The Sacramento Kings (15-22) defeated the Houston Rockets (11-24) Thursday night by the score of 125-105. Houston, without their leading scorer John Wall, struggled to make shots. At one point in the second quarter, the Rockets missed fifteen consecutive three-point attempts. They also lost game-leader Eric Gordon to a groin injury in the third quarter. Despite good production from Victor Oladipo (23pts) and Jae’Sean Tate (16pts), Houston just couldn’t overcome the Kings’ scoring onslaught.
Sacramento displayed a good scoring balance; all five starters ended the game with points in double figures. Center Richaun Holmes came out hustling to create opportunities and ended up with 20 points and 11 total rebounds. Buddy Hield led the team with five made three-pointers and added 20 total points from the field. Harrison Barnes quietly reeled in eleven rebounds on the night, providing the kind of low-key veteran contributions that this team needs to excel.
STAR OF THE GAME
Starting point guard De’Aaron Fox must have gotten some good rest during the break. He found his shooting stroke, going 11-of-19 from the field. It was also one of his most balanced in recent memory with 30 points, 9 assists, and 7 rebounds on the night.
Most notably he made some very smart plays, opting to pass the ball instead of taking it to a crowded basket. In one play early in the game he drove inside and swung the ball around behind his back to Richaun Holmes for a drop-in basket. These are the plays made by elite point guards in the NBA. If he can keep it up and raise his shooting percentage, he will be everything the pundits say and more. He’s just got to be calm and smart.
There were a lot of good contributions across the board for the Kings. Standing out, though, was the hustle of shooting guard Cory Joseph. Joseph finished with 13 points, the Kings’ only double-digit total off the bench. The value-add of his performance was a whopping five steals. The Kings have needed a true ball-hawk in the lineup, and Joseph provided that extra spark on Thursday against a hemorrhaging Rockets team.
The Kings still have ball-handling issues, particularly under the basket. In fairness, the Rockets were pushing, shuffling, reaching, and swiping for everything. The All-Star rest benefited both teams; everyone on the court showed a lot of hustle.
Luke Walton has said that his focus is to improve the existing lineup rather than make changes. This approach seems wise, since the Kings may only be a few fundamentals away from competing at a high level. Some small fixes, like dribbling, passing, and shooting, could yield huge results.
Another long eastern road trip begins:
@ Atlanta Hawks, Saturday, March 13th, 4:30 PM PT
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