and 10 after three, but could get no closer than 102-100 with 2:18 remaining.

Buddy Hield led the Kings with 26 points, despite missing 10 of his 13 3-point attempts. Afterwards, he pointed to the Kings’ slow start as the reason for the loss.

“When you give a team confidence, they come back and bite you quick,” Hield said of the Bulls, who had lost both of their previous stops on their current road trip, and seven of nine.

After a fast start, things unraveled for the Kings in the second quarter, when the Bulls surged to a double-digit lead behind their five reserves that saw action.

Rookie Coby White, Ryan Arcidiacono, Thaddeus Young and Denzel Valentine each hit a 3-pointer, and along with center Daniel Gafford combined to shoot 8 for 15 from the field. Meanwhile, the Kings’ reserves committed seven turnovers as the home team fell behind by as much as 16 points, 47-31 with 3:20 remaining before the break.

Hield and Harrison Barnes combined to miss 11 of their 15 shots attempts in the first half, as Sacramento was again without Marvin Bagley III, De’Aaron Fox and Harry Giles.

Bogdan Bodanovic, the Kings’ spark off the bench, admitted afterwards that his balky, left hamstring has forced coach Luke Walton to put him on a minutes restriction where he’s limited to five minutes on the floor in any stretch. Since missing the Kings’ road game in Brooklyn on November 22, Bogdanovic has logged fewer than 30 minutes a game, and failed to make at least half of his shots from the floor. On Monday, Bogdanovic finished with 11 points, on 4 of 9 shooting.

For the Bulls, the win marked the first time this season their two, young stars, LaVine and Markkanen have each reached 20 points in a game.

“We’re still encouraging him,” LaVine said of Markkanen. “He had a great game. He needs to play that way all the time.”

The Kings start a four-game road trip in Portland on Wednesday with stops in Dallas, San Antonio and Houston after that. The Kings are in the midst of a stretch where they play 12 of 16 games outside of Sacramento.

Embiid goes off as the Sixers beat the Kings 97-91

Sixers B
Photo: @Philadelphia 76ers

by Charlie O. Mallonee

The Sacramento Kings wrapped up their four-game road trip in Philadelphia on Wednesday on a “low note”. The 76ers Joel Embiid exploded for a game-high 33 points and 16 rebounds to lead his team to a 97-91 victory.

Embiid really was in need of a good game after being held scoreless in his team’s loss to the Raptors on Monday night. Embiid said he didn’t feel any pressure to have a “statement game”, but he was happy his team came away with the “W”.

3rd Quarter letdown

After trailing by just one point at halftime, the Kings put themselves in a great position to steal this game on the road. After starting a bit slow in the third period, Sacramento came alive and kept the score close until midway through the quarter.

The Kings went into a 3:04 scoring drought at the end of the third quarter which allowed the Sixers to outscore them 29-19. Philly led 76-65 after 36 minutes of play and the Kings would never be able to catch up.

SAC outscored the 76ers in the final quarter but it was too little too late. The Sixers (12-6) won the game 97-91.

Spotlight on the Kings

Looking at the final box score there is one glaring stat that jumps off the page. The Kings (7-10) went to the free throw line only nine times on Wednesday night and converted just four of those opportunities. An NBA team is not going to win a game going to the charity stripe just nine times.

To give you a comparison, the 76ers went to the line 24 times in the game – a very acceptable number. They went 20-for-24 (83.3%) from the stripe which helped them to win the game.

Ironically, the Kings outscored the Sixers in the paint 40-38 even though they were facing Embiid, Al Horford and Tobias Harris.

The biggest lead for Sacramento in the game for SAC was one point. The 76ers held a 17 point lead in the fourth quarter.

The Kings also had a tough night from “downtown”. They shot just 9-for-34 (26.5%) from beyond the 3-point line.

Sacramento scoring:

  • Buddy Hield was the team’s high scorer putting 22 points in the book. He had a tough night shooting going 9-for-24 overall and 3-for-12 from 3-point land.
  • Dewayne Dedmon came off the bench to put up 18 points and grab six rebounds.
  • Bogdan Bogdanovic added 17 points hitting 7 of 15 shots.
  • Harrison Barnes scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds.

Focus on the Sixers

Sixers A
Embiid had a big game @ Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers blocked 10 Kings shots in the game while SAC blocked just three of the Sixers shots.

Philly scoring:

  • Matisse Thybulle came off the bench to score 15 points. He went a perfect 5-for-5 from the field and hit 3 of 3 from behind the 3-point line.
  • Forward Tobias Harris scored 14 points.
  • The veteran Al Horford scored 12 points and hauled in seven rebounds.
  • Point guard Ben Simmons recorded a double-double putting up 10 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.

Up next

The Kings return home and will host the Denver Nuggets on Saturday afternoon at the Golden 1 Center.

The Sixers will face the Knicks on Friday night at the Garden.

So close yet so far – the Kings lose to Boston 103-102

TD Boston Gardens @ SacramentoKings

By Charlie O. Mallonee

If the Sacramento Kings (7-9) had emailed their performance in on Monday night versus the Boston Celtics (12-4), no one would have criticized them. They were facing the Celtics on the second night of a back-to-back on the road after winning a very tough game over the Washington Wizards on Sunday.

The Kings didn’t just sleepwalk through the game on Monday night. They came out looking for a win which would mean they would sweep the season series with the mighty Celtics. In the end, the Kings would come up one point short, but they put themselves in a position to win the game.

Luke Walton was not unhappy with his team

Luke Walton said in his postgame comments that all you can ask of your team in the second game of a back-to-back on the road is to put themselves in a position to win the game at the end of the fourth quarter. Walton said his team did that but came up just short.

With 5.7 seconds to go in the game, Cory Joseph inbounded the ball to Bogdan Bogdanovic. “Bogi” put up a 3-point shot with 3.0-seconds remaining. The ball hit the back of the rim and one of the Kings in the lane put the rebound back up, but it went over the backboard. Time expired and Boston won the game 103-102.

Record-setting night for Buddy Hield

Graphic @SacramentoKings

“Buddy Love” set a franchise record by sinking 11 three-point buckets on Monday night. The previous record was held by Mike Bibby who connected on nine 3-point shots on March 25, 2007, versus Phoenix.

Hield also set a personal record by scoring 41 points in the game. He shot 15-for-26 from the floor and went 11-for-21 from downtown. Hield also had five rebounds and two assists.

Spotlight on the Kings

This game featured 22 lead changes and seven ties. The Kings held the largest lead of the game – 11 points in the second quarter. The Celtics built up a 53-46 lead at halftime. After the game, Luke Walton felt his team’s play in the final six minutes of the first half is where they lost the game.

Individual scoring:

  • Harrison Barnes put 20 points in the scorebook. He went 7-for-10 from the free throw line.
  • Bogdan Bogdanovic added 13 points but had a tough night shooting. He went 5-for-20 from the field and 2-for-13 from 3-point land. “Bogi” did dish out eight assists.
  • No other player on the Kings scored in double figures.

Team numbers:

  • Sacramento hit 37 of 78 (46.8%) shots from the floor in Boston.
  • The Kings went 18-for-47 (38.3%) from behind the 3-point arc.
  • This was the Kings downfall: they only went to the free throw line 15 times. They converted 10 of those opportunities, but that number of attempts should have been at least 25. Sacramento could have won the game at the charity stripe.
  • The Kings were destroyed in the paint. The Celtics outscored Sacramento 50-26 down low in the game. That just can not happen.

Focus on Boston

Four of the five Celtics starters scored in double figures:

  • Jaylen Brown scored a team-high 24 points.
  • Jayson Tatum put up 20 points shooting 7-for-18 from the floor.
  • Enes Kanter added 13 points and nine rebounds.

Team stats

  • The Celtics hit 20 of 23 (87.0%) attempts from the free throw line. That was the key to their victory.
  • Boston shot 44.7% (38/85) from the floor.
  • The Celts hit just 7 of 30 (23.3%) from downtown.

Up next

The Kings wrap up their four-game road trip on Wednesday in Philly versus the 76ers.

Boston hosts the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night before they sit down to turkey dinner.

Kings win on the road, beat the Wizards 113-106

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Graphic: @SacramentoKings

By Charlie O. Mallonee

The Sacramento Kings (7-8) jumped back into the win column on Sunday afternoon by defeating the Washington Wizards 113-106 in game two of their four-game road trip. The victory did not come easy, but the Kings never let their concentration wavier which allowed them to win the game.

Sacramento outscored Washington (5-9) in three of the four quarters. They also avoided the dreaded “third quarter letdown”. The Kings outscored the Wizards 33-30 in the third quarter, and then, they outscored the Wizards 33-28 in the fourth quarter. That is another major step forward for the Kings.

Kings starters carried the day

The Sacramento starting five scored 79 of the teams 113 total points. Harrison Barnes scored a game-high 26 points. Richaun Holmes recorded a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Buddy Hield put 18 points in the book. He shot 4-for-14 from the field with 3 of his field goals coming from behind the 3-point line. Hield drove the lane very hard and went to the foul line seven times and was successful on all seven attempts. He also dished out five assists.

Cory Joseph had a big game for the Kings scoring 10 points and distributing five dimes. Joseph hit 5 of 10 shots from the floor.

All of the Kings starters expect Bjelica played well over 30 minutes in the game.

Sacramento bench

The key man off the bench was Bogdan Bogdanovic. “Bogi” scored 21 points shooting 7-for-16 from the floor while hitting 3 of 9 attempts from 3-point land. He also went 4-for-6 from the free throw line while dishing out four assists.

Focus on the Wizards

  • Bradley Beal scored a team-high 20 points while distributing eight assists. Beal has been averaging 29.6 points per game this season.
  • Thomas Bryant put up 14 points and added eight rebounds
  • Former King – Isaiah Thomas – scored 17 points against his old team.
  • Mo Wagner recorded a double-double scoring 12 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
  • The Wizards bench outscored the Kings bench 48-37.

Addition to the Kings roster

After having several outstanding games in the G-League with the Stockton Kings, Kyle Guy has been called up to join the Kings NBA roster. He joined the team in Washington but did not play.

Up next

The Kings have the unenviable task of playing the second game of a back-to-back on the road in Boston on Monday night.

The Wizards will travel to Denver to face the Nuggets on Tuesday night.

Bogi’s Big Night: Kings creep closer to .500, beat the Suns 120-116

By Morris Phillips

SACRAMENTO — The Suns have come down to earth. And the Kings–playing more deliberate while applying the D–are ascending.

Bogdan Bogdanovic scored a career-best 31 points and the Kings survived a furious, fourth quarter rally from the Suns in a 120-116 victory on Tuesday.

After an 0-5 start–including an embarrasing 29-point loss in Phoenix on opening night–the Kings have won six of eight, and their goal of ending the NBA’s longest playoff drought is back on the table.

With the Warriors, Thunder, Blazers and Spurs in various states of disrepair, Western Conference playoff spots are up for grabs.  Phoenix (last appearance: 2010) and Sacramento (2006) own the lengthiest postseason absences along with the most promise for putting an end to the droughts this season.

The Suns started the season fast with five wins and two one-point losses under the direction of new coach Monty Williams. But DeAndre Ayton’s suspension and some difficult opponents have slowed their momentum. Meanwhile, the Kings have turned it around with defense, and relying on their depth under the tutelage of Luke Walton.

Bogdanovic, getting increased playing time in place of injured point guard De’Aaron Fox, got hot in the second quarter, scoring 18 points as the Kings’ lead swelled to 26. But Phoenix finally responded in a 41-point, fourth quarter that pulled them within 116-113 with 14.2 seconds remaining.

Richaun Holmes and Yogi Ferrell both made a pair of free throws in the final seconds to keep the Kings from an embarrassing outcome.

“It felt like to me that we started to stat-hunt a little bit,” Walton said of the near collapse. “When we continued to run our plays we got wide open everything. When we got stagnant their zone stopped us.”

The Kings limited Phoenix to 26 percent shooting in the first quarter, and the possibility of them holding a fourth, consecutive opponent to less than 100 points seemed doable. They also blocked seven shots, and had seven steals, but this was an important ballgame for both clubs. The Suns’ furious rally, and offensive emergence confirmed that.

“We changed up our defenses a little bit but they hit tough shots after tough shots,” Williams said. “But I just loved the fight of our team.”

“We kind of were ‘OK, we got it,'” Bogdanovich said. “It’s the NBA. You have to be ready to lock in and finish the game.”

Holmes finished with 20 points and a career-best 15 rebounds. Bodganovich hit 7 3-pointers for the first time in his career, but missed the final minutes with a hamstring issue. Cory Joseph dished out 14 assists, also a career-high.

Phoenix’s Aaron Baynes, the journeyman center turned 3-point sensation missed the game with a hip injury. Ricky Rubio was available after missing the previous night’s game in Phoenix against Boston, but couldn’t provide much help. Rubio played just 18 minutes and missed all seven of his shots from the floor.

Devin Booker started slow, drew a technical foul, but finished fast with 30 points to lead the Suns. Kelly Oubre and Mikal Bridges had 20 points each.

Headline Sports podcast with Tony Renteria: Washington sending scout to watch Kaepernick practice; 49ers look to get back in win column Sunday against Arizona; plus more

photo from tmz: Seeking work in the NFL Colin Kaepernick will be trying out his handwork this week in his quest for an NFL job.

On Headlines with Tony Renteria:

#1 Washington is one of the NFL teams that will be taking a look at quarterback Colin Kaepernick for his tryouts to get back on an NFL team. It was mentioned that Washington might not be interested in Kaepernick because they have rookie Dwayne Haskins as a team starter.

#2 49ers host the Arizona Cardinals next. It’s just one day less to rest as the 49ers are coming off that tough loss on Monday Night Football to the Seattle Seahawks. After a loss like that, how quick do you see the 49ers regrouping?

#3 The Oakland Raiders just edged out the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday Night Football last week 26-24. The Raiders’ Derek Carr threw for 218 yards and went 21 for 31 with one touchdown.

#4 The Sacramento Kings are believing in themselves. They have won four of their last five games and are getting great offensive production from Bogdan Boganovic, Buddy Heild, Nemanja Bjelica, and Harrison Barnes.

#5 After former Houston Astros pitcher Mike Fiers said that the Astros were stealing signs during the 2017 season and 2017 World Series, how far down does the Astros’ credibility go down from here?

Tony Renteria does Headline Sports each Thursday for

Kings win again, downing Portland 107-99 on Tuesday night

SAC 11-12

By Charlie O. Mallonee

SACRAMENTOOn Tuesday night, the Kings played their first game since learning that star point guard De’Aaron Fox was going to be unavailable to the team for an extended period of time. Fox suffered a Grade 3 ankle sprain, which usually implies ligament damage, at the end of practice on Monday. Fox is currently on crutches and will be re-evaluated in four weeks. How long Fox will be gone has yet to be determined.

NBA observers immediately predicted “doom and gloom”

The national experts who cover the NBA almost immediately declared that the injury to Fox ended any chance the Kings had of making a playoff run this season. The team had stumbled out of the starting gate losing their first five games but seemed to be putting things together after going 2-1 on their first road trip to the East Coast.

“Those in the know” felt that the team would not be able to overcome the loss of Fox who is their uptempo playmaker. Fox is also a key scorer for the team when they need a boost on the scoreboard.

Tuesday night the Kings had to face the Portland Trail Blazers in their first test without Fox on the floor. Sacramento had lost to the Blazers 122-112 at home in the second of the season.

Portland tried to take control in the first half

The Trail Blazers came out in the first quarter shooting 50% from the floor and 33% from 3-point range. The Kings really struggled as they shot just 34.6% from the field and a miserable 16.7% from downtown. What kept Sacramento in the game was their volume of shots.

Portland hit 9 of 18 shots in the opening period while the Kings put in 9 of 26 attempts from the field. The Blazers held just a 24-21 lead when the first quarter came to a close.

The Kings’ shooting and defense improved in the second quarter, and they matched the Blazers in almost every statistical category. Portland was up by only three points, 49-46, at the half.

Trail Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts said after the game: “Sacramento didn’t shoot the ball particularly well – neither team shot the ball well in the first half. I felt like we should have had a bigger lead at halftime.”

Could the Kings overcome their Third Quarter nemesis?

The Kings have experienced difficulty in the third quarter in the majority of their games so far this season. They have had a tendency to start the period slowly and then watch their opponents put them in a position where they have to play catch up in the fourth quarter.

That did not happen on Tuesday night. Sacramento outscored Portland 35-21 in the third period. They accomplished that by shooting an outstanding 57.9% (11-for-19) overall and sinking 2 of 5 (40%) from long range. They also converted 11 of 13 opportunities from free throw line.

At the end of 36 minutes of play, Sacramento led Portland 81-70.

Portland Head Coach Terry Stotts: “They got off to a good start in the third quarter and built a lead and we really couldn’t recover from that initial burst at the start of the third quarter.”

Portland did not give up in the fourth

The Blazers outscored the Kings 29-26 in the final 12 minutes and cut the Sacramento lead down to five points with 2:51 to go in the game. Bjelica hit a 26-foot, 3-point shot to give his team an eight-point lead. The Kings would go on to win the game 107-99.

The Kings record improves to 4-6 and they have now won 4 of their last 5 games. Portland’s record drops to 4-7 on the young season.

After the game, Luke Walton wanted to talk “D”

“I want to talk about our defense. It’s been what we’ve been preaching about every day since day one of training camp and I’m the first to admit, it needs to get a lot better. But that’s why – not only tonight but I feel like slowly even if our numbers haven’t showed it, guys are starting to understand and really make steps as far as individual defense and team defense. Tonight, we started the game, we couldn’t make anything – great shooters, wide-open shots – and that’s why defense is important.”

Focus on the Kings

  • Bogdan Bogdanovic was the Kings top scorer. He came off the bench to score 25 points and dish out 10 assists. “Bogi” scored 25 of the Kings 36 bench points.
  • Buddy Hield added 20 points in 37 minutes of playing time. Hield did not have a great night shooting just 7-for-21, but he hit big shots when they were needed.
  • Nemanja Bjelica recorded a double-double scoring 19 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.

Blazers top performers

  • To no one’s surprise, Damian Lillard scored a game-high 27 points. “Dame” went 13-for-14 from the free throw line. He also played almost 38 minutes. He is truly an incredible player.
  • CJ McCollum added 24 points shooting a very nice 11-for-21 from the floor.
  • Hassan Whiteside had another nice game against the Kings as he put up 17 points and hauled in seven rebounds.

Up next

The Kings will be off until Friday night when they will face the Lakers at Staples Center in LA.

The Blazers head home for the back end of a back-to-back with the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night.