Kings host Jazz looking for back-to-back wins

655478.jpg

Kings host Jazz looking for back-to-back wins

After a surprising start, the Utah Jazz went into the All-Star break having fallen to last place in the Northwest Division.They'll look to snap a three-game losing streak - and improve their atrocious road record - when they visit the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.Utah opened the season with three losses in its first four games, but impressively won eight of nine to turn things around.However, the Jazz (15-17) fell back under .500 before the break after losing 10 of 13, including three straight heading into the break.

A 100-98 loss at Minnesota on Wednesday was especially discouraging. Paul Millsap scored 25 points - his most in 16 games - but Utah blew a 16-point fourth-quarter lead before losing on Luke Ridnour's buzzer-beater.That loss dropped the Jazz to 3-11 on the road, the worst record among the league's 22 teams currently within three games of a playoff spot.It was the third straight contest they failed to protect a second-half lead. Utah led by 10 in the third quarter against San Antonio before falling 106-102 on Feb. 20, a night after watching a one-point halftime lead in Houston turn into a 16-point loss."It's disheartening to us, but you have to learn through it," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We play well enough to win these games, but we have to learn how to finish. It's real painful now and it should hurt. Coming out of the All-Star break we have to learn our lessons so we don't make these mistakes."The inability to protect leads was hurt by the Jazz's struggles to defend beyond the arc. In the last three games, opponents connected on 31 of 62 shots from 3-point range.Prior to that stretch, the Jazz were third in the league in 3-point defense (31.3 percent).After stumbling into the break, Utah will try to bounce back against the Kings (11-22), who beat Washington 115-107 on Wednesday to snap a six-game losing streak.The victory came in the finale of a six-game road trip. Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans scored 22 points apiece, DeMarcus Cousins had 16 points and 16 rebounds and Sacramento came from 10 down in the second half.Cousins finished the first half strong after opening the season by drawing the ire of former coach Paul Westphal, who was fired in early January.Cousins has averaged 19.9 points and 11.0 rebounds over his last seven games, though he's shot 30.0 percent over his past three.Even with the occasional inconsistency on the court, coach Keith Smart has been pleased with Cousins' improved maturity, citing his willingness to stay on the bench late during the comeback against the Wizards."I was getting ready to put Cousins back in and he said 'Let Chuck Hayes stay in the game,'" Smart said. "That's gigantic for him. Tyreke Evans had a fabulous first half, came out of the game, didn't play in the fourth quarter and simply cheered his teammates on."That's the growth I'm trying for our team to have if we're ever going to have a chance to be good and turn our franchise around."Evans had a season-high 31 points and nine assists in a 96-93 loss in Utah on Jan. 28. His 24.0 career points per game against the Jazz are his most versus any opponent.Sacramento has dropped four of the past five meetings in the series.

Rewind: Cauley-Stein shows versatility in Kings' comeback attempt

Rewind: Cauley-Stein shows versatility in Kings' comeback attempt

Sometimes your shot won’t fall. The Sacramento Kings tried everything. Their 3-pointers went halfway down before popping out. Mid-range jumpers found the back iron of the rim. Fastbreak layups rolled out. Tip-ins bounced three times before jumping off the rim. 
 
Sacramento shot just 14-of-49 in the first half and 31-for-96 overall for a horrifying 32.3 percent from the field. And they still had a chance to win.
 
“I thought we got good looks all night,” coach Dave Joerger told media following the game.
 
The New York Knicks built a 21-point first half lead, but with 4:51 remaining in the fourth, the Kings trailed by just two. And then the shots stopped falling again for Sacramento.
 
“When you have to come back from that amount down, it takes a lot of energy and I think we ran out of legs,” Joerger added.
 
The Kings shot 7-of-29 from the field (24.1 percent) in the fourth quarter and 1-of-10 from deep as the Knicks clung to the lead. 
 
Carmelo Anthony dropped in six of his 20 down the stretch and Brandon Jennings hit all four of his free throw attempts in the final few minutes as the Knicks survived for the 106-98 win.
 
DeMarcus Cousins had a big night, scoring 36 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, but he shot just 9-of-30 from the field, including 4-for-10 from long range. 
 
While his team was struggling to hit anything in the first half, Cousins completely carried the team. But when the Kings drew near, be it Cousins or one of the other Kings players, they took ill-advised shots looking for the home run instead of methodically running their offense.
 
It’s nearly impossible to win an NBA game when you shoot 32.2 percent, but Sacramento had plenty of opportunities to complete the comeback and squandered them.
 
With the game out of control early, Joerger turned to unconventional lineups in an attempt to mix things up. Willie Cauley-Stein got an extended look in the second half and may have played himself into more time moving forward. 
 
The second-year big finished the game with nine points on 4-of-7 shooting and grabbed four rebounds in 23 minutes of action. He brought energy on the offensive end and played strong defense against the best the Knicks had to offer.
 
“I think his versatility and length to be able to have to step out and play Carmelo or step out and have to play (Kristaps) Porzingis, where maybe that’s not Kosta’s strength as much,” Joerger said. 
 
The former Kentucky star agreed with his coach’s assessment after the game.
 
“I like to play dudes like that anyways,” Cauley-Stein told reporters. “That kind of goes into to my strengths instead of trying to play a five man that’s just bigger than me and outweighs me by 30 or 40 pounds.”
 
Cauley-Stein has played more than 20 minutes in a game just once this season and he’s sat out three of the Kings' 20 contests as a healthy scratch. He came into the night averaging just 4.9 points and 1.7 rebounds in 11.9 minutes per game.  
 
“You’ve just got to remember this is my second year and a new coach, so it’s like being in a rookie year all over again,” Cauley-Stein said. “You’ve got to prove yourself to them that you can make plays, that you can knock down shots.”
 
There's no question the Kings can use a defensive-minded hustle player off the bench, but Joerger has often turned to 36-year-old Matt Barnes for those minutes instead of the Kings' first-As theround pick from a season ago.
 
With the loss, Sacramento fell to 1-3 on the road trip and 7-13 on the season. They have a two day break before facing off with the 4-15 Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night at the American Airlines Center. 

Instant Replay: Kings can't finish after rallying on road against Knicks

Instant Replay: Kings can't finish after rallying on road against Knicks

BOX SCORE

It looked like the game was over before it even started. Someone put a lid on the Sacramento Kings basket in the first half Sunday night at Madison Square Garden and the result was a miserable 14-of-49 from the field before the break and a huge deficit.

But then the Kings came charging back. Riding big second half performances from DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, the Kings nearly erased a 21-point lead. In the end, Sacramento’s slow start was just too much to overcome and they fell to the Knicks by a final of 106-98. 

Derrick Rose turned back the clock. The veteran point guard found another gear on his way to 20 points, six assists and five rebounds. 

With Rose breaking the Kings down, Carmelo Anthony found open shots all over the floor. He finished with 19 points, but shot just 8-for-20 from the field. 

7-foot-3 big man Kristaps Porzingis started 1-of-10 from the field, but still managed to drop in 15 points and grab 14 rebounds. Brandon Jenning chipped in 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting off the bench.

Cousins was the only one who could hit a shot early for the Kings and even he wasn’t efficient. The Kings All-Star big finished the night with a game-high 36 points on 9-for-30 shooting. He added 12 rebounds, four assists and three blocks in the loss. 

Gay shook off a slow start and got it going in the third. Like Cousins, Gay stuffed the stat sheet with 22 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. 

Darren Collison added 13 points and six assists in 38 minutes of action. Kosta Koufos couldn’t buy a basket, but still managed to wrangle 11 rebounds. 

Willie Cauley-Stein and Omri Casspi played big minutes in the third as the Kings wiped out the Knicks' lead. Cauley-Stein scored nine points on 4-for-7 shooting and Casspi chipped in six points and three rebounds.

STANDOUT PERFORMER 

Rose attacked the Kings from the opening tip. He may not be the same player that won the 2011 NBA MVP award, but he can still play at a high level. 

TURNING POINT 

The Kings were left for dead after the first 24 minutes of action, but they outscored New York 36-26 in the third to make it a game. They made close in the fourth, but once again, they didn’t have the legs to finish the comeback.  

INJURY UPDATE 

Sacramento continues to avoid the injury bug. They traveled 12 healthy players on their five-game road trip, with their three first rounders staying back with the Reno Bighorns. All 12 are available for Wednesday’s game in Dallas.

WHAT'S NEXT 

Sacramento finishes their road trip on Wednesday against the Dallas Mavericks. They return home where they’ll face the New York Knicks for a second time this week on Friday evening.