Hawks, Kings moving in right direction
ATLANTA — The Sacramento Kings snapped a 15-game losing streak to Atlanta at home last season. Now they will try to end their losing ways on the road against the Hawks.
The Kings, off to an encouraging 2-1 start under new coach Dave Joerger, start a tough five-game road swing Monday night at Atlanta, where they have dropped nine games in a row.
The Kings won their opener at Phoenix, then split their first two games at their new home arena.
Sacramento was down by 18 points in the second quarter Saturday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves, but rallied for a 106-103 victory.
“I think there is a nice difference between being 2-1 and 1-2 and how you feel about yourself, knowing you are going to play your next five in all kinds of different states around the union,” Joerger said after the victory. “That's a better feeling getting on the plane.”
The Hawks improved to 2-0 with an easy 104-72 victory over the 76ers on Saturday in Philadelphia and are a tough team for the Kings to have to open their long road trip against.
Sacramento hasn't won in Atlanta since March 3, 2006, but the Kings gave the Hawks a scare last November before falling 103-97.
DeMarcus Cousins had 24 points and 12 rebounds in that game, then had 24 points and 16 rebounds as the Kings won 91-88 in January at Sacramento to snap their long overall losing streak to the Hawks.
Cousins had 29 points and Rudy Gay scored 28 in the Kings' comeback victory over Minnesota.
“To me, Cousins and Rudy are one of the best one-two punches in the game,” said veteran Matt Barnes, who played under Joerger last season at Memphis.
Joerger has tightened up the Kings defensively and his offensive imprint is also apparent.
“There is still some times when we struggle, when we revert to playing isolation basketball,” the coach said. “What happens is we try to dribble into crowds and then we end up with no play. It just takes time.”
The Kings are also without Darren Collison, leaving Ty Lawson as the team's only proven point guard. Collison was suspended by the NBA for the first eight games of the season after pleading guilty to domestic abuse.
The Hawks have a new look this season as well with the addition of Dwight Howard in the middle and Dennis Schroder running the team instead of Jeff Teague.
Howard had 19 rebounds in a victory over Washington in his home debut, but was limited by foul trouble in the easy victory in Philadelphia. Schroder had a career-best 11 assists against the 76ers.
Paul Millsap had a shortened training camp after a knee procedure, but he showed no ill effects in the Hawks' opening victories, averaging 22.5 points.
“He's played very, very well in the first two games,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said.
Millsap was also the key reason that the Hawks kept their winning streak alive against the Kings in Atlanta last season, scoring 23 points and grabbing 16 rebounds.
He had to play just 27 minutes during the romp in Philadelphia.
“I feel pretty good,” Millsap said. “We are looking at the now, but it's more about the later. Keeping me fresh, keeping my healthy through the course of the year. We talked about keeping my minutes low, so when I'm out I can put it all out there.”