Heads ached and throbbed for the Sacramento Kings leading up to Tuesday night, as they looked desperately for the missing piece of the puzzle that will have them stand out from the middle of the pack. Against the Hornets, the missing piece was found and beheld as De’Aaron Fox suited up for the first time since going down with an ankle injury. But the question is: did everything fit?
Though Fox looked good in his return and lead the team in both points (19) and assists (8), Sacramento still fell to the 12-16 Hornets.
In Fox’s return, you would think that Buddy Hield would thrive as the weight of the backcourt positions wouldn’t rest solely on his shoulders.
Hield averaged 19.8 shots a game while Fox was out and really struggled making those shots in his absence.
Instead of capitalizing on an even workload in the backcourt, Hield stayed quiet most of the game. Even though he scored 14 points on 4/8 from deep, a couple of those threes came late when the Kings were basically out of the game.
This happened several times before Fox’s injury as well, where Hield would not show up in games, causing the Kings to struggle.
Buddy needs to keep bringing the same intensity he had when Fox was sidelined. Both the Kings and Hield cannot afford to take too big of a step back now that the backcourt tandem was reinstated.
Another worrisome note is the play of Marvin Bagley since his return from injury. In short, it seems that the Kings play much better when he is off the floor.
Bagley on: 89
Bagley off: 103
Bagley on: 91.2
Bagley off: 114.4
Bagley on: 105.6
Bagley off: 98.5
Bagley on: -14.3
Bagley off: +15.9
Yes, some alarms should be shrieking in your ear right now.
Bagley has brought the team down when he is on the court, and this is a severe issue that needs to be resolved.
Yes, he is still easing his way back from injury and it could take some time to get back to his true potential. But in a difficult Western Conference, the Kings don’t have room for error. One game has the ability to affect their playoff chances.
The next game is tonight in Indiana against the 19-9 Pacers who are coming off a win that ended the Lakers 14-game road winning streak.
No, it won’t be an easy matchup, but it’s games like these where Sacramento can show that their current 8th seed ranking is no fluke, and may even be an understatement of their ability.
But if they want to win, Hield needs to come out swinging, Bagley needs to play better overall, and the lackluster defense we saw in Charlotte needs to step up.
If it doesn’t, then us Kings fans will be starting the weekend before Christmas on a bad note.