Kings kick it off tonight in Chicago

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Kings kick it off tonight in Chicago

Programming note: Kings-Bulls coverage begins today at 5 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California (Territorial restrictions apply)!

(AP) -- While many have been quick to dismiss the Chicago Bulls with Derrick Rose sidelined, coach Tom Thibodeau's team is eager to prove its doubters wrong.After six consecutive losing campaigns, the Sacramento Kings are also looking to surprise.Chicago tries to continue its recent domination of Sacramento as both teams kick off their seasons Wednesday night at the United Center.After finishing an Eastern Conference-best 50-16 last season, the Bulls entered the playoffs with legitimate title hopes before Rose tore his left ACL during Game 1 of a first-round loss to Philadelphia. It's still unknown when the league's 2010-11 MVP will be able to return to the court."We all know us being without D. Rose we'll probably be the underdog in every game we play," Carlos Boozer told the team's official website. "That's all right. We're ready for that challenge. We'll be ready to play every game."With Rose out, Chicago will look for even more from Luol Deng. The All-Star forward, who played through a torn ligament in his left wrist last year, ultimately opted against surgery and insists he's good to go."Trying to do too much would be the biggest mistake I could make," said Deng, whose average of 15.3 points ranked second on the team behind Rose's 21.8. "I know how good I could be when I'm myself. For all of us as a team, no one individual is going to do what Derrick did. As a group, we all have to commit. I'm really looking forward to it."While the Bulls won 18 of the 27 games Rose missed during the 2011-12 regular season thanks to impressive efforts from their bench, similar displays could be hard to come by with Omer Asik, C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver no longer around. Chicago, though, brought back veteran guard Kirk Hinrich for a second go-round and could receive a spark from Nate Robinson."I think even if you win a championship, you come back the next day and people will doubt you," Deng said. "It's just the way it always is. I think as a team - we hear things all summer - you know what's being said. The best thing that we do as a team is we really focus on what we have to do day-in and day-out. We don't try to get caught up in what's going on outside these four walls."Chicago has taken seven of eight matchups from Sacramento, including four in a row by an average of 16.8 points.The Kings, who went 22-44 last season, compiled a West-worst 6-27 road record - one of several areas they're hoping to improve upon in 2012-13. Sacramento will also need to clamp down on defense after finishing last in the league in both opponent field-goal percentage (47.6) and points allowed (104.4)."We have to surprise people because we're no one in the NBA," coach Keith Smart said. "We have to pull out all the stops to try to grow as a team."After averaging 18.1 points and a team-best 11.0 rebounds, DeMarcus Cousins seems primed for another big season. The Kings will also be looking for second-year point guard Isaiah Thomas to take his game to the next level after he averaged 15.1 points and 5.4 assists over 41 games when playing at least 24 minutes.Selected fifth overall in this year's draft, Thomas Robinson could also contribute for the Kings, who went 5-2 during the preseason."I'm very pleased," Cousins told the team's official website. "(There's) definitely a big improvement with this team this year so far. We learned a lot. We improved a lot and accomplished a lot this preseason, so hopefully it can carry over to the regular season and we can turn things around here."

Fight finally pays off for Kings: 'Like we won Game 1 of the playoffs'

Fight finally pays off for Kings: 'Like we won Game 1 of the playoffs'

The Sacramento Kings are young and lack experience. They have plenty of holes in their roster and they even sat three veterans when they rolled into the Staples Center for a 12:30 start on Sunday afternoon. 

Sacramento also has talent and they play hard. The Clippers just learned the hard way what plenty of other teams already knew - there is no quit in this team.

From start to finish, the Kings played a gritty style of defense. They closed out strong on the Clippers shooters and did their best to quash the alley-oop that Chris Paul is so famous for. Los Angeles coasted through the game assuming that they won before the opening tip. And then Sacramento flipped the table late, shutting the Clippers down in the fourth while riding a 22-3 run to finish the game with a 98-97 come from behind victory.

“I thought the whole game, the guys didn’t lose effort and they deserve it,” veteran point guard Darren Collison told media following the game. “Look at our last couple of weeks, even though the results haven’t been what we want it to be, so many guys that kept fighting, they were able to deserve this win.”

Trailing by 18 at the 5:16 mark of the fourth quarter, this game looked like so many others that we have seen over the last month. Sacramento had fought to stay in the contest, but in the end, the experience of their opponent wins out. But the Kings kept fighting.

“They didn’t lose hope, not one bit,” Collison said. “They kept pulling and pulling and pulling. Eventually they got some big threes, some big shots.”

So many contributed to the victory, but at the 2:19 mark, rookie Buddy Hield knocked down a 3-pointer to draw the Kings within six. Moments later he stole the inbounds pass and dropped in a second straight three in a nine second stretch.

“You just have to stay confident, trust yourself and trust what got you here,” Buddy Hield said.

Through three quarters, Hield had shot just 1-of-7 from the field and looked overwhelmed by the Clippers star players. He came alive in the fourth, hitting 3-of-3 from behind the arc to finish the quarter with 11 points and five rebounds. Hield scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds on the night, showing fans that he is ready to compete in crunch time.

“We kept playing and made some plays and the little things matter,” coach Dave Joerger said. “I’m really proud, it’s like we won Game 1 of the playoffs.”

With their teammates rallying on the court, the Kings bench looked like a cheerleader troup. All they needed was some pom-poms and a lot of eye liner.

Regardless of the record, Sacramento has remained a close knit group. Youth and veterans have meshed well as they forge towards another lottery selection. 

“I’ve been on a lot of teams, some winning teams and the chemistry is not as good as this team,” Collison added. “People don’t understand how hard it is to be in our shoes and come to work every single day with the circumstances that we have dealt with. But to be together still and fun, it shows a lot about this team. I’m real happy to be a part of this team. We’re not winning games, but the way we’re going about our business - we’re losing games together, we’re winning games together.”

Collison went off against his former team, scoring 19 points and handing out four assists in 28 minutes of action. Anthony Tolliver hit 5-of-6 from 3-point range to finish with 15 points and rookie Georgios Papagiannis but up 12 points, four rebounds, four assists and blocked two shots.

With the win, the Kings snapped their four-game losing streak and improve to 28-45 on the season. They play again on Monday when the Memphis Grizzlies drop by the Golden 1 Center on the second night of a road-and-home back-to-back. 

Instant Replay: Kings close game on 22-3 run, stun Clippers

Instant Replay: Kings close game on 22-3 run, stun Clippers

BOX SCORE

Wins are getting harder to come by for the Sacramento Kings. On Sunday afternoon, they battled all the way down the stretch and it looked like they were headed for a fifth straight loss. And then Buddy Hield and his young teammates fought back to shock the Los Angeles Clippers by a final of 98-97.

Hield caught fire late, scoring 11 of his 15 points in a wild outburst during the fourth quarter. The Kings shooting guard added seven rebounds and brought his team back with a steal and pair of 3-pointers late.

Willie Cauley-Stein hit the glass hard, grabbing 14 rebounds while scoring eight points at the center position. His bucket with 1.8 seconds remaining proved to be the game-winner.

Darren Collison went to work against his former Clipper teammates. The veteran point guard went in attack mode early, knocking down his first eight shots. He finished the night with 19 points on 8-for-11 shooting and four assists.

Anthony Tolliver sat in the corner and waited for the kick out from his teammates. The result was a 5-for-6 shooting night from long range and a solid 15-point performance.

Georgios Papagiannis came off the bench to support Cauley-Stein in the pivot and continued to show improvement. The rookie 7-footer out of Greece altered plenty of shots in his 21 minutes on the floor and finished the night with 12 points, four rebounds and four assists.

Tyreke Evans started at the small forward spot and chipped in eight points and four rebounds and Ben McLemore added eight points in limited minutes.

The Clippers stars shined brightly Sunday at the Staples Center. Chris Paul set up his teammates from start to finished, dropping in 17 points and dishing out nine assists in the loss.

DeAndre Jordan went for 20 points and 11 rebounds. Blake Griffin shot 6-for-11 from the field for 17 points added six rebounds and Austin Rivers hit 2-for-7 from deep to finish with 10 points.

STANDOUT PERFORMER:
Hield was the hero. He struggled for the first three quarters, but came up big in the fourth to push his team over the top.

TURNING POINT:
Cauley-Stein grabbed a rebound and put it back in with 1.8 seconds remaining and Sacramento held on for the huge win.

INJURY UPDATE:
Ty Lawson was a late scratch with a knee issue and both Arron Afflalo and Kosta Koufos sat for scheduled rest. Rookie Malachi Richardson is officially out for the season with a right hamstring thickness tear. Rudy Gay is out for the year with a torn left Achilles.

WHAT'S NEXT:
Following the game in Los Angeles, the Kings hopped a plane back to Sacramento where they’ll face the Memphis Grizzlies Monday night at Golden 1 Center.