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.

Overcoming The Heat: Kings survive anxious moments to capture first win, 119-113 over Miami

By Morris Phillips

SACRAMENTO–Jimmy Butler’s dunk and ensuing free throw with 6:15 remaining had Kings’ fans feeling creepy, and not in a festive, Halloween type of a way.

More like a take off your costume and head home feeling, Golden 1 Center grew tense and weary with the Kings clinging to a 101-100 advantage after leading by 22 points at the half.

Nightmare on L Street? Could have been had not Kevin Huerter and rookie Keegan Murray stepped up with some big baskets to cool the Heat.

The pair combined for 11 of Sacramento’s final 18 points and the Kings reversed their fortunes in a 119-113 win on Saturday afternoon.

“They came in with desperation,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra of the Kings. “They wanted to get that first win.”

Coach Mike Brown exhaled the deepest. His high-energy coaching, seven years experience as an NBA head coach, and four NBA titles as an assistant weren’t going to wear well in an 0-5 start to his tenure in Sacramento. Instead, he was afforded a business-as-usual approach afterwards.

“Doesn’t matter when it comes,” Brown said of his initial win. “Hopefully we can have some carryover going on this road trip.”

The Kings held a lead in the final two minutes on opening night against Portland and couldn’t hold it. A two-point loss to the Clippers and a five-point loss to the Warriors weren’t any easier to digest. Their most recent loss to Memphis brought grumblings that a team thought to be the NBA’s most improved might not be improved at all.

With a win, they have their confidence reinforced.

“It’s big to get the first one,” Huerter said. “Any time you start a year, you get your first win, it’s kind of a big relief. We’ve worked hard, as hard as any other team in training camp. It’s been a long road up to this point. The first four games of the season, we felt like we had opportunities to win. We just couldn’t close the deal.”

The Kings shot 59 percent from the floor in the first quarter and upped that to 63 percent at the half as the Heat’s defense was uncharacteristically absent. That created a 71-49 at halftime that got dismantled in the third.

Domantas Sabonis put up all 18 of his points before halftime, and two quick fouls to start the third quarter. The Kings center fouled out with the game in the balance and less than six minutes remaining in the fourth. But Richaun Holmes came on for Sabonis, and the Kings steadied. That’s when the Heat appeared to run out of gas, a residual effect of their first half struggles.

“We didn’t match that intensity in the first half,” Kyle Lowry said. “They dominated the paint in the first half. We didn’t get back well enough early in the game. They were pushing every time we scored. You could hear their coach saying, Go! Go! Go!”

Huerter led the Kings with 27 points, Murray added 22, and De’Aaron Fox came up gritty with 17 points, 13 rebounds.

The Kings are in Charlotte on Monday to face the Hornets, kicking off a four-game road trip.

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.”

Headline Sports with Tony Renteria: Will the rest of Mickelson’s sponsors walk out on him; Holmes could be on his way out at Kings; plus more

Phil Mickelson seen here during the third round at the PGA Championship golf tournament on the Ocean Course on May 22, 2021. Mickelson this week lost two of his sponsors because on controversial remarks made possibly joining a Saudi super golf league (AP file photo)

On Headline Sports with Tony Renteria:

#1 After golfer Phil Mickelson’s remarks in his new autobiography that were actually suppose to be off the record according to Mickelson saying that the idea of a Super Golf league in Saudi Arabia would be a great idea and saying he was aware of human rights abuses in Saudi including the death of Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi who was murdered on Oct 2, 2018 by Saudi and Turkish officials in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul that he would like to join a Saudi Super golf league. After the remarks were published Mickelson’s sponsors Heineken and Amstel dropped him. Because of the heavy fall out of the remarks do you think Mickelson could lose the rest of his sponsors?

#2 Talk to the hand: The Michigan Wolverines head coach Juwan Howard has received a tsunami of coverage since his open slap to the head of the Wisconsin Cowboys assistant coach Jake Krabbenhoft after the line hand shake last Sun Feb 20th. Howard who was suspended for the rest of the season and fined $40,000. Howard will be back in front of the bench on March 9th for the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis.

#3 Tony talk about former Oakland A’s pitcher Goose Gossage who said this week that he would to stuff Yankees general manager Brian Cashman in the trash bin head first for using analytics saying “it breaks my heart what happened to this game.” Gossage said he would like to punch MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred in the nose. Baseball writer Bob Nightengale wrote “what is Gossage doing these days? Nothing but burning bridges.”

#4 How much danger does baseball get into if they can’t get an agreement this Sunday and as announced by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred the beginning of the season March 31st could you see one to three weeks of the regular canceled?

#5 The Sacramento Kings after picking up Domantas Sabonis most likely will trade Richaun Holmes. If that happens Holmes would have played for the Kings for three seasons since the 2019-20 Holmes is averaging 11 points per game.

Join Tony for Headline Sports each Thursday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com