• The Kings showed fight and promise against the Rockets on Wednesday night but just couldn’t get the victory, falling 100-91 in Houston.

    Zach Randolph sat out tonight’s game due to rest purposes, opening the door for JaKarr Sampson to get the start. Plugging Sampson into the lineup allowed the Kings to run and play with energy early on. All five starters could get out and push the pace, and the early returns were positive against a team that’s generally so dominant playing that way. Within the opening five minutes Sampson made numerous hustle plays, including a monster put back jam to give Sacramento the early lead.

    The Kings were active defensively, limiting the Rockets’ open looks during the first quarter and they helped themselves to a 25-20 lead. Justin Jackson led the way for the Kings with eight points through 12 minutes. The Rockets love shooting the long-ball, but Sacramento held them to 2-of-9 shooting from distance in the quarter and also added an impressive four blocks. Defense was the name of the game early for the Kings and it was certainly leading to positive results.

    Sacramento didn’t score their first bucket of the second quarter until over three minutes in and that allowed the Rockets to build a lead. Houston bounced back after their underwhelming start to the game, rattling off a 9-0 prior to the Kings’ first second quarter points. Chris Paul was settling in, scoring on multiple trips down the floor. Normally when the Rockets get hot things get out of hand, but the Kings were fighting punch-for-punch and were making their own shots on the other end to keep pace.

    Paul dropped 17 points in the second quarter alone to lead the Rockets to a 45-55 lead at halftime. The Kings’ defense slipped and the Rockets took full advantage. Willie Cauley-Stein tried to go at Clint Capela for the duration of the first half but had minimal success, shooting a measly 2-of-10 from the field. Both teams weren’t shooting great from the field, the Kings at just 41.3 percent and the Rockets at 42.9 percent, however, the difference was at the free throw line as Houston were 12-of-13 to the Kings’ 2-of-4.

    Being down 10 at halftime is a solid result for the Kings, considering how dominant the Rockets have been lately. They lead the NBA in points differential (plus-8.8) due to their fast paced play and dead-eye shooting from deep, so giving up just 55 first half points is a positive result for the Kings.

    Things got away from Sacramento to start the third quarter. Their offense had sputtered out, and while Houston’s wasn’t much better, the Rockets were still scoring at a respectable rate that allowed them to jump up 67-52 with 4:42 left in the third quarter — their largest lead of the game. However the Kings bounced back and refused to go away, trailing 63-72 through three quarters.

    Both teams were still struggling to make shots consistently, shooting sub-40 percent, but it was essentially working in the Kings’ favor as the Rockets are a team that relies heavily on its offense.

    The shooting, for both teams, improved during the fourth quarter. The Kings managed to get as close as five with 25 seconds left in the game, making the Rockets work down the stretch. It was a fitting end to a hard-fought game for the Kings, but they didn’t quite have enough in the tank to take the cake.

    With Sacramento’s track record against the Rockets, and Houston’s general play of late, this wasn’t meant to be close. But the fight the young Kings displayed was promising heading into the All-Star break. It was a loss, but the team will certainly be going into the break on somewhat of a high.

    Game Notes

    • De’Aaron Fox took a hard fall with under a minute left in the game. He hit his head hard on the court, and was bleeding quite badly from his forehead. He obviously did not return, and will likely be evaluated for a concussion. Fox was recently named as a replacement for Lonzo Ball in the Rising Stars game on Friday night, but that looks to be in jeopardy after his fall. He tallied nine points, two rebounds, three assists and one steal in 26 minutes (3-of-10 from the field) before exiting the game.

    • Bogdan Bogdanovic led the way for Sacramento, posting 20 points, four rebounds, five assists and two steals on 8-of-15 shooting from the field (4-of-8 from three). Bogi continued to make tough shots and set up his teammates, as he’s done all year-long. He’ll participate in the Rising Stars game on Friday so keep an eye out for him there.
    • Justin Jackson played a team-high 34 minutes tonight, totaling 12 points, five rebounds, four assists and two blocks on 5-of-9 shooting (2-of-5 from three). The 34 minutes were a career-high for Jackson, while his two blocks tied a career-high. Jackson’s off-ball movement creates so many opportunities for him to score, and the Kings seem to play better whenever he’s on the floor. He’s seemingly earned the trust of Dave Joerger and is slated for big minutes moving forward.
    • The Kings held Houston to under 40 percent shooting from the field (39.8 percent) and just 28.6 percent shooting from the deep which is a great achievement. The Rockets are an offensive powerhouse but for the Kings to keep them somewhat contained is a victory in itself.
    • Sacramento followed their season-high 30 assists from last night with 26 assists tonight. Their passing has elevated to another level of late, as has their pace of play. The Kings are playing better when they move the ball and play fast, so it’s no surprise so see them give the Rockets a run for their money.

    The All-Star break is now upon the Kings. There won’t have anyone representing Sacramento in the All-Star game, but they do have three players selected to participate in the Rising Stars game which is played on Friday night. Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic and De’Aaron Fox will all be suiting up, Hield and Bogdanovic on the World team, while Fox will play for the team USA.

    Development will remain the focus on the other side of the break. Skal Labissiere and Frank Mason are both expected back from injury, while the newly acquired Iman Shumpert and Bruno Caboclo could see the floor at some stage too. There won’t be many wins over the last two months of the season, but it’ll be fun watching the future of Kings basketball take the court.

Fantasy News

  • Frank Ntilikina
    PG, New York Knicks

    Frank Ntilikina (sore groin) is doubtful to play on Thursday.

    Ntilikina was the starter in New York at the beginning of the season but has faded with the return of Elfrid Payton, and now it's possible that he's lost the backup gig to Dennis Smith Jr. Frankie Smokes is only an option in the deepest of leagues when healthy.

    Source: NBA Injury Report

  • Trae Young
    PG, Atlanta Hawks

    Trae Young (illness) stayed away from practice on Thursday.

    No big deal here as Young dropped 37 & 11 last night despite the ailment. Hopefully he's feeling better soon.

    Source: Sarah K. Spencer on Twitter

  • Kevin Huerter
    SG, Atlanta Hawks

    Kevin Hurter is dealing with a groin injury, per Lloyd Pierce.

    No word on the severity of the injury but it's definitely not a great sign for Huerter, especially as Cam Reddish and De'Andre Hunter appear to be figuring things out. Huerter played just 28 minutes last night after topping 30 in each of the previous 15 contests, so his playing time will be something to watch going forward.

    Source: Sarah K. Spencer on Twitter

  • Jarrod Uthoff
    SF, Memphis Grizzlies

    The Grizzlies will sign Jarrod Uthoff to a 10-day contract.

    Uthoff last appeared in the NBA in 2017, making nine appearances with Dallas back then. He's since played in Russia and the G League and will give Memphis a little emergency depth in the next week and a half.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Marc Gasol
    C, Toronto Raptors

    Marc Gasol (left hamstring tightness) is making progress in his rehab but has no timetable for a return.

    Last week Nick Nurse speculated that Gasol would need 8-12 games before the playoffs to get back into shape, and it looks like the Raptors might take it as slow as possible with the veteran big man as long as his playoff preparedness isn't in jeopardy. Serge Ibaka and Chris Boucher will continue to hold it down.

    Source: Josh Lewenberg on Twitter

  • Luke Kornet
    PF-C, Chicago Bulls

    Further testing has revealed a severely sprained left ankle and a fifth metatarsal fracture for Luke Kornet, who will miss 6-8 weeks.

    This looks like the end of Kornet's season, and he can be safely dropped in all redraft formats. Daniel Gafford should assume Kornet's rotation role, while Wendell Carter Jr. will have less competition for minutes when he gets back on the court. Gafford's worth a look in deeper leagues for his upside as a rebounder and shot-blocker.

    Source: Cody Westerlund on Twitter

  • Edmond Sumner
    PG, Indiana Pacers

    Edmond Sumner (sore left hip) will not play on Thursday against the Blazers.

    Sumner's been out for a week now and there's no sign of when he'll return. He was in the rotation to begin the year and could find a few minutes available now that Jeremy Lamb is out, but Sumner is unlikely to reemerge as a fantasy option.

    Source: Scott Agness on Twitter

  • Victor Oladipo
    SG, Indiana Pacers

    Victor Oladipo (sore back) will be available to play on Thursday.

    Oladipo has missed the last two games but is ready to go tonight, and he may return to a fuller workload with Jeremy Lamb now lost for the season with a torn ACL. That said, Oladipo has been far from a fantasy factor so far, shooting a putrid .333 and picking up just 0.5 steals through his first eight games back. Keep him on your benches for now.

    Source: Scott Agness on Twitter

  • Norman Powell
    SF, Toronto Raptors

    Norman Powell (left finger fracture) was able to go through practice on Thursday and is questionable to play on Friday.

    Earlier this week it was announced that Powell would miss another week, but he looks to be ahead of that timetable. Norm has been a solid middle-round option this season and is worth scooping up if available. The Raptors figure to plug him right back into his 6th/7th man role.

    Source: Josh Lewenberg on Twitter

  • Dewayne Dedmon
    C, Atlanta Hawks

    On Thursday, the Hawks announced that Dewayne Dedmon has undergone a non-surgical procedure to relieve right elbow pain and that he'll miss the next three games.

    Dedmon is set to be re-evaluated on Monday, which means he's a drop if you're fighting for the playoffs and this is the last week of your regular season. He had started returning standard league value since being traded to Atlanta but at this point in the season, a lot of fantasy GMs simply need healthy bodies. Bruno Fernando and Damian Jones will step up at the center spot but the Hawks will likely turn to more small-ball lineups, making their various wings and forwards more appealing in most fantasy formats.

    Source: Sarah K. Spencer on Twitter