Basketball has returned, and it returned in a big way for the Sacramento Kings as they pulled out a hard-fought overtime victory of 109-105 on the road.
Scoring on their first three possessions, the new era of Kings basketball seemed off to a good start.
The fourth possession was a Rajon Rondo turnover and the Kings struggled the remainder of the first quarter ending with a 24-18 score on seven turnovers.
The second quarter started off how the first ended, adding two more turnovers. One of those resulted in a quick 3-pointer from Portland swingman, Maurice Harkless.
The score at halftime was 56-41.
It was a first half that seemed fitting for being the first preseason game. The Kings finished it with 11 turnovers while forcing 10.
Both teams have undergone significant roster changes and are in the process of integrating new systems to new faces.
One of those new faces that impressed in the first half was shooting guard Marco Belinelli. He only had five points and two assists at the break but was confident in his signature 3-point shot and noticeably looked to make plays for his teammates.
During pregame interviews, George Karl stated Belinelli was the biggest surprise thus far in training camp and the Italian star did not disappoint.
“He’s a lot better than I thought he was. Highly offensively skilled, better defensively than he gets credit for,” Karl said. “Could be a play-maker. He has a knack of making other people play the game the right way. All of sudden the game flows, people are being unselfish, everyone is setting screens… I thought he was a good player, but I was surprised.”
DeMarcus Cousins came out in the third and looked to take initiative. The All-Star center was aggressive off the dribble, going to the foul line, and even took a charge.
Some ground was made up and the margin came within 10 points, but turnovers continued to plague them and then finished the quarter with an 82-68 deficit.
Like the third quarter, the fourth started off strong and the Kings got within three points as Darren Collison dominated Portland reserve Phil Pressey, scoring 12 of the King’s first 14 points of the quarter.
Belinelli finally tied the game at 89 on a 3-pointer with 4:52 left to play, and added a baseline jumper and tied it again at 93.
Staying with the hot hand, Belinelli added yet another 3-pointer to give the Kings the lead 96-95 at the 1:35 mark. Tied with 38 seconds left, Belinelli turned it over by dribbling it off his foot.
Fortunately, Portland’s Noah Vonleh failed to drop a hook shot three-feet away and Sacramento got the last shot with nine seconds to spare.
Collison took the last shot by penetrating the lane but missed the well-contested attempt and the game went to overtime.
Belinelli continued his efforts in overtime where he hit another jumper and forced a turnover before adding another 3-pointer. Two more free-throws from the Italian sharp shooter gave the Kings a 108-105 lead with 52 seconds remaining in overtime.
With 20 seconds remaining, it was Belinelli again who sealed the deal at the free-throw line, pushing the lead, and the final score to 109-105.
After the game, Belinelli was humble about his performance.
“First of all, I think it’s important to bring a winning mentality to this team,” Belinelli said.
After the game, Karl was asked about his comment before the game naming Belinelli as his surprise player thus far in training camp.
“I don’t want to jinx him.” Karl said. “I’ve coached some really good shooters. He reminds me of a pretty damn good shooter. I’m not talking just damn good, I’m talking about elite.”