Coach Dave Joeger talks about tonight’s game
Bjelica’s strong debut and other takeaways from the Kings’ victory over Maccabi Haifa
By Jason Anderson
October 08, 2018 09:48 PM
Here are three takeaways from the Kings’ 132-100 victory over Maccabi Haifa on Monday night at Golden 1 Center:
Bjelica makes immediate impact
Nemanja Bjelica, the team’s key free agent acquisition, started in his Kings debut after missing the first three preseason games with a sore knee. Bjelica quickly made his presence felt, posting 12 points, five rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots in 18 minutes.
Bjelica signed a three-year, $20.5 million contract with Sacramento over the summer after spending his first three seasons in the NBA with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Bjelica proved very capable of playing the small forward position when Jimmy Butler was injured last season, but Kings coach Dave Joerger said Bjelica will be “best utilized as a stretch 4,” a power forward who spreads the floor with his outside shooting.
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“I can bring experience and I can play multiple positions,” Bjelica said. “Whatever coach wants to do, I just want to be on the floor, helping guys, and make some shots.”
Joerger previously said Bjelica helps to create space for point guard De’Aaron Fox, one of the quickest players in the league.
“It makes it easier for everybody when you have a 4 who can shoot the ball as well as he can,” Fox said. “I definitely think he helps us a lot.”
Joerger continued to experiment with different lineups. Joerger started Fox and Frank Mason with Justin Jackson, Bjelica and Willie Cauley-Stein, but the Kings got off to a slow start, falling behind 9-2.
“It’s going to be a long night,” Maccabi Haifa guard Keron DeShields howled after making two early jumpers.
Joerger later went to a small-ball lineup, putting Fox and Mason on the floor with Buddy Hield, Jackson and Cauley-Stein. Moments later, he used another variation of that lineup, replacing Cauley-Stein with Harry Giles. The game remained close until the second quarter, when a lineup consisting of Fox, Hield, Jackson, Bjelica and Cauley-Stein started a 20-5 run to give the Kings a 58-39 lead.
Hield led the team with 22 points. Giles had 16 points and seven rebounds. Cauley-Stein had 13 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Mason had 13 points and eight assists.
Cauley-Stein finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
Jackson gets into a groove
Jackson might be finding his rhythm after being held scoreless in the first two preseason games.
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Jackson made two 3-pointers and finished with eight points in Friday’s loss to the Warriors. In the victory over Maccabi Haifa, Jackson scored 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting, including 4 of 8 from 3-point range.
Jackson looked toward the Kings’ bench and flashed a big smile when he made a long 3-pointer from the right wing as the shot clock expired midway through the second quarter, giving the Kings a 52-37 lead with 5:26 to play in the half.
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