SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings showed their age Wednesday night at Golden 1 Center. They couldn’t buy a basket early. They could do no wrong in the second and third quarters. And when the chips were down, they couldn’t stop a charging Utah Jazz team from pulling away for the 112-82 blowout.
Utah led by as many as 20 in the first quarter and it looked like it was going to be a long night. The Kings shot just 31.6 percent in the game’s first 12 minutes and they allowed the Jazz to knock down 5-of-11 3-pointers early.
“We started off slow and in a hole and tried to come back,” Willie Cauley-Stein said.
The Jazz pushed the lead to 24 in the opening minutes of the second quarter and then Ben McLemore happened. The fourth-year guard went off for 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the second as the Kings cut Utah’s lead to just seven at the intermission.
“It’s nice to see him back in there and getting rhythm and feeling good about himself,” Dave Joerger said of McLemore. “He is able at his size to get off of people that are holding. With his athleticism, he can be an effective cutter and he can be an effective pin down player.”
The 24-year-old wing finished the night with 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting, but he was one of just three Kings players to notch double-figure scoring as the ball movement dried up for long stretches.
Utah made adjustments in the second half to slow McLemore and the Kings did a poor job of responding. They over dribbled the ball, leading to just 14 assists on the night.
The Jazz on the other hand looked like a finely oiled machine. With big man Rudy Gobert anchoring the post, they made cuts at the rim and found open shooters all around the perimeter.
“They hit shots, a lot of shots, a lot of threes,” Willie Cauley-Stein said. “That breaks the game wide open when you’re hitting threes and a lot of stuff is going in.”
Sharpshooter Rodney Hood dropped in 5-of-5 from long range, scoring 18 points in just 24 minutes of play. Gordon Hayward knocked down 3-of-5 from deep for a team-high 20 points. Overall, Utah outscored the Kings 39-6 from 3-point range.
Despite the rough start and the barrage of 3-point makes by the Jazz, Sacramento cut Utah’s lead to just two midway through the third quarter. And then the playoff bound Jazz dropped a 52-24 run on Sacramento to finish the night off.
Joerger allowed his core of young players plenty of time on the floor. Skal Labissiere played a team-high 33 minutes in the loss, coming away with nine points and seven rebounds.
“I’m definitely learning a lot,” Labissiere said. “It’s the best way to learn to be out there against guys like that. Whenever I’m out there, I’m always learning something. I just try to give my best.”
Rookie Georgios Papagiannis added eight points and three rebounds in 20 minutes and Buddy Hield struggled for one of the few times in a Kings uniform, scoring just two points on 1-for-7 shooting.
It’s a process. With the playoff chatter over and done with, the Kings are bound to have a few more night’s like this in the final seven games of the season as they transition to a full youth movement.