Buddy Hield scored 28 points days after agreeing to an $86 million contract extension, but the Kings were blown out in their first game under coach Luke Walton, falling 124-95 to the Phoenix Suns in the season opener Wednesday at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona.
The Kings led 29-25 at the end of the first quarter and carried a 59-54 lead into the halftime break. They went up by six early in the second half, but the Suns staged an 11-2 run to take an 84-73 lead late in the third period. Sacramento cut the deficit to single digits early in the fourth, but Phoenix pulled away with a 12-1 run.
Hield scored 22 points in the first half, making 8 of 12 field-goal attempts and 5 of 8 from 3-point range. He became the first Kings player to score 20 points in the first half of a season opener since Kevin Martin did it against the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2009, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The Kings got a fresh look at Phoenix’s dynamic young duo of Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton. The Suns added Ricky Rubio in free agency, which might make Booker even more dangerous as a scorer and Ayton more of a force inside.
Booker, who averaged 26.6 points per game last season, finished with 22 points and 10 assists. Ayton, the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, had 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Walton made no secret of his plans for the starting lineup during training camp. As expected, De’Aaron Fox and Hield started in the backcourt with Harrison Barnes at small forward, Marvin Bagley III at power forward and Dewayne Dedmon at center. Walton went to a small-ball lineup when he made his first substitutions, leaving Fox and Hield in the game with Bogdan Bogdanovic at small forward, Barnes at power forward and Richaun Holmes at center. By the end of the first period, Walton had gone 10 deep with Cory Joseph, Trevor Ariza and Nemanja Bjelica also logging minutes.
Fox got into foul trouble in the second quarter and never developed much of a rhythm. He had to leave the game after picking up his third foul with 2:53 left in the first half. He went to the bench again after he was whistled for his fourth foul less than two minutes into the third quarter.
The Kings will return to Sacramento for their highly anticipated home opener against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday at Golden 1 Center. The Kings played the Blazers tough last season but dropped two of their three games. The Kings lost the first game 113-108 in overtime after blowing a nine-point lead over the last 3:10 of regulation. They won the second game 115-107 and lost the third 136-131 to end the season, falling just short of 40 wins.
Sacramento Kings – Out: Harry Giles III (sore left knee).
Phoenix Suns – Out: Ty Jerome (right ankle sprain); Cameron Johnson (left calf soreness).
Sacramento Kings upcoming schedule
Oct. 25 vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Oct. 26 at Utah Jazz
Oct. 28 vs. Denver Nuggets
Oct. 30 vs. Charlotte Hornets
Nov. 1 vs. Utah Jazz