People will point to the statistics. They’ll see that Marvin Bagley III put up big numbers in a 117-116 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night at Oracle Arena and they’ll say the numbers show signs of progress.
Bagley tied his career high with 20 points and established a new career high with 17 rebounds. The numbers were impressive, but the box score isn’t the only place where his game is growing. It’s actually happening on the floor, under the lights, in pressure situations against some of the best basketball players in the world.
“Every game,” Bagley said. “Every game, I’m getting better and better. I feel it. I’m learning.”
Bagley has seen a noticeable increase in playing time since a report surfaced last weekend suggesting the Kings’ front office wants coach Dave Joerger to give the rookie big man a larger role and more minutes. Bagley played an average of 22.3 minutes over the first 15 games of the season. Over the past four games, he has averaged 28.5 minutes, scoring in double figures each time out while recording two double-doubles.
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“He is special,” Joerger said. “He is very, very talented. I hope I get to coach him for a long time.”
Bagley had 15 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots in 26 minutes during Monday’s win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. He surpassed that performance in 33 minutes Saturday against the two-time defending NBA champions, and for the most part he did it without forcing ill-advised shots.
“He’s getting better every day,” Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox said. “He’s not forcing it as much, trying to get to his left hand. He’s taking what the defense is giving him. He’s really developing and you can see it. He’s got a balanced game right now.”
Bagley gained invaluable experience over the last eight minutes against the Warriors. He made a go-ahead basket, grabbed several critical rebounds and found himself guarding former MVP Kevin Durant on a number of occasions. He missed a clutch free throw, made a clutch free throw and then missed a put-back attempt that would have given the Kings the lead with 3.2 seconds remaining.
“Man, I wanted it so bad,” Bagley said. “I don’t know. It just didn’t fall.”
But the effort is there. The lights are on. The game is growing.
“I’ve been staying on him because I want to see him succeed in this league, but he’s doing great,” Kings guard Buddy Hield said. “His energy is great. He’s playing hard.”
Kings continue to impress – Warriors coach Steve Kerr, guard Klay Thompson and Durant joined Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and others around the league who have complimented the Kings for the progress they have made this season.
“I thought Sacramento played with more energy and better execution,” Kerr said. “It was a good win because that’s a much-improved team.”
Durant had high praise for Fox.
“If you hand the ball over to De’Aaron Fox, he will change your franchise,” Durant said. “That is the type of player he is. ... They (have) a nice young team. They (are) just young right now, but they (are) going to be really good in the future.”
“It’s different than what I’m used to and they’re playing the right way,” Thompson said. “They seem very composed for a young team as well. They’ve got a bright future. They’ve got a lot of great young pieces.”
Buddy Buckets – Buddy Hield had a bounce-back game after being held to 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting in Wednesday’s victory over Utah.
Hield scored a season-high 28 points against the Warriors, making 12 of 21 from the field and 4 of 6 from 3-point range. He is now averaging 18.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists. He is shooting 47.8 percent from the field and 44.1 percent from beyond the arc.
Next up – The Kings play Utah for the second time in five days when the Jazz visits the Golden 1 Center on Sunday evening.
Sacramento beat Utah 119-110 on Wednesday in Salt Lake City, Utah. The status of Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell is unknown after he left Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers with a rib contusion.