• The Kings’ misery continued on Monday night as they fell 112-107 to the Hornets for their eighth consecutive loss. Bringing their record to 2-13 in their last 15 outings.

    Sacramento rolled out an interesting starting lineup tonight, going with De’Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Vince Carter, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos and they managed to hold their own early on.

    Things were a little erratic at times to start the game with both teams feeling each other out, trying to gain an edge. The Hornets dropped 131 points on the Kings in the first meeting thanks to some hot shooting from outside (15-of-32 for 46.9 percent). The Kings didn’t seem too worried about defending the perimeter early on as the Hornets got multiple open looks but fortunately for them they weren’t dropping – at least initially. This tactic would come back to bite the Kings.

    Dave Joerger first went to the bench with just under five minutes left in the quarter. At that point Sacramento held a 21-18 lead so the starters more than held their own. The bench, unfortunately, let that lead slip and trailed 35-33 after the first quarter.

    The Kings failed to adjust to all the open looks the Hornets were getting on the perimeter, as they let them go off for six 3-pointers on just 13 attempts in the first quarter alone. This is a team that averages 9.1 3-pointers per game, yet the Kings have a frustrating habit of letting them rain shots from outside.

    Defensive stops were at a premium for both teams through the first 24 minutes. Both seemingly had open looks every time down the floor and it was just a case of who could capitalize. Unfortunately for the Kings, they were the ones that slowed down offensively and struggled to make shots consistently as halftime neared.

    The Hornets’ 3-point barrage didn’t hold up as they ended with 10 threes at the half and held a 67-55 lead. The defensive issues are well-known in Sacramento, but letting a team surpass their season-average in the first half alone isn’t great at all. The team is loaded with youth which could contribute to those struggles, but all it takes is some consistent effort and energy to nullify those flaws.

    Sacramento kept things steady in the third, not letting the game blow open. The fact that they didn’t roll over is a small positive in an otherwise rough outing. This could have easily ended in the same way the earlier meeting did.

    The defensive issues started to take a toll on Joerger tonight. At one point during the fourth quarter he called a timeout after the Hornets had multiple open looks. Following the timeout, the Kings looked to shift into another gear cutting the lead down to 102-105 with under two minutes left.

    Whatever Joerger said to them during the timeout lit a fire underneath the Kings. They displayed a defensive intensity in the fourth quarter that they hadn’t shown in a while. They were contesting shots, playing tight defense on the perimeter and just genuinely showing some energy. Putting forth this hustle on a consistent basis is the next step for this team.

    Tonight’s game was far from pleasant but they gave themselves a shot down the stretch and I’m sure they’ll go away proud of the late effort. If they can display this kind of energy on a nightly basis, throughout the entirety of the game, then they’ll find themselves competing more frequently and it could lead to some wins.

    Their late charge wasn’t quite enough in the end, as the Hornets managed to knuckle down and hold on. The Hornets took the season series 2-0.

    Game Notes

    • Zach Randolph and Garrett Temple were the two veterans that sat out tonight. The rotational method continues and at some stage we may start to see a pattern with who’s playing and who’s not. This is a system that’s likely to remain in place for the remainder of the season so it’s something fans will have to get used to.
    • As mentioned earlier, the Kings have lost 13 of their last 15 games. Things aren’t pretty at the moment but coming into the season, lots of losses were expected. For the draft crowd, losing is the best thing for the Kings as far as draft position is concerned. Developing the youth will obviously be the focal point moving forward so more losses are on the horizon for Sacramento.
    • Dwight Howard certainly made his mark on the game. He was controlling the paint and was consistently making the Kings’ players alter their shots in the paint – most of the time leading to misses. Even on shots that were seemingly going in, Howard would go out his way to swat it and take the goaltending call, just so the Kings weren’t seeing the ball go through the hoop. It’s something he’s done throughout his career, but it proved effective against the youthful lineup of Sacramento.
    • The Hornets managed a season-high 15 3-pointers in the previous meeting with the Kings and, unsurprisingly, they surpassed that total tonight with 16. We’ve touched on the defensive issues already so it’s probably no use going down that path again. The fourth quarter was a positive step in the right direction for the Kings.
    • Skal Labissiere scored a season-high 23 points tonight on 10-of-15 shooting. He came in and went to work straight away in the first quarter and didn’t slow down as the night progressed. It’s a promising performance from the youngster who has struggled over his last couple of outings.
    • Willie Cauley-Stein struggled big time shooting just 5-of-20 from the field. He had trouble with Howard’s defensive prowess and will be happy he doesn’t have to see him again this season. He did finish with 11 points, 10 rebounds and two steals so it wasn’t all bad.
    • De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield had solid games. Fox turned in 16 points and seven assists while Hield finished with 18 points on 4-of-6 shooting from deep. The kids had their moments throughout the game but on the whole they had positive nights and it will help with their development moving forward.
    • Another positive note is that the Kings posted a 27-to-9 assist-to-turnover ratio which is superb. If they can fine-tune their defensive issues, the Kings could find themselves competing a little more frequently down the road.

    The Kings will be back in action tomorrow night against the Magic. It’s a quick turnaround, especially considering it’s in the middle of a six-game road trip, so things won’t be easy for the Kings. The Magic sit at 14th in the Eastern Conference so they have something in common with Sacramento as far as bottom dwellers are concerned.

    The Magic have lost a ton of games, but they’ve actually found a bit of a groove lately winning two of their last three. They’ve topped the Wolves and Celtics, as well as taking the Cavs down to the wire. Those three are all highly ranked teams who are headed for the playoffs so the Magic are on somewhat of a roll lately and will be no easy beat. The Kings could learn a thing or two from the way Orlando has been playing lately.

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