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Kings 115, Suns 117: Sacramento digs too deep of a hole

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A valiant comeback effort wasn’t enough to overcome a terrible start.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Phoenix Suns Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

I’d like to think I know a thing or two about the Kings. So naturally, when this morning saw Earl Watson fired and Eric Bledsoe sent home for demanding a trade the same day they were set to play the Kings, I tweeted this:

So I wasn’t exactly surprised when I turned the game on and it was already 13 to 2 Phoenix. Disappointed, sure, but not surprised. The Suns would go on to continue eviscerating Sacramento’s starting lineup early on, building up a 22 point lead that was cut to just 19 by the time the first quarter ended.

From that point on, the Kings spent the entire rest of the game playing catchup, and thanks in part to their young guys they were able to. While every single Sacramento Kings starter finished with a negative +/- (and all but Willie Cauley-Stein in double digit negatives with Willie right at the border at -9), every single Kings bench player was a positive, led by none other than De’Aaron Fox. Sacramento’s bench also outscored the starters 78 to 37.

Fox didn’t even have what I would consider to be an amazing game, but he still managed to score 19 points to go with 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and play some really solid defense. The fact that he’s basically been Sacramento’s best player over four games and is a 19 year old rookie is a testament to how well he’s taken to the NBA. Fox is very poised for a rookie, and while he makes mistakes, he doesn’t get hesitant either. Fox even had a play ran for him towards the end of the game in which he tied the game at 112 with a flip shot in the lane, a shot he had been struggling with all night. On the ensuing possession, he got a steal and got to the basket where he wasn’t able to finish but probably should have gotten a foul call and a chance to take the lead at the line. This kid never gives up and I love it.

Garrett Temple was the near hero tonight. On a night when the Kings couldn’t buy a bucket from downtown, Temple hit six of them on his way to a team-high 23 points, including several late in the ballgame to bring the Kings all the way back into it. He did miss a crucial free throw late that could have tied the game, and he also was short on the game winner, but without Temple’s big shots and big plays, the Kings wouldn’t have even been in the position to have a chance to win the game.

We also saw the debut of Bogdan Bogdanovic, and he was a key part of Sacramento’s second quarter run that cut the Suns lead to just 8 at halftime. Bogdan showcased his feel for the game and also his vision with some nifty passes. It was a rough shooting night for the rookie though, as he went just 5-15 and in particular couldn’t buy a basket in the second half. He looked a bit rusty and fatigued, which is to be expected when the guy has played all summer and is also just coming back from an injury.

This was easily Sacramento’s worst defensive game of the young season so far, allowing the Suns to shoot 54.5% from the field and get easy bucket after easy bucket. The defense tightened up a lot in the second half, but Phoenix still got far too many easy looks while Sacramento worked for tougher shots. Rookies Mike James and Josh Jackson combined for 33 points on 14-18 shooting, and James hit a very tough shot over the outstretched arms of Willie Cauley-Stein that put the Suns in the lead for good.

The Kings will need to be more consistent from start to finish to win these types of games, and I also think that it’s time for some change in the starting lineup. This lineup hasn’t done a great job of getting off to a good start, and some adjustments should be made.

The Kings now have a couple days off before they return home to face the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday in the return of DeMarcus Cousins.

For the opponent’s perspective, visit Bright Side of the Sun.

Game Highlights:

Random Observations:

  • Buddy Hield continues to struggle with his shot, shooting just 6-15 from the field and 1-4 from three, but he singlehandedly kept the Kings in the game in the third quarter with, surprisingly, his defense. Buddy amassed five steals and got free for some easy transition buckets that kept the Suns from running away with the game. The Kings need Buddy to be a little more reliable with his shot though, especially since he’s going to shoot a lot.
  • George Hill had his second bad game in a row, not making a single basket in 25 minutes. I wouldn’t say it’s something to necessarily worry about, but Hill is far too good a player to not be making any baskets.
  • I’m fine with not seeing Zach Randolph in the starting lineup the entire rest of the season. 15-20 minutes a game is fine, but Randolph is a defensive liability and slows the team down. I’d much rather see Skal be in there.
  • Speaking of Skal, how smooth is that guy’s jumper? I’d give him the green light to shoot it any time he’s open.
  • Kosta Koufos is a weird fit for this team. He’s probably the team’s best post defender and a solid rebounder, but he doesn’t have great hands, can’t space the floor and is especially weird with the bench unit that features De’Aaron Fox. He’s not a bad player, just a bad fit.
  • I love that Justin Jackson is getting playing time this early, but right now his starting spot feels pretty undeserved. I’d rather see Garrett Temple or Bogdan Bogdanovic in his place. Justin actually had an ok shooting night with 10 points on 4-6 shooting.
  • I’m not sure Vince Carter is going to be getting many minutes with Bogdan back fully healthy. He only saw seven tonight and with the Kings embracing the youth movement I wouldn’t be surprised to see some DNP-CDs in his future.
  • Marquese Chriss looked pretty good for the Suns this game after being promoted to the starting lineup for the first time this season. I still think I’d rather have Skal and Bogdan long term, but Chriss can be special if he puts it all together, and he’s still so young.
  • The Kings only turned the ball over 9 times all game compared to 21 for Phoenix. That’s another big reason Sacramento was able to come back.
  • De’Aaron doesn’t get much respect from the officials around the basket yet. Once he gets a bit more stronger and experienced, I think we’ll see him at the free throw line a lot more because he draws a lot of contact in there. He’s so light and his body control is so good that he just bounces off right now.