Rewind: Early-Season Frustrations Begin Brewing for Kings

It was an ugly night in Milwaukee. The Sacramento Kings limped into the Bradley Center Saturday night and the upstart Bucks tagged them for a 26-point drubbing. Sacramento is now 0-4 on their five-game road trip and just 2-5 on the season after the 117-91 loss

The Kings came into the game knowing they were facing an uphill battle. With second-leading scorer Rudy Gay on the sidelines, they needed multiple people to step forward. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. 

“We’ve got to stop a slide, you know,” forward Omri Casspi, who got the start in Gay’s absence, said following the game. “It felt like they were playing and we didn’t have a pop to our game. A good team will take advantage of that.”

Trends are beginning to form with this team as they limp through their early season schedule. For the second straight game and fourth time in seven starts, the Kings were outrebounded by their opponent, this time by a 53-36 advantage. They’ve tied the rebounding battle twice and only outrebounded an opponent one time. 

Hiding in those 53 rebounds for Milwaukee are 17 offensive boards, which led to 18 second-chance points for the Bucks. Even when the Kings got defensive stops, the ball seemed to bounce the Bucks way.

Plenty of those points came from behind the arc, where the Kings once again got torched. Mirza Teletovic dropped in 7-of-9 from deep as Joerger’s team looked a step slow on the perimeter. The Bucks hit 14-of-33 overall from the 3-point line as Giannis Antetokounmpo and his teammates broke the Kings down off the dribble and then kicked to open shooters around the arc.  

“We’re getting our heads down when a team makes a run, especially on the road,” Casspi said. “They made some tough shots in the first half. They made long 3’s.”

Sacramento turned the ball over 15 times as a team, but 12 of those miscues were on Bucks steals, many of which led to baskets in transition. Milwaukee scored 29 points off Sacramento mishandles and they outscored the Kings 26-1 on fastbreak points. 

Milwaukee is a long and athletic team and the Kings dribbled into the teeth of their defense on countless occasions. The result was often a poke away that led to transition. 

Frustrations are clearly mounting for the Kings. After a 2-1 start to the season, they have let opportunities slip through their fingers. The four-game skid is testing a new team early in the campaign and they still have one more road game to play on Sunday in Toronto before heading back to home. 

“We’ve got to stay together,” Dave Joerger told reporters following the game. “We’ve got to stay positive. We need some life. Our bench needs some life. Our guys on the floor need some life.”

There is no word on how long Gay might be out of action, but the Kings need him and his 22.5 points per game if they hope to climb out of their current spiral. 

Rookies get some burn

Joerger searched high and low for that life on Saturday night, even turning to all three of his rookie first-round picks as the game spun out of control. 

Skal Labissiere and Georgios Papagiannis made their NBA debuts and Malachi Richardson picked up game action for the second time in the young season. Labissiere was aggressive, showing the promise that people behind the scenes in Sacramento have been raving about for the last few months. 

The 20-year-old big played 15 minutes off the bench for Joerger, scoring eight points on 3-of-5 shooting while grabbing three rebounds. The 6-foot-11 Haitian has a smooth stroke from the perimeter, but needs to continue to get stronger to compete at the NBA level.

Papagiannis looked a bit out of sorts, picking up three fouls in six minutes of action. He had a nice dunk late in the game and grabbed his first NBA rebound. 

Richardson has been competing and often times beating his veteran teammates in 3-point shootouts following practice. He went 1-for-3 from long range for three points in six minutes. 

Following the game, Joerger was asked if he was looking at this young group to maybe find a spark going forward.

“No, I was just trying to manage playing a first of a back-to-back when we’re down 30,” Joerger said. “At that point, you’re just trying to get guys better and develop some guys.” 

Don’t expect to see these three very often. The plan is to groom the trio in Reno under Bighorns coach Darrick Martin for much of the season.

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