Grizzlies, Kings continue to miss the point (Dec 31, 2017)

BY AP • December 31, 2017

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Mike Conley has missed 23 consecutive games for the Memphis Grizzlies. De'Aaron Fox has sat out five in a row for the Sacramento Kings.

The Grizzlies only now appear to be finding their offensive way without their 11-year veteran. The Kings still look awfully lost at times offensively without their rookie 20-year-old.

The teams will again play without their starting point guards when they close the calendar year with an afternoon meeting Sunday at Golden 1 Center.

Conley hasn't played for Memphis since a 2-for-12 shooting night in a seven-point, two-assist outing Nov. 13 at Milwaukee. He is not expected to play for at least two more weeks because of injuries to his left heel and Achilles' tendon.

Without him, the Grizzlies (11-25) have won only four times in 23 games.

But in a 141-128 loss at Golden State on Saturday, Memphis set a season-high in points and topped 100 for the second straight contest and for the third time in four games. The Grizzlies topped the century mark only three times in 18 games before that run.

Overall, the Grizzlies average 98.3 points a contest on 44 percent shooting, the second- and third-worst marks in the NBA.

Over the past four games, Memphis is shooting 48 percent from the field and averaging 111.5 points. They've done it by playing with a bit faster pace and some better shooting.

"We've had those pockets where we've struggled offensively," Grizzlies interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff told reporters after a Memphis victory earlier this week. "We're never going to be a fast, break-neck team. But we need to play with more thrust."

The Kings said much the same thing after producing a stinker in Friday's 111-101 home loss to the Phoenix Suns -- the second contest in what is a six-game homestand that will match their longest of the season. The Kings were outrebounded 47-37 and scored only 18 fourth-quarter points in losing for the third time in four games.

Fox, the team's top pick and the fifth overall selection in June's draft, hasn't played since Dec. 19 because of a partial tear in his right quadriceps muscle. The team has not announced a time for his return.

Without him, the Kings have seen their other guards endure prolonged periods where they're struggled to penetrate and create pass, leading to offensive stagnation.

The Kings also have tended to play to the level of their competition recently. Sacramento produced their biggest regulation scoring output in December in a 109-95 victory over Cleveland two nights before their stumble against Phoenix.

"That's the thing you have to learn in this league," Kings guard Bogdan Bogdonavic told reporters after the loss to Phoenix. "We have to go every night hard, same mindset."

Bogdanovic has not fallen into the same malaise. The rookie from Serbia is averaging 12.7 points over his past seven contests and is 35-for-61 shooting from the field in that stretch.

For Memphis, former Kings guard Tyreke Evans scored 22 points against Golden State and is averaging 23.0 points and six rebounds while playing 35 minutes a game in his past 10.

JaMychal Green, who missed two straight games for the Grizzlies with a knee injury, produced 12 points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes against Golden State.

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