An NBA team should never be ok with losing. But for us fans? We know that losing is a part of the game, especially for this young, rebuilding Kings team. Almost nobody would have taken you up on a bet that the Kings would win this game, but they managed to be in it right up until the end thanks to some solid team basketball and a feisty performance from JaKarr Sampson.
Sampson was a surprise starter tonight in his most extended stint of the season. With Willie Cauley-Stein injured and Skal Labissiere down in the G-League, Dave Joerger turned to Sampson and gave him the unenviable task of guarding LeBron James. Nobody on this Kings team was going to stop LeBron, but Sampson sure as heck tried and made life tough for him on at least a few possessions. Sure, LeBron still had an amazing game (32 points on 12-18 from the field and 5-8 from three along with 11 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks) but that was expected. Sampson for his part scored 6 points and grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds (also a season best for any Kings player) while playing a team-high 33 minutes. The team was +2 in Sampson’s time on the floor.
The Kings spent much of the game either right in front of Cleveland or well in the lead. Sacramento opened up a double-digit advantage a couple of times but weren’t able to hold off the Cavaliers from coming back. Three point shooting was an issue at times, as the Kings shot just 10-32, with most of those being open shots. Bogdan Bogdanovic and Garrett Temple in particular couldn’t find a rhythm from outside despite good looks, combining for just 2-12 from beyond the arc. The 32 attempts though was a season-high and something that I’d like to see them embrace more instead of always settling for midrange jumpers.
Zach Randolph had a nice throwback game for Sacramento as well, chipping in 18 points (although it took him 20 shots to do so) to go with 10 assists, 6 assists (and no turnovers!) and 3 steals. Although some will argue about the merit of having a player like Randolph on a rebuilding team, he has been without a doubt Sacramento’s best player this season, and one of the few reliably consistent offensive options on the team.
Sacramento got a solid contribution off the bench from Frank Mason III and Buddy Hield. Mason played just 19 minutes but managed to score 15 points on just 6 shots in that time, getting to the line 10 times. He only made 6 of those attempts, an uncharacteristic number for him, but he was fearless in attacking the basket and also found opportunities to get others involved when lanes closed for him. On one drive late in the second half, Mason barrelled down the lane only to be met by a wall of Cavaliers and somehow managed to swing the ball over to Buddy Hield in the corner for a three.
I still have no idea how Frank Mason pulled off this pass but it was so awesome pic.twitter.com/wMXi2iasvh— Andrew Joseph (@AndyJ0seph) December 7, 2017
Hield added 17 points of his own and continues to show that he’s not just a one-dimensional player, with 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and a block. He made a couple of careless passes and got loose with his dribble once or twice but he’s showing improvement in a lot of areas and his scoring has become much more reliable as of late.
As mentioned above, Bogdan couldn’t find his shot tonight, going 2-8 from the field, but he managed to make an impact as a playmaker still with 5 assists in about 18 minutes of action. Both of his 2 turnovers could have been assists as well, but on the first one Kosta Koufos wasn’t ready for it and on the second one, Bogdan tried to throw Kosta a lob like he was Willie. It didn’t work out. Bogdan is always looking to make plays for others, and once his shot starts falling on a more consistent basis, he’s going to be a dangerous player.
The Kings now have a night off before traveling to New Orleans to face Boogie once more, now on his new home turf.
For the opponent’s perspective of tonight’s game, visit Fear the Sword.