The Kings were without star guard De’Aaron Fox, big men Alex Len and Richaun Holmes, as well as veteran Harrison Barnes for various reasons, but there were some bright spots in Sacramento’s first NBA action since the coronavirus shutdown.
Head coach Luke Walton went with a starting lineup of Cory Joseph, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kent Bazemore, Nemanja Bjelica and Harry Giles. The Heat came out blazing from deep, hitting seven 3-pointers in the frame, but Walton made a good adjustment, putting in a 2-3 zone to throw off Miami’s momentum.
Kings’ wing DaQuan Jeffries provided a spark off the bench and helped cut into Sacramento’s 17-point first-half deficit.
There’s no doubt rust played a big factor in Sacramento’s up-and-down first-half performance. The Kings turned the ball over 10 times during the opening 20 minutes, while the offense failed to create much in the paint. Sacramento’s defensive rotations were out of sync as well, which allowed the Heat to take a slew of uncontested jumpers.
The Kings were much better in the second half, especially at creating easier looks on the offensive end. Guards Cory Joseph and Yogi Ferrell were able to get penetration, which allowed things to open up for Sacramento’s shooters. Buddy Hield had a strong performance over the final 20 minutes and led the team with 19 points.
Ultimately, both coaches went with role players to close things out, and the Heat hung on for a 104-98 win.
Here are the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of the Kings’ first game in more than four months:
The Good: Bjelica played very well, although he definitely needs a trip to the bubble barber shop. He got to the line often, making 7-of-8 free throws, and finished with 13 points in 18 minutes of action. Bjelica was the only starter to finish the game as a plus player, finishing at +10.
Jeffries also looked very good in his 18 minutes. He brought a ton of energy once he entered the game and did a great job of guarding multiple positions on the floor.
Walton praised Jeffries’ performance after the game.
“He’s a very tough young man, and I mean that physically, and mentally. On defense, and on offense,” Walton said. “He does a nice job of not forcing anything, he looks to be aggressive, but he plays within what we want to get done.”
With Barnes’ status still up in the air due to the league’s coronavirus protocol, Walton said Jeffries is playing himself into having an expanded role.
“We’ve been playing [Jeffries] more at the 3 or 4 in camp, just where we are at with the bodies,” Walton said. “He’s done a nice job of picking up both positions.”
The Bad: Giles struggled with his rim protection and wasn’t much of a factor on the offensive end. The big man shot just 1-for-5 from the field, and finished with two points. The Kings will need more from Giles, especially if Holmes and Len are behind the curve when it comes to conditioning when the games begin to count on July 31.
The Ugly: Sloppiness. Sacramento looked sluggish with its ball movement, especially in the first half, but it’s expected after this long of a layoff. The Kings have two more scrimmages to tighten things up before they play the San Antonio Spurs in the first official game of the restart.
What did you like or dislike about the Kings’ performance?