Kings unable to continue hot start as they lose to Rockets 122-119

Photo credit: clutchpoints.com

By Ana Kieu

The Sacramento Kings hit the road to open a back-to-back series against the Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center on Thursday evening. The Kings looked to continue their hot start, but ended up losing to the Rockets 122-119 in the first game of a back-to-back series.

The Kings rolled with their tried-and-true starting lineup of De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Marvin Bagley III, and Richaun Holmes. But it wasn’t enough to contain James Harden and the Rockets.

The Kings were off to a fast start. Harrison Barnes opened the scoring with a 3-pointer at 11:31 of the first quarter. Buddy Hield made a 2-point shot tied the game at 14 with 6:45 left in the first. Former Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, who signed a one-year contract with the Rockets on December 1, missed a second free throw that could’ve tied the game, and the Kings held onto a 33-32 lead at the end of the first.

Corey Joseph entered the game for De’Aaron Fox to start the second quarter. The Kings went on an 8-2 run late in the second. Harrison Barnes made a driving layup, Richaun Holmes made a pullup jump shot off a pass from De’Aaron Fox, and Buddy Hield hit two 3-pointers. However, the Kings’ 4-point lead quickly disappeared as James Harden made a driving layup and a 2-point shot to give the Rockets a 63-59 lead at halftime.

The Rockets went on a 9-2 run to start the second half, but the Kings caught up late in the third quarter. Harrison Barnes made a pair of free throws to pull the Kings within 2 with 6:46 left in the third. De’Aaron Fox hit a 3-pointer to give the Kings an 87-86 lead with 35.9 seconds left in the third. Fox then missed a 2-point shot, and the Kings settled for an 87-86 lead after three quarters.

With the score tied at 90, Houston decided to challenge the John Wall shooting foul. After further review, the challenge was ruled successful. As a result, the play was a Harrison Barnes tip and it counted. The Kings led 92-90 at 10:40 of the fourth quarter.

Cory Joseph made a 2-point shot to give the Kings their biggest lead of the game, 99-92, with 8:24 left in the fourth. The Rockets had some dry spells, but they bounced back to beat the Kings 122-119 for their first win of the season. The Rockets moved to 1-2.

The Kings fell to 3-2. Harrison Barnes led all scorers with 24 points, 8 rebounds, and 1 assist. Richaun Holmes had 22 points, 13 rebounds, and 2 assists. De’Aaron Fox had 22 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds. Buddy Hield had 19 points, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds. Tyrese Haliburton had 11 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 assist. Cory Joseph had 9 points, 5 assists, and 1 assist. Nemanja Bjelica had 8 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists. Marvin Bagley III added 4 points, 8 rebounds, and 1 assist.

The Kings wrap up their back-and-back series against the Rockets on Saturday, January 2 at 2 pm PT.

Houston Stave Off Kings Comeback, Win 102-89

By Shawn Whelchel

The Sacramento Kings tried to fight through tired legs on their second game of a back-to-back matchup on Wednesday, but ran out of steam as the Houston Rockets earned a 102-89 victory.

Sacramento dug themselves an early hole, as a lack of scoring and easy offense by Houston gave them as large as a 22-point lead in the first half of play. The Kings continued to find their rhythm on offense while pulling to within striking range of the James Harden lead Rockets, but ultimately stalled short of amassing a comeback as a 16-point fourth quarter sealed their fate.

With center Dwight Howard sitting out tonight’s contest with a knee injury, shooting guard James Harden was able to let loose, heaving 31-shots for 26-points on the night to lead his team in scoring. Without their down-low presence, the Rockets lived behind the arc, connecting on 12-of-25 attempts with guard Isaiah Canaan earning 18 of his 24 points from three point range.

On the other side of the court, big man DeMarcus Cousins kept the Kings in the game with 29-points on 9-of-18 shooting while Sacramento was forced to play without starters Rudy Gay and Darren Collison for the second straight game, as they continue to be plagued by injuries.

While the Kings managed to scrap their way to just a one-point deficit in the third quarter, their sloppy play proved too much to overcome, as Houston benefited from 21 Sacramento turnovers on the night, which they converted into 32 points to back their winning effort.

After jumping out to a hot start, the loss drops the now 9-6 Kings to fourth place in the Pacific division, ahead only of the bottom-dwelling Los Angeles Lakers who sit with a 3-12 record on the season. The Kings will look to bounce back on Friday, as they hit the road to take on the San Antonio Spurs