Kings seek to keep visiting Raptors reeling

NBA

Buoyed by a return to the win column, the Sacramento Kings’ optimism is tempered by a key health concern in advance of a home game against the Toronto Raptors on Friday.

During the Kings’ 128-124 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, point guard De’Aaron Fox strained his right hamstring.

Fox looked as if he was trying to push through the discomfort for a few minutes before he was removed in the first quarter and did not return. The injury is not believed to be serious, but his status for Friday’s game is uncertain.

The victory, at the start of a seven-game homestand, ended the Kings’ three-game losing streak, all coming on the road. It was a much-needed group effort in the wake of the team’s recent struggles and Fox’s early departure.

Richaun Holmes led the Kings with 24 points, while Marvin Bagley III scored 21 points with 12 rebounds. Buddy Hield had another rough shooting night, going 3 of 15 from the field, but he did convert a late four-point play that was key to the victory.

“I think the biggest thing for us is playing a consistent game and cutting down our mental lapses,” said Harrison Barnes, who is averaging 17 points per game. “You look at that last road trip and there was a lot of what could have been. Three games that went by the wayside. … Getting back on a winning track was important.”

There was also another contributor. Fox’s departure in the first quarter allowed Kings rookie Tyrese Haliburton to grab some of the spotlight with 15 of his season-best 17 points in the fourth quarter, including a leaning 3-pointer from the sideline with 12 seconds remaining to seal the victory.

“I was just trying to push the pace the best I could and I thought I did a pretty good job,” Haliburton said.

The Raptors could use some of what inspired the Kings. The champions from two seasons ago, who have made the playoffs in seven consecutive seasons, have lost three consecutive games and are just 1-6 on the season.

The latest defeat came Wednesday in a 123-115 loss at Phoenix against a hot Suns team that hit 21 3-pointers. Pascal Siakam had 32 points in the defeat, while Kyle Lowry had 24.

Toronto’s Fred VanVleet, who is delivering a career-best 20.6 points per game, was held to 13 on 5 of 12 shooting from the field and 2 of 5 from 3-point range. The Raptors shot 49.4 percent from the field as a team and still could not stay with the Suns.

Siakam’s performance, and at least a competitive effort against a strong Suns team, has the Raptors feeling a little better about things.

“We’re going the right way,” VanVleet said. “I just told the guys we can’t do anything about the (games) we already dropped. If you look at this as an isolated game (Wednesday) there were a lot of positives, a lot to build on. I thought we looked (more) like a team we know we are.”

Friday’s game is the second of a challenging, four-game trip for the Raptors that still has stops at Golden State and Portland.

–Field Level Media

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