Small mistakes snowball for Kings in narrow loss to Clippers

Small mistakes snowball for Kings in narrow loss to Clippers

SACRAMENTO -- Sometimes it comes down to just one play. A bad bounce. A skip off the rim. A tipped ball that slips through your fingers.

The Sacramento Kings didn’t play a perfect game Friday night as they fell 106-98 to the Los Angeles Clippers at Golden 1 Center. In fact, the second quarter was one of the worst 12 minutes of basketball they have played all season.

But with 23.9 seconds remaining in the game, Sacramento had a shot. They trailed 100-98 to a very good Clippers team and one play decided the outcome of the game.

DeMarcus Cousins beat his man off the dribble and when help came, he tried to find Gay under the basket. The pass didn’t find its destination. Instead, it found the Clippers Chris Paul.

It’s impossible to fault Cousins for the late turnover. He was being unselfish, like he had been for much of the game. His team-leading seven assists can attest to that.

“The ball’s in his hands, we trust him to make decisions,” Rudy Gay said of DeMarcus Cousins and the deciding play. “There’s a lot of guys in the paint. I would have rather him shoot it to be honest with you, but it is what it is. We trust him to make the right play and usually he does.”

If Cousins had it back, he probably would have gone up for the lay-in. Or maybe not. It wasn’t a bad play, just a bad outcome.

“It was a solid play,” Darren Collison said. “We live with Cuz down the stretch. Whatever plays he decides to make. He’s been winning a lot of games for us down the stretch since I’ve been here. Every once in awhile it may not go too well, but he tried to make a play. That’s all you can ask for.”

Garrett Temple was forced to foul Chris Paul, who knocked down the two free throws. The Kings struggled to get a good shot twice more, fouling Paul on each occasion. He scored six points at the line in the final 22.7 seconds of the game to give the Clippers the eight point win.

It shouldn’t have come down to one play. The Kings had plenty of opportunities to turn the tide earlier in the quarter, but they struggled to hit shots with the game on the line. Sacramento shot just 37.5 percent in the quarter and were outscored 31-25 by Los Angeles in the fourth.

“If we’re trying to make the playoffs, this is something we have to learn from,” Collison said. “If we’re going to be able to make a run, we have to beat teams down the stretch. They’re not going to beat themselves. You’ve got to beat them. You’ve got to beat them by executing.”

This is a growing trend with this Kings team. Small mistakes seem to snowball into much bigger situations. A two point lead finds its way to five or six and then the game is out of control.

With the loss, Sacramento fell to 15-21 on the season. They return to Golden 1 Center Sunday evening to face a Golden State Warriors team that is fresh off a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night at Oracle Arena.

JOERGER GOES SMALL

Dave Joerger loves his big man lineup. More than once this season he’s hinted that he would mix things up, only to revert right back to a starting group that included both Cousins and 7-footer Kosta Koufos. And then he threw a curveball Friday night against the Clippers.

For one of the few times this season, Joerger went small with his first unit, inserting Ty Lawson into the starting point guard spot alongside Collison, Gay, Cousins and Matt Barnes.

“I thought it was effective, it was more spacing on the court,” Collison said following the loss. “I thought me and Ty operated pretty well with one another. We were able to get in the paint and create shots for each other and the rest of our teammates. Anytime we have that much space, it’s so much easier to get into the paint.”

The Kings used the newfound spacing to attack the Clippers, jumping out to an early 29-19 lead after 12 minutes of play. They shot 12-of-24 from the field and posted a 7-to-1 assist to turnover ratio in the quarter.

Collison finished the night with 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting and added five rebounds in 35 minutes. Lawson dropped in 17 points and six assists. The addition of a second ball handler with the starting group helped Sacramento bolster their assist-to-turnover rate to 23-to-7 on the night.

There is no word on whether this was a permanent move or a one off for Joerger and his staff.

Kings finish 2017 NBA Draft with night that can turn franchise around

Kings finish 2017 NBA Draft with night that can turn franchise around

SACRAMENTO -- The Kings had a big draft night. The kind of night that might turn a franchise around. They entered the evening with three picks, including two in the top 10. With their first selection, they filled the franchise’s biggest need when they drafted De’Aaron Fox and then they went to work.
 
Vlade Divac and his team of front office execs jumped on an early trade, dealing the No. 10 overall selection to the Portland Trail Blazers for No. 15 and No. 20. North Carolina’s Justin Jackson was too appealing to pass on, and like Fox, he fit a major position of need. 
 
Sacramento came back with the 20th selection, taking one of the biggest risk/reward picks in the draft. Duke’s Harry Giles is playing on rebuilt knees, but before that, he was one of the top prospects in all of basketball. If he can stay healthy, the Kings may have drafted the biggest steal of the night. 
 
They topped off the evening with the selection of Wooden and Naismith Award winner Frank Mason III with the 34th overall pick. The Kings entered the night without a single point guard and they ended it with two very exciting options. 
 
“I’m very excited about the talent that we brought here tonight,” Divac said. “They’re going to just be an addition to what we’re trying to build here in the second half of the season.”
 
The Kings turned down overtures to move up to draft Fox. The 19-year-old speedster will step in and immediately compete for the starting point guard spot and he’s very excited to be a King.
 
“It’s just the vibe that I got when I was out there,” Fox told local Sacramento media via phone. “I felt like they really wanted me.” 
 
John Calipari is known for his bevy of All-Star bigs throughout the league, but he’s also produced a long line of big-time guards. Sacramento is hoping that Fox can live up to the billing of other former Calipari guards like Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall. According to Divac, the Kings were so high on Fox, they would have taken him higher. 
 
“Screaming,” Divac said about the reaction in the room to Fox falling in their lap. “It was a guy that we all loved and in some way, if we had the number 1 pick, he would’ve been our guy.”
 
“De’Aaron is our future,” Divac added.
 
Without a perfect fit at 10, Divac made an adjustment on the fly to add more assets. The decision to trade 10 for 15 and 20 was very similar to the last season when the Kings dealt the eighth overall pick for No. 13, 28 and the draft rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic. By splitting the pick in two, the Kings were able to land two talented pieces that mesh with the current roster build.
 
Jackson and Fox know each other well. The duo played AAU ball together and Fox says he considers Jackson an older brother.  He is friends with Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere from their Kentucky connection.
 
“I feel like we can grow together,” Fox said of the Kings’ young core. “Of course, it’s going to take some time, but every franchise takes time.”
 
Fox is the jewel of the night and Jackson will compete for time at the wing, but Giles is the wildcard. The 19-year-old big can play the four and the five and has elite potential. 
 
“I’m so excited he was there for us at the 20,” Divac said. “That kind of talent you can’t pass.”
 
The Kings have done their homework on Giles. The type of knee injury that he sustained is similar to former NBA players Danny Manning, Amaré Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin. Manning and Martin each played 15 years in the league and Stoudemire lasted 14 seasons before retiring in 2016. After meeting him in person in Sacramento and working him out, they are very confident that he will be able to overcome his injuries and have a successful career in the NBA. 
 
Mason III will remind Kings fans of Isaiah Thomas, another undersized point guard that fell to the second round. The Kansas star posted 20.9 points, 5.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds for the Jayhawks last season. He’s a hard-nosed leader that can jump out of the gym and will instantly become a fan favorite in Sacramento. 
 
It’s a huge haul. Sacramento added two points guards, a wing and a big from some of the best basketball schools in the country. More than that, they added high character winners to a changing culture. 
 
For the first time in a while, the Sacramento Kings have accumulated assets. They have hit the ground running in their attempted rebuild and for one night, they are the talk of the NBA.

Kings select PG Frank Mason III No. 34 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft

Kings select PG Frank Mason III No. 34 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft

With the No. 34 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Kings selected the 2016-17 Player of the Year in point gaurd Frank Mason III.

Mason averaged 20.9 points and 5.2 assists per game as a senior at Kansas. 

The Kings wrapped up the 2017 NBA Draft with point guard De'Aaron Fox at No. 5, small forward Justin Jackson at No. 15, power forward Harry Giles at No. 20 and Mason at No. 34.