Rockets lift off early, hand Kings 104-87 loss

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Rockets lift off early, hand Kings 104-87 loss

BOX SCORE
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) Courtney Lee scored 19 of his 25 points in the first half, leading the Houston Rockets to a 104-87 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night.Goran Dragic had 15 points and nine assists, Chase Budinger also scored 15 and Luis Scola added 13 points and eight rebounds as Houston won its third straight and fourth of the last five. Patrick Patterson had 10 points and 10 rebounds.The Rockets, sixth in the Western Conference, moved one-half game ahead of defending champion Dallas.Terrence Williams had a season-high 21 points and eight rebounds for the Kings, losers of four straight and nine of 11. Rookie guard Jimmer Fredette, making his seventh start, made three 3-pointers and finished with 17 points in a season-high 37 minutes, and Isaiah Thomas added 16 points.Houston led by 22 points in the third quarter before the Kings cut the margin to 10 entering the fourth. However, the Rockets pulled away again as Budinger, who had 10 points in the final quarter, made a runner and followed with a 3-pointer to put Houston ahead 93-74 with 4:02 remaining.Rockets starting point guard Kyle Lowry came off the bench in the first quarter, playing for the first time in a month after missing 15 straight games due to a bacterial infection that required hospitalization. Lowry had one point and seven assists in 18 minutes.Houston entered the game well rested, playing just twice over the previous seven days. Both were significant wins as the Rockets beat East-leading Chicago on the road and the visiting Lakers on Friday.The slumping Kings committed 12 turnovers in the first half and finished with 21.Quiet in the first half, Scola made three jumpers early in the third quarter. A three-point play by Parsons put the Rockets ahead 69-47, their biggest lead of the game.But the Kings quickly recovered. Switching to a zone defense with four reserves, and benefitting from the shot-altering capability of backup center Hassan Whiteside, the Kings ran off nine straight points and closed the quarter with a 16-4 run to pull to 73-63 heading into the fourth.Houston led by 11 points after the first quarter and took a 58-43 lead into the break. Lee got going early, scoring 17 points in the first quarter when he made 7 of 8 shots, including all three 3-point attempts.NOTES: Ex-King Kevin Martin, Houston's leading scorer, is still nursing a shoulder injury and missed his 13th straight game. ... Houston shot 61 percent in the first quarter when it led 32-21. ... Kings F John Salmons has missed the last eight games with a sore hip and teammate Marcus Thornton has been out the last four with a bruised left calf. ... The Kings made 20 of 37 free throws.

NBA Gameday: Cauley-Stein vs Gobert the matchup to watch

NBA Gameday: Cauley-Stein vs Gobert the matchup to watch

SACRAMENTO -- Riding a two-game win streak, the Sacramento Kings host the playoff bound Utah Jazz Wednesday at Golden 1 Center.

Sacramento knocked off the Memphis Grizzlies Monday evening, relying heavily on their veterans down the stretch to pick up their 29th win of the season. Darren Collison posted a team-high 23 points and seven assists in 37 minutes.

The Jazz sit a game and a half ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers for the fourth seed in the Western Conference playoffs chase. While they are a lock for the playoffs, with just eight games remaining in their season a win against Sacramento would go a long way towards cementing homecourt advantage in round one of the postseason.

OPENING LINE

Jazz by 7.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Willie Cauley-Stein vs. Rudy Gobert -- The Sacramento Kings would love nothing more than for Cauley-Stein to turn into the next Rudy Gobert. Since the All-Star break, the 7-footer out of Kentucky is dropping in 12.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 32 minutes per game. In his fourth season in the league, Gobert is posting career-best numbers across the board. The 24-year-old Frenchman is averaging 13.8 points, 12.9 rebounds and a league-leading 2.6 blocks per game.

WHERE THEY STAND

Kings: 29-45, third place in Pacific

Jazz: 45-29, first place in Northwest

INJURY REPORT

Kings: SG Malachi Richardson (right hamstring partial tear) out for the season, F Rudy Gay (torn left Achilles) out for season.

Jazz: SF Gordon Hayward (quad) is questionable, PF Derrick Favors (knee), George Hill (groin strain) and Raul Neto (groin strain) are out.

SERIES HISTORY

Utah leads the season series 2-1 over the Kings, including a 110-109 overtime win at Golden 1 Center on March 5. Utah leads the all-time series 101-82 and holds a 78-49 advantage during the Sacramento-era.

QUOTE

“We’re competing and that’s the biggest thing - we’re not laying down. Even though we’re not in the playoff race, we’re playing like we’re in the playoff race and that’s bigtime.” -Willie Cauley-Stein following the win over the Grizzlies

Kings beat Grizzlies for Joerger: 'He really wanted that one'

Kings beat Grizzlies for Joerger: 'He really wanted that one'

SACRAMENTO -- Sometimes a game means a little bit more than just one of 82. For Dave Joerger, beating his former team is gratifying, whether he wants to admit it or not, especially when that team is in the middle of major playoff push.

“I know he really wanted that one, you could tell before and during the game,” veteran point guard Darren Collison said of his head coach after the Kings’ 91-90 over the Memphis Grizzlies. “Anytime you go against your former team it definitely means a lot.”

Everyone noticed the change in Joerger. Be it in film prep or in walk-through, something was different. Despite the playoff chase being over, Joerger turned to his veterans and they delivered in the clutch.

“Anytime you play against your former team, whether it be a coach or a player, you have a little more energy, you have a little more incentive to win,” Anthony Tolliver said.

Ten Kings players saw court time, but both Skal Labissiere and Langston Galloway played sparingly as Joerger tightened his rotation. All five starters played 30 minutes or more, with Collison seeing a team-high 37 minutes.

The veteran point guard finished with a game-high 23 points and seven assists in the win. His free throws with 5.7 seconds remaining pushed the Kings into the lead and Memphis’ last ditch effort to win the game at the buzzer rimmed out.

“The more games we win, it’s going to be better for these young guys,” Collison said. “It’s very hard to win in this league and winning is contagious.”

This was the second straight victory for Sacramento after dropping four in a row. The team is now 5-12 since the All-Star break and they are 4-4 over their last eight games.

“We’re competing and that’s the biggest thing - we’re not laying down,” Willie Cauley-Stein said. “Even though we’re not in the playoff race, we’re playing like we’re in the playoff race and that’s bigtime.”

Cauley-Stein continued his strong play since the break. The second-year big posted 12 points, grabbed nine rebounds and dished out three assists in 33 minutes. He played solid defense on veteran Zach Randolph down the stretch.

It was a team effort. Four players scored in double-figures, including rookie Buddy Hield, who scored 14 points and grabbed four rebounds. Big man Kosta Koufos added 11 points, five rebounds and three blocks, while Ty Lawson finished with 10 points in 19 minutes of action.

Following the game, Joerger alluded to this being the final time we will see many of the veterans playing major minutes together. With just eight games remaining in the season, it’s time to give the young core the reigns and let them show what they can do.

“This was maybe our last stand for the year as far as you’re probably not going to see all those veterans play together for the rest of the season,” said Joerger. “It’s at home, it’s a great opportunity. The guys went out there and laid it all on the line.”

The Kings return to their home court on Wednesday when the Utah Jazz roll through Golden 1 Center. Of their remaining eight games on the schedule, Sacramento has four home contests and four on the road. They’ll finish the 2016-17 season on April 12 in Los Angeles against the Clippers.