The Kings promised to be a scrappy bunch who would compete hard. They fit the bill Wednesday night.
But that wasn’t enough to overcome James Harden and the Houston Rockets as the Kings dropped their season opener 105-100 at Golden 1 Center.
Harden scored 12 of his game-high 27 points in the fourth quarter. Eric Gordon scored 25 points and center Clint Capela had 22 points and 17 rebounds for Houston.
Willie Cauley-Stein led the Kings with 21 points. The center also had 10 rebounds and five blocks. Shooting guard Buddy Hield scored 19 points and point guard George Hill had 16 points for Sacramento.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
1. Don’t blink or you’ll miss De’Aaron Fox
De’Aaron Fox was as good – and fast – as advertised in his NBA regular-season debut. He’s a blur with the ball and his handle was equally as impressive.
Fox continues to show he can finish around the rim with flair. Defensively, the Kings’ top draft pick from Kentucky held his own against Gordon.
Fox might not win Rookie of the Year, but there won’t be many rookies more fun to watch. The point guard had 14 points and a team-high five assists off the bench.
2. Can Willie Cauley-Stein be this guy every night?
The coaching staff wants the third-year player from Kentucky to keep it simple and allow his athleticism and instincts to do the rest. When the Rockets put much smaller defenders on him, Cauley-Stein looked to attack in the paint, too.
That’s not to say there isn’t more room for improvement. But if he’s a factor on offense and can cause problems on defense consistently, the Kings will build from there.
3. In crunch time, it’s anyone’s guess
When the game was tight down the stretch, the Kings were unpredictable. Part of that can be attributed to the team figuring out its identity and whom to rely on in those situations.
This part of the game will be the toughest as the season progresses. Without a dominant player, the Kings will be forced to rely on their youth at times, and that could lead to a lot of losses.