Bogdan Bogdanovic was being slowly worked back into the Kings’ rotation.
The second-year guard missed the first 10 games of the season and was also held out of the front end of the Kings’ most recent back-to-back set.
He was expected to be on a minutes restriction for Monday night’s game against the San Antonio Spurs, so he took advantage of his court time.
Bogdanovic scored a team-high 22 points, punctuated by a motion of “you can’t see me” after hitting his final shot of the night, in a 104-99 victory at Golden 1 Center.
“It was a great feeling, I cannot lie,” he said of his performance. “You could see it in my emotions.”
He missed his only shot in the opening period and was whistled for two fouls after entering with just under four minutes left. But in the second quarter, he caught fire.
Bogdanovic shot 4 of 5, including hitting both 3-point attempts, and assisted on two baskets by Harry Giles III, who was back with the Kings after being assigned to the G League team in Stockton for one game.
Bogdanovic said his goal is to always “make the right read” when he’s on the floor.
“Sometimes it’s for me, sometimes it’s for my teammates,” Bogdanovic said, adding that executing on offense “brings extra confidence for the team.”
Coach Dave Joerger said before the game Bogdanovic has been held to around 20 minutes but that number would increase. The guard played 24 minutes Monday.
“He wants to be out there and he wants to play more,” Joerger said after the win. “It looked like it to me that he was feeling pretty good. He’s trying to find his rhythm a little bit, and he’s also playing with some guys that maybe he hasn’t played with before. So I thought he over-dribbled a little bit tonight at times looking for a shot ... but I thought he was really feeling it and did a terrific job.”
Six Kings players scored at least 11 points in the win, which snapped a 14-game skid against the Spurs dating to Nov. 15, 2014, when Sacramento beat San Antonio 94-91 at Sleep Train Arena.
“Man, I don’t really care about the streak,” said center Willie Cauley-Stein, who had 13 points and 13 rebounds. “This was a must-win game because we’ve got to defend home.”
The Kings (8-6) finished the four-game home stand 2-2.
“We felt like we couldn’t go 1-3 on our home court,” said guard De’Aaron Fox, who turned in another solid performance with 19 points, seven assists and two steals. Fox shot 7 of 9 overall, including 3 for 4 from 3-point range. “I feel like we let both of those games that we lost get away from us.”
The Spurs (7-5) had words of praise for the Kings.
“I was really impressed. Their culture is changing – it’s changed drastically,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “Guys are committed, guys are physical, taking some pride in defense. I think Vlade (Divac) and the team have made some good moves, and I think Dave’s done a great job of bringing that group together. They look really good. It’s impressive.”
Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan led all scorers with 23 points. Center LaMarcus Aldridge had 14 points and a game-high 18 rebounds.
“You have to give those young guys credit,” DeRozan said. “They are playing at a high level. They are playing extremely free and you see the experience. ... They play well together. They play extremely hard and they play free.”
Bogdanovic isn’t exactly free to play as much as he wants just yet, but that could change soon. He said he’ll likely play in both games of the back-to-back that begins Friday in Memphis, but he’ll probably remain on restricted minutes.
He’s been impressed with how the Kings have played to this point. Last season, they were 3-11 through 14 games.
Bogdanovic expects the success to continue.
“It’s amazing how we suddenly improved from last year,” he said. “We’re really trying to make the playoffs this year. I know that sounds crazy for somebody, but that’s our motivation.”