Sacramento Kings

What are the three surprising things powering the Kings’ unexpected win streak?

“We know who we want to be,” De’Aaron Fox after victory against the Wizards

De'Aaron Fox talks about being 3-3 in the early season after victory against the Washington Wizards on Friday, Oct. 26, 2018.
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De'Aaron Fox talks about being 3-3 in the early season after victory against the Washington Wizards on Friday, Oct. 26, 2018.

It took the Kings 14 games to reach five victories in 2015-16 and 2016-17. Last season, Sacramento needed 18 tries to secure a fifth win.

This year, it took just eight.

A four-game winning streak certainly helps, especially considering the Kings didn’t even have three consecutive victories all last season.

With a 107-99 victory over the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night, the Kings matched a streak they hit twice in 2016-17.

“It feels amazing,” rookie forward Marvin Bagley III said after Tuesday’s win. “Things are starting to click for us on both ends. We are getting stops and getting buckets. We just have to keep being focused, keep locking in and keep getting better.”

It’s also the first time in franchise history that Sacramento (5-3) swept the Florida teams on the road in consecutive seasons. The Kings beat the Miami Heat 123-113 Monday.

“I don’t think I have lost to a Florida team,” guard De’Aaron Fox said after Tuesday’s win. (He’s correct; the Kings are 3-0 against each team since Fox came on as a rookie last season.) “People talk about how it hasn’t been done especially since both of them have been back-to-backs. It is always great to win both games of back-to-backs.”

There are two contests left on this four-game trip. Neither are expected to be easy wins, even if the standings might suggest otherwise. Thursday’s game puts the Kings in Atlanta for a date with the Hawks. Sure, the hosts are 2-5 this season and are in the bottom quarter of NBA teams in points per game, but this city hasn’t been kind to the Kings.

Since moving to Sacramento in 1985, the team is just 5-26 in Atlanta, including last season’s 46-point loss Nov. 15 that prompted since-traded guard George Hill to say the team owes “our fans better than what we’re showing them.” Sacramento last won in Atlanta on March 3, 2006.

But these Kings have shown they can’t be counted out. In three of the victories in their current streak, they’ve rallied from deficits of at least 11 points.

The Kings have talked about camaraderie since training camp. It’s showing on the court.

“We’ve got good dudes,” coach Dave Joerger said Tuesday. “They’re high-quality character guys and they support each other.”

The Kings end their trip Sunday with a game against the Milwaukee Bucks, who were the lone unbeaten team at 7-0 entering Wednesday. They’re led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, a two-time All-Star widely considered one of the league’s best overall players.

Here are three surprises that are key to the Kings’ early-season success:

Offensive efficiency

The Kings have preached playing fast since since media day, and they’re doing more than just talking. Even opposing coaches have praised Sacramento’s pace. Entering Wednesday, the Kings were second in pace (which measures how many possessions a team gets per game) at 107.19, trailing only the Hawks. What’s also impressive is their field goal percentage. They rank third in the NBA at 49.8. Only the defending-champion Golden State Warriors (52.3) and Indiana Pacers (50.1) shoot at a better clip. All that has combined to give the Kings the seventh-best points per game in the league at 116.5.

Bjelica’s overall skill set

When Serbian forward Nemanja Bjelica signed a three-year, $20.5 million contract in the offseason, it was known that he would serve as a “stretch-4” who could knock down outside shots while allowing space for Fox to create or score. The shooting is as-advertised: He’s hitting 58.2 percent of his shots and 54.5 percent from 3-point range while averaging 15.1 points. However, what’s been more impressive is his defense. He’s second on the team in steals (1.4) and blocks (0.9).

Working together

While this isn’t a huge surprise if you’ve been paying attention to what Joerger and the players have been saying, the statistics show that this team is happy to share the ball and look for the best shots possible. Five Kings average at least 12.4 points, led by Buddy Hield’s 18.9 ppg. All of those players attempt more than nine shots per game, proving that there are no one-man efforts when the Kings take the floor each night.

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