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Season-high nights for Sensabaugh, Hendricks highlight Jazz loss to Kings

SACRAMENTO — Brice Sensabaugh apparently just needed to see one go down.

Over the last 11 games, the Utah Jazz rookie had shot 11% from 3-point range. He hadn’t been shy over the time (putting up 4.1 attempts per game) and, for the most part, they were shots that Will Hardy was just fine with him taking.

He just wasn’t making most of them.

“Players want to see the ball go in, they want to have statistical success,” the Jazz coach said. “I recognize that, but I also try to make sure that Brice is understanding what I want from him.”

What does he want? The same thing he wants for all his young players — to build winning habits. That is to say, how they prepare and how they play is more important than whether or not the ball goes in the hoop.

If Sensabaugh takes a handful of good 3-pointers and they all miss, Hardy can live with that. Still, it’s a confidence boost when some fall. Sensabaugh got to experience that Sunday in Sacramento.

The rookie had a career-high 22 points and shot 5-of-10 from deep in Utah’s 127-106 loss to the Kings.

“It’s not really surprising to me, because I put in a lot of work every day,” Sensabaugh said. “For it to be able to pay off tonight felt really good.”

In a season where development is key, that was a good step; and it wasn’t the only one seen on Saturday.

Utah was without Lauri Markkanen (who will likely miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury), John Collins and Jordan Clarkson on Sunday. The result was the Jazz went with its youngest starting lineup in franchise history.

Utah started three rookies — Sensabaugh, Taylor Hendricks and Keyonte George — along with second-year center Walker Kessler. Collin Sexton, who is 25, was the closest thing to a veteran in the lineup.

The result, then, was predictable: The Kings used a 15-0 run in the opening minutes of the third quarter to turn a tied game into a rout.

But Hardy came away from the game with some definite positives, especially from the rookie trio.

Hendricks had a career-high 18 points and went 4-of-6 from 3-point range — the most triples he’s made in an NBA game — and George added 18 points.

“They’re all learning on the fly,” Hardy said. “This league is unforgiving; you play against really good teams, good players. It’s not always going to feel good, but I think that those three guys each night, and again tonight, have played hard and their intent is good; they want to do the right thing.”

Hardy said the 58 points from that trio is good, but it’s more important to build winning habits. On that note, Sensabaugh shot 3-of-5 from the corners — a shot that he (and the Jazz as a whole) have struggled to find as the team trudges to the end of the season. That showed better understanding of NBA spacing and where to be in the offense.

The makes are good; the shots themselves might be more important.

“That is a big deal for us on the offensive end,” Hardy said. “I thought we moved the ball great.”

Sensabaugh said it’s been rewarding to see improvement as a young core. He and Hendricks started the season playing mostly in the G League, and now they are playing big minutes against a team that will be playing in the postseason in a few weeks.

Sensabaugh said seeing some successes, even in losses, will “help us a lot in the future.”

“For us to be playing 30 minutes and starting together and all that stuff is really important to us,” he said. “And we don’t take it for granted. We’re making sure we are sponges for information.”

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