Sacramento Kings

Sacramento Kings on their opening night debacle: ‘That should light a fire under us’

This one was alarming, ugly and awful in all the worst ways, but it was only one.

One game. One loss. One night when nothing went right, everything went wrong and prized young power forward Marvin Bagley III suffered a non-displaced fracture of his right thumb that will keep him out for four to six weeks.

The Kings were bullied and bludgeoned in an absolute mollywhopping at the hands of the Phoenix Suns, falling 124-95 in their season opener Wednesday at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix. Sacramento led 59-54 at halftime, but the Suns – the Phoenix Suns, winners of only 19 games last season – outscored the Kings 70-36 in the second half.

“They just got hot,” Kings guard Buddy Hield said. “We didn’t make no shots. They made plays. They played harder than us. They deserved to win.”

The Kings were supposed to be the better team, but they weren’t, certainly not with De’Aaron Fox sidelined due to foul trouble. The Suns were ready and the Kings, playing their first game under coach Luke Walton following a disjointed preseason, were woefully unprepared. They will have to be much better Friday night in their home opener against the Portland Trail Blazers, a team that won 53 games and reached the Western Conference Finals last season behind Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

This will be no easy task without Bagley, the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, but the Kings have to play faster, play smarter and take better care of the ball. They have to be better defensively. They have to learn from this loss and remind themselves every game counts in a playoff race, something they should already know after finishing ninth in the Western Conference last season.

Kings a work in progress

The Kings figured to be a work in progress after spending a significant portion of their first preseason under Walton trekking to India and back, but whatever progress they’ve made was obscured by a sloppy, sluggish performance in Phoenix.

“We definitely thought it was going to be a little smoother,” said center Dewayne Dedmon, who was held to three points and six rebounds in his Kings debut after signing a three-year, $40 million contract with Sacramento over the summer. “We didn’t think we were going to come in and get smacked by 30, so it’s definitely a learning experience. We’ve got to take it on the chin and move on.”

Phoenix shot 50 percent from the field and pressured Sacramento into 26 turnovers. The Kings shot 39.1 percent overall, 34.5 percent from 3-point range and an eye-rolling 65.4 percent from the free-throw line.

Hield scored 28 points days after signing a four-year, $86 million contract extension, but his teammates combined to make just 24 of 68 field-goal attempts, shooting 35.2 percent. Bogdan Bogdanovic, who hardly missed during his World Cup run with the Serbian national team over the summer, scored two points on 1-of-10 shooting.

Fox, the lightning-quick 21-year-old point guard who drives the Kings’ offense at breakneck speeds, was limited to six minutes in the second quarter. He went to the bench with his fourth foul 1:56 into the third period and didn’t return until the fourth quarter. Without him, Sacramento just wasn’t the same.

“It definitely started going downhill,” Walton said. “De’Aaron started doing a nice job of establishing himself and being able to draw fouls, get into the paint and kick it out. He picked up that fourth foul and, for whatever reason, we stopped executing offensively. We started turning the ball over. … They made us pay.”

Suns get hot, Kings suffer turnovers

The Suns shot 56 percent in the third quarter and 63.6 percent in the fourth. After converting just 2 of 16 from 3-point range in the first half, Phoenix made 9 of 17 in the second as one Kings’ turnover after another led to open looks in transition.

“(The turnovers) became contagious,” Walton said. “It’s funny in the game of basketball how momentum changes things. Making the extra pass, making the right pass, will become contagious. If you start turning the ball over, it is the negative type of energy out there that we have been kind of struggling (with) in this preseason so far. We talked about that after the game. We have to clean up the turnovers.”

This one was ugly, awful and alarming, but it was only one game, the first of 82. The Kings have to make sure it doesn’t become more than that.

“You can’t let it break you,” Hield said. “If you let it break you, then after that you keep going downhill. It’s just one game. There’s 81 more games left. Stuff happens. You lose. It’s the first game. Yeah, we got beat by 30 points and that’s unacceptable for us, but that should light a fire under us.”

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

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Jason Anderson is an award-winning sportswriter for The Sacramento Bee. He started his journalism career at The Bee more than 20 years ago and returned to cover the Sacramento Kings in September 2018.
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