Kings Finally Show Signs Of Life In Loss To Nuggets

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Sacramento Kings come away having lost their fourth straight game of the year, but it was easily their best showing to date.

Finally! Finally a game that Sacramento Kings fans can be proud of. While some of the bad habits from the first three games remained apparent, the Kings had easily their best showing of the early season at home on Monday against a talented Denver Nuggets team.

Sacramento would eventually fall to the Nuggets 101-94 due to a poor shooting night from Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic, allowing offensive rebounds, and yet another lackluster third quarter. It was not without its positives, however. The Kings’ pace returned, they were valuing possession of the ball, and benefitted from infectious, neverending energy radiating from Richaun Holmes.

Is Holmes Playing His Way Into The Starting Lineup?

Dewayne Dedmon has been disappointing and uncharacteristically underperforming without explanation during the infancy of his Sacramento career, and the start of tonight was no different. Dedmon picked up two fouls within the first three minutes and Luke Walton brought on Richaun Holmes, which promptly turned the tide.

In a little under 8 minutes, Richaun Holmes had 11 points, remained perfect from the field, pulled in 3 rebounds, and the Kings outscored the Nuggets 25-11 during his first stint. Nikola Jokic, the star on the other end, also racked up 2 fouls during those minutes battling with Holmes.

Holmes became a fan favorite, with many reasonably pushing for him to start during this stretch. And looking at some of the clips from that time, can you blame them?

Holmes received MVP chants from the crowd at the Golden 1 Center en route to his best performance of his career. He would end the night one point and rebound short of his career-best in each category — 24 points, 13 rebounds (5 offensive), and two blocks on 71% from the field.

The entire Sacramento roster shot 48% from the field on 58 attempts with Holmes on the floor and 24% on 33 attempts with him on the bench. The Kings also shot 40% from three (11/27) with Holmes on and 10% (1/10) while Holmes was off. He was a true difference-maker on the offensive end.

Holmes did not slow until the third quarter, and he was not the only Kings to do so. Every Kings’ fan watching had a gut-wrenching feeling as the third quarter approached, a quarter in which they have been outscored a combined 96-61 in the first three games. These are becoming infamous.

What Is Going On At Halftime?

In each of the three previous games, the Kings’ opponents came away with at least a 10 point advantage in the third quarter after what was usually a close game in the first half. What is happening in that Sacramento locker room during halftime?

In the first half, the Kings displayed promising and beautiful ball movement with 18 assists, which quickly marked a season-high, on 21 made attempts. The Kings then had 5 makes for the entirety of the dreaded third quarter.

“I think it’s just a focus thing,” Holmes said about the third-quarter woes. “We have to come out and just lock-in.”

Turnovers were not an issue as they were in previous games, but the ball-movement did lessen substantially along with the defensive intensity. Not getting stops, evidenced by Denver scoring 30 points in the third, didn’t do any favors for Sacramento on the offensive end either.

Sacramento shot 21% from the field and 11% from deep during the quarter and struggled to create quality looks, while some of their usual top scorers were having the definition of an off night.

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Buddy Hield Defined The Word Struggle

One of the top-5 three-point shooters in the NBA, who shot nearly 8 attempts from deep per game last season, didn’t throw one up from range until about 5 minutes remaining in the third.

In the first 24 minutes, Buddy Hield was 0/5 from the field but did have 4 assists. Hield didn’t make a single shot until roughly the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter, missing his first 10 attempts before one went down.

I would have liked to see Hield more aggressive with driving to the paint, both with and without the basketball in order to get to the charity stripe and see a few go in. He ended the night with zero attempts from the line.

Walton did, however, have high praise for Hield’s defensive efforts. “I told Buddy afterwards I was so impressed with his defense tonight… He made winning plays.”

Those ‘winning plays’ included a steal in the closing minutes to give Sacramento a crucial chance to close the gap, which they would fail to do.

It’s not every night that Hield ends a game with 5 points on 2/13 shooting and 1/6 from three — in fact, there was only one game throughout last season where Hield failed to score more than 5 points.

There is an added difficulty in coming out victorious against a top-tier team when two of the team’s best shooters struggle. Bogdanovic was only able to contribute six points of his own and a singal assist.

The two of them combined to shoot 26% (4/15) on the game and 15% (1/7) from three. Their combined shot chart (via is not something that Sacramento fans will be used to seeing, and will likely not see often in the future.

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Final Notes

The pace seemed to be finally emphasized again in this game, clear with the loud yells of “Go!” or “Run!” from the sidelines. Sacramento ended with 18 fast-break points to Denver’s 4.

  • The Kings offensive rebounding was a strength but was also overshadowed by the Nuggets in the same category. Denver ended the game with an absurd 43.4 OREB%, per Cleaning the Glass.
  • Sacramento finally surpassed the mark of 35 3PA in a game, ending the night with 37.

    The highlight of the game goes to Richaun Holmes, of course.

  • Nemanja Bjelica quietly had an amazing game of his own, finishing with 12 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 blocks. You read that right. 3 blocks, and good defense to go with it.
  • dark. Next. Royal Roundtable: Ten Questions For The Kings

    The Kings next game is at Golden 1 Center on Wednesday, Oct. 30 against the 1-2 Charlotte Hornets.