Kings set sights on Warriors, Bay Area bragging rights

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Kings set sights on Warriors, Bay Area bragging rights

The Golden State Warriors got the job done in their first home game in more than two weeks.

A stop in Sacramento could produce similar results.

Off to their best start in 21 years, the Warriors will try to win for the 15th time in 19 games Wednesday night against the lowly Kings.

Playing in Oakland for the first time in 15 days, Golden State (17-8) held off Western Conference-worst New Orleans on Tuesday with a 103-96 victory. The Warriors closed on an 11-4 run in their first game back from a 6-1 stretch against the East - their first trip with that many victories.

"One of the hardest games in the NBA to play is your first game back at home after a road trip," forward David Lee said after scoring 26 points with nine rebounds. "I've been through too much losing to be disappointed in a win."

The Warriors, off to their best start since the 1991-92 team opened 21-8, will now try to improve their 10-5 road record and avoid a sweep in California's capital. Going for its first 3-0 road start since 1994-95 - and trying to spoil Sacramento's home opener - Golden State lost 94-92 on Nov. 5.

The Kings (7-17) were able to avoid an 0-4 start with that victory, but they're riding a season high-tying five-game skid into this contest.

Sacramento has lost by at least 10 points each time during that stretch following Monday's 101-90 defeat at Phoenix. The Kings led by as many as 19.

"I thought this was a night to steal one on the road after a game last night (a 122-97 home loss to Denver)," Sacramento coach Keith Smart said. "I thought they did everything the right way up until things started to go haywire in the second half."

The third quarter has been especially troublesome in the last two games as the Kings have been outscored by an average of 14.5 points.

"It's kind of disheartening," point guard Aaron Brooks said Monday after the Suns went on a 26-4 run that started late in the first half.

Another concern for Sacramento is the health of Tyreke Evans, who has missed six of the last 10 games with a pair of different knee injuries. It's uncertain if he'll return after sitting out Monday's contest.

The Kings, though, should have guard Marcus Thornton back after he was away from the team for four games to be with his ill mother in Louisiana.

Thornton had 16 points in the Nov. 5 victory while Evans shot 1 of 9 to finish with three points.

Whoever is in Sacramento's backcourt could have their hands full with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who lead all NBA duos with 129 3-pointers.

Thompson hit three 3s and scored a team-high 22 points against the Kings last month, while Curry hit two from long range and finished with 12 and eight assists. Curry missed a 3-point attempt as time expired as Golden State lost for the seventh time in 10 trips to Sacramento.

Lee, who had 20 points and a season-low six rebounds in that contest, will try to start a new double-double streak after he just missed his eighth straight Tuesday. He did, however, finish with at least 20 points for a ninth consecutive game.

Kings center DeMarcus Cousins could set a career high with a fifth consecutive double-double at home. Cousins has averaged 22.8 points and 16.3 rebounds in his last four in this series after finishing with 23 and 15 last month.

Cauley-Stein gets rare opportunity, delivers in Kings' win

Cauley-Stein gets rare opportunity, delivers in Kings' win

There was a Willie Cauley-Stein sighting Monday in Detroit. It’s become a rarity this season to see the Sacramento Kings’ 2015 first-round draft pick play substantial minutes in coach Dave Joerger’s rotation. But the bench is getting lean and Cauley-Stein answered the bell.

“He’s putting in his work and had an opportunity,” Joerger told media members following the Kings’ 109-104 win over the Pistons. “He went and got balls out of his area, which is important for a guy that athletic.”

The former 6th overall selection has played in just 37 games this season, sitting out seven contests as a healthy scratch. He’s posting 4.2 points and 2.1 rebounds in 11 minutes a night, but with both Rudy Gay and Omri Casspi sidelined, Cauley-Stein is getting a look.

It’s been difficult for the former Kentucky star. He knows he’s on a short a leash. He doesn’t have time to settle into the game, it’s zero-60 in five seconds or the bench is calling.

“I just try to maintain a mentality of just going in, going really hard, making sure I’m talking to the guards on different plays,” Cauley-Stein told reporters in Detroit. “Just trying to stay mentally right on it.”

After playing in multiple variations of the “dribble-drive motion offense,” both in college and in his rookie season in Sacramento under George Karl, the 7-footer has had to relearn the game of basketball under Joerger. It’s a difficult path to minutes, but Cauley-Stein can be seen working overtime almost everyday.

“The amount of work I’ve been putting in, it’s starting to show, it’s starting to pay off,” Cauley-Stein said. “I’m starting to get the trust of my teammates and my coaches behind me and that’s everything in this game.”

Following practice, Cauley-Stein can be seen working with big man coach Bob Thornton. When he is done there, he goes to assistant Larry Lewis for more skill work and then there are the 3-on-3 games with Ben McLemore and the rookies.

He can be seen in pregame working on his handles alongside McLemore and the coaching staff and he spent plenty of time over the summer working on his shooting stroke with Peja Stojakovic.

“It’s a great feeling to know when you put it down, you’ve got complete control where it’s going,” Cauley-Stein said. “It’s the same thing with your shot. The more and more you work on it, the more and more it just comes second hand. Right now it all feels good for me.”

Cauley-Stein had a breakout 12 points and five rebounds against the Pistons on Monday. He was active and even took All-Star center Andre Drummond off the dribble for a huge two-handed dunk.

A defensive specialist by nature, Cauley-Stein still has a long way to go before he is ready to be a major cog in Joerger’s high-post offense. But at 23 years old and under team control for at least another two seasons, there is still time to salvage the quirky big man.

The Kings need Cauley-Stein to develop into a tireless worker on the glass and a player that does the little things. He still has plenty of upside and tremendous length and athleticism. He’s doing the work and earned another shot at playing minutes on the frontline next to DeMarcus Cousins and Kosta Koufos.

More nights like the one in Detroit would go a long way towards earning the trust of Joerger and his staff.

Kings' Cousins: 'Only goal this season' is to make playoffs

Kings' Cousins: 'Only goal this season' is to make playoffs

With their 109-104 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Monday night, the Sacramento Kings sit 10 games under .500 at 17-27. In almost any other season, that would mean that they were dead in the water in the Western Conference playoff race. But this it the 2016-17 season where anything is possible at the bottom.

Following Sacramento’s win at the Palace at Auburn Hills, DeMarcus Cousins was asked about the playoff picture.

“It’s my only goal this season,” Cousins told reporters following the game. “My only goal.” 

When pushed on the subject, he gave a more complete answer.

“Oh man, it’s eating me alive - every loss or every time another team wins that’s battling for the eighth spot, it’s eating me alive,” Cousins added. “Our only goal is to be in the playoffs this season.”

The Kings snapped a five-game losing streak with the win over the Pistons and they came into the evening just 2-10 over their previous 12 games. 

Once they get through their current eight game road trip, they spend the entire month of February in the Pacific time zone and play 11 over their next 13 games at Golden 1 Center.  

“The one thing I can give credit to this team about is us staying together and being a positive locker room through the ups and downs,” Cousins said. “I’m still confident and I still believe we’re going to make that push for the playoffs.”

Despite the rough patch, the Kings remain just a game and a half out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference standings. No one is running away with that last playoff spot, at least not yet.