Bull Market: Kings hit another two-decade milestone in 110-101 home win over Chicago

By Morris Phillips

SACRAMENTO–Even if the games run ragged, the Kings are winning them.

Clearly times have changed… anyone remember December 2004 with Peja, C Webb, and Mike Bibby at Arco?

That was the last time the Kings had this encouraging a start to a season after 22 games. How long ago was that? Well, for one, Vlade Divac was already gone in 2004, and since he’s materialized (as Kings GM) and disappeared a second time. Doug Christie was present in 2004 but subsequently gone, then re-emerged as a member of the Kings TV broadcast team, and now a member of Mike Brown’s coaching staff.

That’s a lot of comings and goings, but the lengthiest playoff drought in North American sports can be like that.

Brown’s arrival, a healthy roster, and (slightly) better defense are keys to the home team’s emergence, but a genuine belief might be even bigger.

“They’re connected,” Brown said after Sunday’s 110-101 win over the road-weary Kings. “They’re trying to play for each other, and when you get that with a talented group and two All-Stars in Fox and Domas, and a lot of guys who can step up, including Sixth Man of the Year (hopeful) Malik Monk, you get some nice wins.”

At 13-9, the Kings have won three straight and 11 of 16, and those anxious moments that saw fans get those negative thoughts (again) during the recent three-game skid have subsided. Seeing the team win in person at Golden 1 certainly does more than seeing them struggle on the road while watching them on television. That’s for sure.

The Kings weren’t great on Sunday 24 hours after they wasted the Clippers in Los Angeles. They missed shots–30 of 43 from distance–and after building an 18-point, second quarter lead saw it evaporate in the third.

In part, the visitors, led by Zach LaVine’s 41 points, weren’t keen on returning to Chicago with a losing record on their road swing. But a sixth game in 12 days wasn’t going to put them in position to be at their best, especially when they’ve been far from that in dropping 10 of 14.

You know that team won’t go away,” Fox said. “They have some guys that can really go get it. They did that tonight, and we were just trying to throw different looks at them, but I think in the fourth quarter, we were able to get stops when we needed them.”

Seven Kings scored in double figures, but no one had more than Monk’s 20 off the bench. The balanced scoring fit the uneven performance in that if you don’t have a couple of standouts to help you cruise, it’s okay to find your way with a determined committee.

That and the first triple-double from Sabonis, who had 11 points, 17 rebounds, and 10 assists, the first time the Kings’ center has achieved that milestone since he was traded to Sacramento. And he did it when some other big body on another team might have rested in a back-to-back scenario.

“I don’t really believe in resting,” Sabonis said before the game. “What we’re paid for as professional athletes (is to) perform. But, yeah, the West is packed. If other teams want to rest players, it’s to our advantage to go out there and take that win.”

The Kings have two days off before they take on the Bucks in Milwaukee on Wednesday.

Living Up To The Hype: Kings slighty different than advertised in 113-109 win over the Grizzlies

By Morris Phillips

All of a sudden the Sacramento Kings are so good, they…

Don’t need to depend on their prolific scoring to win games. In Tuesday’ 113-109 thriller at the Grindhouse in Memphis, they put up a “mere” 113 points, the lowest point total in any of their ten victories this season. And yes, the defense was present. The formidable Grizzlies were held to 17 points in the decisive, third quarter in which they missed seven of eight 3-point attempts.

“I thought our third quarter defense was really good,” coach Mike Brown said. “Might be our best defensive quarter of the year.”

Don’t need to shoot the lights in order to win. The Kings have made slightly more than half of their shot attempts on the season, but against Memphis they made do with 43 percent shooting, and survived their whopping 30 misses from distance.

Don’t need to command the stat sheet to prevail. The Kings were outrebounded, fouled more and didn’t commit fewer turnovers, but they still pulled it out. To be fair, the numbers between the teams were extremely close in all three areas, but the contention that the Kings don’t have to unveil their best effort to win holds weight.

Don’t need a big finish to get a win… and this one on the road against a quality opponent to boot. This time the Grizzlies, not the Kings, dominated play down the stretch, cutting a 14-point, fourth quarter deficit to three on several possessions inside two minutes remaining. Ja Morant, who led all scorers with 34, missed a 3-pointer with 1:10 left that would have brought the hosts even at 104. Morant’s three-point play with five seconds remaining pulled the Grizzlies within 109-108, but the Kings converted four, subsequent free throws to close it out.

De’Aaron Fox led the Kings with 32 points, but Brown pointed to Harrison Barnes and his 26 points as the key to the Kings’ surviving the frantic finish.

“Obviously, we were haywire out there. Going crazy, and Harrison just made some big plays down the stretch,” Brown said.

The Kings have won seven straight for the first time since they did it in 2005, the season of their most recent–but distant–playoff appearance. Kings’ fans with anxiety issues might not want to look at the Western Conference because their long forlorn team occupies the third spot behind the Suns and the equally, surprising Jazz, just percentage points above the fourth-place Clippers.

The Kings were their typical, freewheeling selves in the first half on Tuesday, shooting 51 percent with eight makes from distance to lead 64-59. The third quarter saw the Kings extend their lead to 12, and they led 99-85 with 6:08 left after Barnes hit a three.

Memphis responded with a 5-0 run which set the stage for the tense finish. Morant was terrific after missing the previous game with an ankle injury, scoring 20 of his 34 in the fourth.

The Kings complete a back-to-back on Wednesday in Atlanta where they will confront the 10-7 Hawks.

Sellout Shootout: Kings rally late for sixth, straight win, 137-129 over the Pistons

By Morris Phillips

SACRAMENTO–The biggest week of Kings’ basketball in over a decade almost transpired without an essential conclusion: a win over the shorthanded, hapless Pistons.

Losers of all nine of their road contests, and minus three starters, Detroit didn’t get the memo or read the Kings’ storybook. Instead they came out firing, led almost the entire way, and were tenuously in control with 4:16 remaining, up 124-119.

That’s when the 17,866 in attendance turned the volume up, while Kevin Huerter and De’Aaron Fox took control on the hardwood. Fox started the final push with a dunk in transition off Huerter’s steal, then the second of Huerter’s two 3-pointers gave the Kings a 131-127 lead with 1:29 remaining.

Fox dismissed the Pistons on a jumper with 56 seconds to go, and two made free throws with 22 seconds left that sealed it. In all, Sacramento’s starting backcourt combined for 14 of the team’s final 18 points, and Fox led the Kings with 33 points, seven assists.

“He’s playing at an All-Star level. He’s doing it on the offensive end, the defensive end,” said Harrison Barnes of Fox. “It’s a credit to him and the amount of work he put in this summer.”

Huerter added 24 points, and Domantas Sabonis had 15 points, 13 rebounds as all five Kings’ starters scored at least 13 points.

The Pistons got 24 points from rookie Jaden Ivey, who was a headliner in a matchup with fellow, top 5 draft pick Keegan Murray. The Kings’ rookie started on Sunday after missing the previous game against the Spurs and finished with 13 on 4 of 10 shooting.

Marvin Bagley also got a few hits on Twitter, as a reminder that this was his first game back in Sacramento following the trade deadline deal that shipped him to Detroit. The 6’11” Bagley didn’t figure to hold up as the only true frontcourt presence for the visitors in the absence of Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart, but he did. Bagley played 21 minutes and scored 11 of his 15 points after halftime. The former No. 2 overall pick for Sacramento was playing just his fifth game after missing the first 13 games of the season with a knee sprain.

The Kings six-game win streak is their first since January 2005, and the perfect complement to Tuesday’s electrifying, 153-121 win over Brooklyn on national TV that created all the buzz. Thursday’s win over the Spurs kept the party going, and Sunday’s crowd, the biggest in the history of the Golden 1 Center confirmed the fan base has taken notice.

The Kings are three games over .500 for the first time since February 13, 2019 when they were 30-27 in support of the underappreciated coaching of Dave Joerger.

With all the excitement surrounding his team, coach Mike Brown stood alone in his subdued reaction. The Pistons 61 percent shooting before halftime, and their 102 points after three quarters left a sour taste.

“We were not good at all defensively tonight,” Brown said. “We got lucky.”

WHAT HAPPENED TO TD?: Terence Davis, the first player in NBA history to notch at least 30 points, seven rebounds, seven 3-pointers and three steals on 70-percent shooting from the field in a single game barely played on Sunday.

Davis wasn’t hurt, just not needed in the minds of the Kings’ coaching staff. Davis’ record night was Tuesday against the Nets. Then on Thursday he scored five points in 15 minutes against the Spurs. And on Sunday, with Murray back in the starting lineup, Davis sat the entire first half, and played just three minutes in the third quarter. He finished with three points.

Do the Kings have quality depth? Apparently so.

Point Parade: Kings allow Warriors’ 50-point quarter in 130-125 loss

By Morris Phillips

That familiar, streetball taunt, “You can’t guard me!” took on a broader context Sunday night at the Chase Center.

As in, nobody in a white Kings’ uniform can guard anyone in a blue Warriors uniform for the next 12 minutes… or so it seemed.

The Warriors’ 50-point, second quarter laid the Kings to waste in Sacramento’s 130-125 loss that dropped them to 0-3 to start the season. Even the Kings’ late push that saw them down 126-122 with 1:04 remaining was more about the hosts than the Kings, as the Warriors missed 12 consecutive shots in the fourth. That drought prompted Coach Steve Kerr to get his starters back in the game.

The Kings trailed 89-71 at halftime, and that set a record for the most points a Sacramento Kings team has allowed in a half.

“We can’t give up 50 points in the second quarter, or no quarters,” Malik Monk said. “It’s hard to win an NBA game like that.”

Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 33 points. Nineteen of those came in the last, seven minutes before halftime as the superstar hit his all-too-familar boiling point. Andrew Wiggins kicked in 24 for Golden State

The Kings first three opponents have dropped 34 made threes while shooting better than 38 percent from distance. An even more troubling trend is found in the Kings’ frequent fouling. The Warriors attempted 36 free throws (making 26) bringing the total for the Kings’ opponents to 91 attempts in just three games.

De’Aaron Fox led the Kings with 26 points, but he missed five of six from three. Fox’s backcourt mate, Kevin Huerter had accuracy issues as well missing 11 of his 14 shots and finished with nine points.

Domantas Sabonis unfortunately was on the floor for the densest portions of Golden State’s onslaught. The Kings power forward collected 19 points, 14 rebounds but was an unsightly -25 on the plus/minus meter in just 22 minutes on the floor.

The Kings’ seven reserves that played were fantastic, combing for 26 made baskets on 54 shot attempts. That production allowed the Kings to turn a 26-point, third quarter deficit into a more palatable 5-point loss.

Keegan Murray and Richaun Holmes each scored 16 points, and Monk added 15.

“Mike’s doing a great job with those guys,” coach Steve Kerr said. “They’re fighting, they’re competing. They’ve had three close losses now to start the year.

“We let our guard down and they took advantage of it.”

The Kings host the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday at Golden 1 Center.

KINGS GET RINGS: Coach Mike Brown and his assistant coach Leandro Barbosa received championship rings in a ceremony before the game in recognition of their contributions to the Warriors’ coaching staff in 2021-22.

Brown spent six seasons with the Warriors, almost all of that time as Kerr’s lead assistant.

“Fantastic friends there,” Brown said when asked about the occasion on Saturday. “Still got my place a block and a half from the arena and all that stuff, but I’m locked in on this game tomorrow.”

Last Two Minute Retort: Blazers surge late, beat Kings 115-108 on opening night

By Morris Phillips

SACRAMENTO–The Kings came out flying, recovered at half, and appeared ready to close late when De’Aaron Fox forced Damian Lillard into a bad pass with the Kings leading 106-105 with 1:55 remaining.

Then disaster struck.

Consecutive turnovers by Fox and Domantas Sabonis, followed by Jerami Grant’s basket and ensuing, made free throw ceded momentum to the Blazers in their 115-108 win at Golden 1 Center.

In losing the Kings failed to retain the enthusiasm of a new season, a new coach and renewed hopes to end their playoff drought dating back to 2006. That left an unsatisfied coach Mike Brown.

“I know this group should play a lot better on both ends of the floor,” Brown said. “I know this group can play a whole heck of a lot better on both ends of the floor.”

Individually, the Kings were superior. Fox led the Kings with 33 points, and Kevin Huerter delivered 23 in his Sacramento debut. The starting guards combined for 11 made 3-pointers.

But the visitors countered with six, double-figure scorers that masked an off-night for Lillard, who missed 13 of his 18 shots. Defensively, the Blazers quickly adopted a different approach after Huerter and Fox came out hot.

“Going small and switching everything hurt their rhythm,” Portland coach Chauncey Billups said. “But I thought most of the night we did a pretty fair job defensively. They put a lot of pressure on you.”

“To win on the road you’ve got to be willing to deal with some storms, some adversity,” Lillard said.

The Kings trailed 39-26 midway through the second quarter when a closing kick gave them a 55-51 lead at halftime. Terence Davis had eight of his 14 points in the spurt including an off-balance 3-pointer with 55 seconds remaining.

Grant led the Blazers with 23 points, Anfernee Simon’s added 22 and Lillard had 20.

Sabonis carried the Kings in the paint, with 13 points, five assists and four rebounds in 33 minutes on the floor.

The Kings host the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday at 7:05pm.

OPENING NIGHT: Bill Russell was honored in the pre-game ceremonies with a video tribute. Russell coached the Kings for the first 58 games in the 1987-88 season. Home run king Barry Bonds, Metta Sandiford-Artest and Brad Miller were among the team’s honored guests.

Rookie Keegan Murray was held out for precautionary reasons following his absence due to COVID protocols.

Shots On Target: Efficient Kings build a big lead and hold on, beat the Bulls 112-103

By Morris Phillips

SACRAMENTO–The crowd showed up, and the Kings showed out.

If any NBA team needs circumstances to be just right from available players, a representative start to the early evening sunset bestowing sufficient daylight within the Golden 1 Center, it’s the Kings.

On Monday, the circumstances were right and the Bulls were made to pay, in a 112-103 loss to the Kings.

Sacramento built a 20-point halftime lead by hitting 3’s and going near perfect from the free throw line, and held on, surviving a Bulls’ 12-0 run in the fourth quarter to break a four-game losing streak.

De’Aaron Fox led the Kings with 34 points, six rebounds and six assists, capped by a pair of made free throws in the game’s final minute that increased Sacramento’s lead to 110-103 with 36 seconds left.

“De’Aaron is playing so well right now and he’s doing an extremely good job of controlling the game,” coach Alvin Gentry said. “Night in and night out what he is doing for us is amazing. He’s playing as well as anybody in the league if you go back over the last month or so.”

Domantas Sabonis returned from a two-game absence and added 22 points, seven rebounds while keeping Bulls center Nikola Vucevic to similar numbers (23 points, 10 rebounds). That virtual draw at the center spot allowed the Kings to fully benefit from off-shooting games from Demar DeRozan and Zach LaVine.

The dangerous backcourt duo for the Bulls shot 15 of 35 which dragged the visitors shooting from the floor to 41 percent. The Kings far more efficient shooting numbers–including 10 for 25 shooting from distance–spelled the difference in a game driven by each team’s surges offensively.

Bulls 12-0 run down 90-89 with 8:17 remaining after DeRozan FT’s.

Doncic Out: Kings catch a break, then get broke off late and lose to the Mavs, 114-113

By Morris Phillips

No Luka? For the Sacramento Kings that late, injury news appeared to be the opening needed for a victorious Saturday afternoon in North Texas.

But the Mavericks taking the floor without their singular superstar and his 27 points a game wasn’t the determining factor. The fact that the Mavs–winners of 22 of 29–are red hot was.

Dallas overcame a 19-point deficit and shocked the Kings in the game’s final minute, winning 114-113.

De’Aaron Fox scored a game-best 44 points and his jumper with 2:55 remaining gave the Kings a 110-103 lead. But they would miss their next five shots and commit a turnover, putting the Mavs in position to steal it.

Spencer Dinwiddie hit a jumper to cap an 8-0 run for Dallas that gave them a 111-110 lead. Then after Fox made one of two free throws, Dorian Finney-Smith hit a 3-pointer to give the Mavs a 114-111 lead with three seconds left.

Harrison Barnes attempted a long 3 and missed, and the rebound was scooped up by Justin Holiday, who scored from under the basket just ahead of the final horn.

Dinwiddie scored 36 points in just his fifth game with Dallas after he was main piece coming back from Washington in the trade of Kristaps Porzingis. The gifted scorer moved into the starting lineup for Doncic, but the hosts started slow, and trailed the Kings 65-51 at halftime.

“We want Luka playing, and it took us some time to get used to him not being on the floor,” coach Jason Kidd said. “I thought the guys got their legs, and got their rhythm without Luka out there. It helps us – makes us a better team – but hopefully Luka’s back Monday.”

“I do what I do, and I don’t do what I’m not supposed to do,” Dinwiddie said. “That goes 1-through-15. Everybody here follows that type of mentality because we understand that to not just win basketball games in the regular season, but in the playoffs, you need that.”

Domantas Sabonis was the Kings only other bright spot offensively with 15 points, 10 rebounds but he wore down late against the defense of Finney-Smith.

With the loss, the Kings saddled themselves with a 16th consecutive losing season that will likely be joined by a just as lengthy streak of missing the playoffs. At 24-42 only a torrid finish with just two or three losses would put them in position to pass Portland, New Orleans and San Antonio and move into the 10th spot and a two-game shot at a playoff berth.

On Monday, the Kings return to the Golden 1 Center to host the Knicks at 7:00pm.

Mike Can Coach!: Malone makes history in Nuggets 128-110 win over the Kings

By Morris Phillips

SACRAMENTO–Doing big things after leaving the Sacramento Kings has a familiar ring. Isaiah Thomas, DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo did that. Tyrese Haliburton is a pretty good bet to do that. And Mike Malone might be the best example of that and he’s not even an NBA player.

Remember Malone? Not even his working relationship and belief in the mercurial Cousins could save his head coaching job eight years ago. The Kings fired Malone in 2015 after the team went 39-67 in a rough season and a sluggish start to the next. And Malone picked himself up and moved to Denver, where he’s won 300 games in seven seasons, culminating with the milestone win at Golden 1 Center Thursday night, 128-110 over the Kings.

“This is a tough business,” a proud Malone said after the game. “I got fired in my first job. I’ve seen my father get fired. This business is not for the weak-minded. Here’s to 300 more.”

That Malone has racked up the wins in Denver with a defensive mindset, and a versatile center who plays like Cousins in reigning MVP Nikola Jokic couldn’t sit well with the Kings’ leadership. While Malone continues to do with Denver what many think he could have done in Sacramento had there been more patience, the Kings are floundering defensively, allowing a league-worst 115 points per game after allowing 128 in their first game since the All-Star break.

“Against a team like that, if you turn it over they’re going to convert on the other end. In that fourth quarter they made a couple of 3s in a row that really hurt us,” Domantas Sabonis said.

The Kings trailed by as many as 13 points in the third, but rallied to within five, 92-87 at the end of the quarter. But the hosts became even more generous in the fourth, allowing 36 points as Denver ran away.

Jokic led the Nuggets with 25 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists as his 34 minutes of floor time was the only hindrance to him posting a triple-double. Will Barton and Monte Morris added 31 and 19 points respectively as Malone’s big victory was engineered by his three, most tenured players.

Sabonis led the Kings 33 points and 14 rebounds, and his 15 for 23 shooting was a major reason the Kings stayed within range for three quarters. De’Aaron Fox had 20, and Harrison Barnes 14 giving the Kings a balanced attack, inside and out. What hurt them was 20 misfires from distance, with ten, different Kings missing at least one 3-point attempt.

“We have to shoot the ball better,” coach Alvin Gentry said. “We had a lot of open looks we missed and they came down and converted. That’s where the separation starts.”

The Kings fell to 22-39 with 21 games remaining in their season. Their prospects for a 10th place finish aren’t great, but they could improve if the club can win at New Orleans and San Antonio next week, two of the three clubs ahead of them in the standings that must be displaced.

CRISIS IN UKRAINE TOUCHES SACRAMENTO: Kings’ center Alex Len and Svi Mykhailiuk of the Toronto Raptors issued a joint statement before the game that impassionately placed both natives of Ukraine in support of their homeland in the face of the Russian invasion of the Eastern Europe country.

“We pray for our families, friends, relatives and all the people who are in the territory of Ukraine. We hope for an end to this terrible war as soon as possible. Dear fellow Ukrainians, hold on! Our strength is our unity! We are with you.”

Sacramento Kings podcast with Jeremiah Salmonson: All Star Break couldn’t have come at a better time for weathered Kings

Sacramento Kings Davion Mitchell will not participate in the NBA All Star break’s Rising Star’s Challenge in Cleveland due to suffering from a hand contusion. Mitchell is expected to return to action on Thu Feb 24, 2022 at the Chase Center in Sacramento (file photo from Hoops Habit)

On the Sacramento Kings podcast with Jeremiah:

#1 Jeremiah, going over some of the Sacramento Kings Domantas Sabonis who is averaging 18 points per game, 12 rebounds, and has 5.1 assists. How important is he since joining the team?

#2 The Kings DeAaron Fox led the Kings with 33 points against the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night. When the Kings struggle in some of their games they always seem to look for Fox as their go to guy for offense.

#3 Sobonis didn’t hold back landing second on the Kings leaderboard behind Fox on Wednesday fending of the Bulls defense and scoring 22 points.

#4 Jeremiah the Kings Davion Mitchell has a hand contusion and will not participate in All Star weekend during the Rising Stars Challenge. With Mitchell out that means the Kings will not be represented at all during All Star weekend in Cleveland.

#5 Mitchell will rest the hand and hopes to be back in the Kings next game Thu Feb 24th against the Denver Nuggets at Golden One Center in downtown Sacramento.

Join Jeremiah for the Kings podcasts each Friday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Rocket Blast Of Reality: Kings start slow, squander opportunity in 118-112 loss to Houston

By Morris Phillips

SACRAMENTO–The NBA’s done its part, providing a postseason format tailored for the Kings’ shortcomings. Now the suffering ballclub has to fall in line, and provide the needed buckets and hard-earned, defensive stops to gain a spot.

Kings are you ready?

Well, not yet.

Christian Wood and Kevin Porter Jr. each scored 23 points, and the Rockets held on for a 118-112 win over the Kings at Golden 1 Center. The Kings fell 10 games below .500 with the loss and, for now, relinquished the coveted 10th spot in the Western Conference to the Spurs.

Buddy Hield led the Kings with 27 points in 30 minutes off the bench, and five others scored in double figures, but the hosts were doomed by a ridiculously poor start in which they trailed 13-0 and 21-5 six minutes in.

Struggling teams blow leads, that’s what they do, and the youthful Rockets followed suit. Their shooting, which topped 65 percent early, dipped to 48 percent at the half. The Kings got to the hoop and kept visiting to lead 60-55 at the half, and maintained a 88-85 advantage after three. Interim coach Alvin Gentry liked his team’s fight, but couldn’t ignore the residual effects of the lackluster start.

“They kept enough of a lead that it puts a lot of pressure on you to score,” Gentry said. “We created some really good shots. It’s just a matter of us knocking them down.”

The disjointed ballgame played in front of empty seats and fans wearing 49ers’ jerseys didn’t gain intensity until leading scorer De’Aaron Fox was ejected with 8:14 remaining. A video review revealed his Flagrant 2 foul for slappin at the ball as Houston’s Garrison Mathews attempted to cruise in for a layup. While Fox could legitimately claim he made a basketball play, Mathews fell awkwardly, landing on his hip with his legs taken from beneath him. Fox departed with 14 points, four rebounds and the Kings suddenly trailing by five.

Tyrese Haliburton was unavailable after it was announced earlier on Sunday that he entered COVID protocols, but the Kings got Richaun Holmes and Damian Jones back after protocols forced both into isolation and physical inactivity for a week. Marvin Bagley III couldn’t go due to shoulder soreness.

The Rockets remain last in the Western Conference but they’ve won three of their last four away from Houston’s Toyota Center. They opened the season with a win at Minneapolis, then lost 10 straight road games. Coach Steven Silas prefers what he sees now: an emerging team with youth, and time on it’s side.

“We’re not a playoff team yet but when we are this is what it’s going to look like,” Silas said. “We’re trying to learn as many lessons as we can. I was proud of them for that.”

The Kings host the Pistons on Wednesday, giving them three, consecutive home games against two of the NBA’s worst teams, but there’s no sweep to show for their scheduling luck.