Sacramento Kings head coach Dave Joerger made some changes to his starting lineup going into Friday's game against the Portland Trail Blazers. Coming off a brutal 126-80 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Joerger inserted De'Aaron Fox as the starting point guard and moved George Hill to shooting guard. Skal Labissiere got the start at power forward and Zach Randolph moved to center.
The changes made a difference for the night, especially in how it altered the bench. Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos came in as the four and five for the second unit and the combination paid off for Joerger as the Kings won 86-82.
Cauley-Stein had a breakout game for the season, finishing with 22 points and 10 rebounds. He said he enjoyed the spacing and not feeling so "claustrophobic" in the lane. He is comfortable next to Koufos, who he has been teammates with since he came into the league.
"That's a crazy defensive lineup right there, me and Kosta play really well together. I've been waiting for that lineup since we started," Cauley-Stein said. "Me and Kosta have been teammates for the last three years, and the times that we have played together we played really well together because we both get the spacing ... just playing off each other."
The two defended the Blazers pick and roll well and complemented each other on offense by getting put-backs and dropping the ball off to one another for easy baskets.
"I think having Willie play a little bit with Kosta gives us some size with that group ... I thought the two of them did a terrific job against their two guards," Joerger said. "I think he's [Cauley-Stein] going to like playing there ... it's a very fluid situation all season long, but to look at a little bit of him playing next to Kosta and being able to, we ran the ball to him a lot as the center and he can now be almost a half-perimeter guy. He's got some skills, I thought he made some very aggressive moves tonight that didn't go in all the time, but they were aggressive."
Koufos finished the game with 10 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 1 block.
"For us, it's just communication, that's the biggest thing, just simple things, screen left, screen right," Koufos said.
Fox, who had 9 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block, said Cauley-Stein had a "hell of a game defensively and offensively.” He also said the change Joerger made to the back court helped him as well.
"It's a lot easier when you have two point guards on the floor, and with him [Hill] being a vet and really knowing what to do, it makes it a lot easier for myself," Fox said.
The Kings will get a quick opportunity to try their new rotation out again against these same Blazers tonight in Portland. For Cauley-Stein, we have seen games like this from him in the past - what we haven't seen is consistency. Here's to hoping for a repeat performance.