It's been a wild 48 hours for the Kings.
On Sunday afternoon, they bested the Dallas Mavericks in their first look at rookie Luka Doncic. A day later in Minnesota, the Kings struggled early and turned to the bench after the first quarter in a 27-point loss.
There are always highs and lows in an 82-game NBA season, but the last two days have been a whirlwind for the Kings. The win over Dallas drew rave reviews, while the loss to the T-Wolves requires some major explanation.
Sacramento currently stands at 16-14 on the season. Here are a few positives and negatives from the last two games:
The starting backcourt of De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield is becoming a force, but the duo weren't the only ones to shine on Sunday against the Mavericks.
Big man Nemnaja Bjelica found his range, knocking down 4-of-7 from behind the arc to finish with 15 points and 10 rebounds. He also defended Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes well, limiting the combo-forward to 15 points on 5-of-16 shooting, while blocking his shot four times.
Starting for injured guard Iman Shumpert, Bogdan Bogdanovic posted 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Bogdanovic has been really good with the second unit for Sacramento, and his ability to play multiple positions as a starter or off the bench highlights his versatility.
Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos were solid at the center position, and guard Yogi Ferrell hit some big shots against his former team.
Same Group, Different Result
After impressive showings in Dallas, Fox, Bogdanovic, Cauley-Stein and Bjelica came out flat in Minny, and the game was over quickly.
The quartet combined to shoot 2-of-13 from the field for six total points. Coach Dave Joerger pulled the plug on the experiment early, so the sample size is small.
Playing their third game in four nights, it was clear from his postgame comments that Joerger had an idea coming in that he might rest his starting group.
Hield was the lone first team player to make shots, finishing the night with 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting in 18 minutes of action.
Joerger chose to go with a reserve unit to start the second half. The team hit Minnesota with a 21-1 run to cut the deficit to 12 points in the third, but the coach kept his starters on the bench and allowed the game to take it's course.
Joerger went deep to his bench in Minnesota. Really deep.
Skal Labissiere played 29 minutes for Sacramento after totaling 40 minutes over the first 29 games of the season. The 22-year-old looked a little rusty at times, but he ran the floor, swiped at shots in the paint and hit a pair of 3-pointers. For a player that hasn't sniffed the court in a long time, Labissiere showed that he has remained ready.
Harry Giles also played well in extended minutes. The rookie big posted 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting. His perimeter jumper was on point, but he managed to grab just one rebound in 21 minutes.
Yogi Ferrell chipped in 16 points and Frank Mason added 12 points and six assists in 23 minutes of action with the reserves.
Regardless of how poorly the Kings played against the Timberwolves or the decision to sit the starters, Sacramento still earned a split in an extremely difficult two game set.
The Kings are 6-3 over their last nine games, including big wins over the Pacers, Timberwolves (at home) and Mavericks.
Despite the drubbing in Minnesota, the Kings are 2-1 against the T-Wolves on the season, and are above .500 through 30 games.
Expectations are shifting. The Kings' schedule to finish 2018 is still extremely difficult, but the team has a shot to finish the calender year over .500, which hasn't happened since the 2004-05 season.