|Kings learning how to win, protect court|
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Sacramento Kings are trying to maintain some perspective as they make their way down the first year of their organizational do-over, not to mention some emotional balance.
"You know, after Atlanta, I didn't know if we'd win another game the rest of the season," coach Dave Joerger said of the team's 126-80 loss at the Hawks on Nov. 15. "After we beat Oklahoma City (on Nov. 7), I thought were going to play in the playoffs, so. ..."
So, the truth is far in the middle. But the first step for a young team on the path to respectability is learning to protect home court, and the Kings (5-13) have won four of their past five at Golden 1 Center. The latest was a 113-102 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.
They'll try to ride that momentum Saturday when they host the Los Angeles Clippers, a team that's just dusting itself off after finally stopping a free fall.
"It's great that we're going into this game with momentum," Kings guard De'Aaron Fox said after the win. "We've just got to keep that going."
The Kings shot 69 percent from the floor in the second quarter and made their first seven shots of the fourth quarter en route to shooting a season-best 55.3 percent in the win over the Lakers. That built on a trend developed during the run of success at home. Sacramento, which averages 94.3 points per contest, has scored an average of 100.0 per game in their past five at home.
They're shooting 47.0 percent from the field in that stretch, including 40.6 percent from 3-point range, ahead of their season-marks of 43.3 percent and 37.0 percent, respectively.
Against the Lakers, center Willie Cauley-Stein scored 26 points and forward Zach Randolph 21, and each contributed 10 baskets from the floor -- the first time the Kings had two players reach 10 field goals in the same game this season.
Rookie Frank Mason played a career-best 26 minutes and posted 11 points and a career-best seven assists.
"It's great just to come in, to see my perspective from the bench, see what the game's looking like, see what we need to do and come out there and be active," Mason said. "It was a good thing, and hopefully I can continue to do that."
The Clippers (6-11) enter bruised and battered following a four-game winning streak to open the season that proved to be a false preview of what was to come. A 116-103 win at the Hawks on Wednesday ended Los Angeles' nine-game losing streak.
That losing streak included a season-ending injury to guard Patrick Beverley, a defensive specialist and key offseason acquisition. Beverley had surgery to repair a microfracture and torn meniscus in his right knee.
"I feel after every loss, we kept saying it's going to come," forward Blake Griffin told the Los Angeles Times. "You just got to stay positive, stay focused."
The Clippers made 15 of 30 3-pointers in their first victory since Nov. 1 and have made 36.6 percent from that distance, putting them squarely in the middle of the league. The Kings surrender 3-pointers at a 39.5-percent clip, the league's second-worst mark.