The Kings had plenty of chances to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in Dallas on Friday night, but the veteran-led closing lineup didn’t blink against a fourth quarter Mavericks run and the Kings prevailed 93-88. A four-point play from George Hill in the closing minutes, followed by a great loose-ball snag by Buddy Hield and another jumper from Hill gave the Kings the final push they needed to snag their first win of the season.
Hill led the Kings (1-1) with 21 points, while De’Aaron Fox added 9 points, 10 assists and 6 boards, and Willie Cauley-Stein finished with another double-double at 11 points and 10 boards. In his first game of the season, Zach Randolph snagged the start and had 13 points and 6 boards in 30 minutes...albeit on 5-15 shooting from the floor. Harrison Barnes had 24 points to lead the Mavericks (0-2).
Neither team played particularly inspiring offense, as both the Kings (43% shooting) and Maverick (41.3% shooting) rosters are (a) newly forged and developing chemistry, and (b) not that good yet. The big difference in the game was the battle on the boards, where Sacramento dominated 57-36. Considering that rebounds were one of the bigger question marks for the roster, that’s an impressive advantage.
Dave Joerger tightened up the rotations against Dallas, and closed out with Fox and Cauley-Stein playing alongside the elder statesmen in Hill, Garret Temple, and Randolph. After a fluid 10-man rotation against the Rockets, Joerger handcuffed two five-man lineups together for the second-half run - he stuck with the starting lineup of Hill, Hield, Justin Jackson, Randolph, and Cauley-Stein until there were just under 3 minutes left in the 3rd, and then gave Fox, Temple, Vince Carter, Skal Labissiere, and Kosta Koufos nearly 10 minutes of run together.
Much like the opener against Houston, Cauley-Stein and Fox were the Kings best youngsters. Fox missed some gimmie layups, and let defenders give him body-lengths worth of defensive space on the perimeter without shooting it, but he also had some excellent ball control and great passing. Even with George Hill playing at a high level, the ball ran through Fox whenever he was on the court - a 10/2 assist/turnover ratio is amazing for a rookie with his usage rate.
This game was also further evidence that Cauley-Stein has shed his apparent reluctance on the glass, as he snagged some really nice boards (including 4 offensive) against a feisty Maverick big lineup. He also continued to show his mid-range game might actually sort-of be a real weapon...probably.
The Kings kicked off the game with a sputtering offense, and the Mavericks clearly outplayed them for much of the first half, leading by as much as 12... and yet, thanks to a solid run to end the second and a 30-to-20 advantage on the glass, the Kings knotted it up at 43-43. Fox led the way with 7 points, 7 assists, and 3 rebounds at the half, while Cauley-Stein had 6 points and 9 boards.
The Kings continue this road trip with a stop in Denver on Saturday before a Monday match up in Phoenix. For an opponent’s perspective, visit Mavs Moneyball.
- With Randolph back from his one game absence, Dave Joerger gave him the start over Skal. Randolph got a too-high number of offensive sets where the Kings gave him the ball on the elbows/top of the key and cleared out the area; it got the Kings one much-needed bucket in the fourth, but was grimace-inducing for most of the game.
- Skal’s opening minutes in the first quarter were the best he’s shown since April. Three strong scores (including a post up and deep 2), some great contain defense, and a tough rebound against Noel highlights that developing, versatile game we’re all daydreaming about. He began his second-half run with a traveling violation (with the ref showing an odd interpretation of what a pivot foot means), but stuck a deep-two the next possession. Even when he’s showing the deer-in-the-headlights look he perfected at Kentucky, he’s produced and shows little hesitation. Joerger sticking with Randolph through the third and to close out the fourth was a major disappointment.
- Bogdan Bogdanovic missed his second straight game with his ankle injury, but will hopefully get his first NBA action during this road trip. One wonders how Joerger will continue to rotate the starting lineup as the roster becomes fully healthy. I’d like to see Bogdan get a chance at the starting 3 spot, when healthy; the starting lineup offered limited scoring firepower to start the game for Sacramento.
- The much hyped Fox/Dennis Smith Jr. match-up we were all waiting for didn’t materialize, as Smith was held out due to a swollen knee. The Mavericks could have really used Smith’s firepower (he had 16 points and 10 assists in the opener), especially since Wesley Matthews had 0 points in 34 minutes.