Sacramento Kings game previews between December 12 and December 18, including games against: Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Lakers.
The Kings’ week was once again dominated by winnable games that resulted in losses. The Dallas game was a good start but to be expected against arguable the worst team in the league and then the Knicks game was tough three point loss, but the real rough showing was against Utah. An impressive Rudy Gobert largely held Boogie in check, and the great scoring runs were rendered fruitless. The cherry on top of the awful sundae was a lowly eight-point effort in the 4th quarter. Eight. Points. The hopeful optimism that came with what was dubbed the new era of Kings basketball has seemingly all but faded as Sacramento has dropped five of its last six. All of this doesn’t even consider the current legal situation that Matt Barnes is in stemming from an incident at a New York nightclub with which DeMarcus Cousins was also associated. In addition to this week’s games, Kings fans are likely going to be listening for some news regarding Barnes.
Los Angeles Lakers
Monday, 12 December 2016 at 10:30 PM ET Home
The Lakers have certainly cooled off since their first meeting with the Kings earlier in the season, at which point they the owners of a winning record. After evening out and sitting around .500 for a few games, Los Angeles has dropped fix straight games including a brutal 134-95 loss to the Rockets. The Kings-Lakers rivalry is a far cry from where it used to be in the early 2000s in terms of two competitive teams, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t bad blood between these teams. Things got a little chippy in Sacramento last time, as they tend to in this matchup. This will likely be the case this second go-around in the Golden 1 Center and while it isn’t exactly the marquee playoff battle of the old days, it will be a battle of two teams trying to halt a series of bad games and get back on track.
If the Kings want to come away with the W this time, they need to come out in the second half with a sense of urgency. They had a 55-45 lead at halftime in the first game, and then just had a weak showing in the third where the Lakers were able to cut into the lead and gain momentum, ultimately overtaking the Kings in the fourth where their poor scoring continued. Much of the Laker’s recent woes can be attributed to missing both their starting backcourt due to injuries, both of whom missed a rather substantial amount of time. Nick Young and D’Angelo Russell both returned in limited minutes on Sunday against the Knicks, and have to turn around and play Sacramento on a back-to-back. Young put up 15 in their loss to the Knicks while Russell only managed 3 points, so if the Kings can take advantage of the fact that these guys are returning from injuries under limited minutes then they can potentially do some damage against the Lakers.
Wednesday, 14 December 2016 at 08:00 PM ET Away
The Kings travel to Houston for their second look at the Rockets, having lost their first game in Sacramento during their homestand of terror. The Rockets had a dominant performance all around, with contributions coming from their starters as well as from their bench. Naturally, the player that troubled the Kings the most and has been troubling the league is James Harden. Harden is averaging 27.8 points per game, and in the midst of all of Russell Westbrook’s triple doubles, has been making his own case for Most Valuable Player this year. The year he’s having, coupled with the Kings’ massive weakness at the shooting guard position, spells trouble for Sacramento. I wouldn’t be surprised if Garrett Temple got the nod as the starter in this matchup, simply because of his defense. He may be able to badger Harden a little bit and not let him walk all over the Kings.
DeMarcus Cousins duplicating his 32-point performance would certainly help Sacramento’s cause this time around, as well. He looks to have a favorable matchup against the young Clint Capela, who is averaging 12.1 points per game and 8.4 rebounds per game. He has been a solid enough contributor for these Rockets, but Boogie is more than capable of taking advantage of a matchup like this one. At the end of the day, though, the Rockets are firing on all cylinders as they are in the midst of a six-game win streak and relying on DeMarcus to do it all on his own is not a winning formula (see: 2011 to now). This is going to be a really tough game, on the road, against one of the best players in the league right now. Sacramento has their work cut out for them.
Friday, 16 December 2016 at 08:00 PM ET Away
Coach Dave Joerger makes his return to Memphis as the Kings take on Marc Gasol and the Grizzlies. This is the first matchup of the year against the Grizzlies for the Kings and the first time Joerger faces the team the fired him and allowed Sacramento to scoop him up during their coaching search, much to the celebration of Kings fans. Now, a quarter of the way through the season, it is interesting to look at where the two teams stand. The Kings situation is well chronicled in these previews, and Memphis currently sits at the 5th seed led by first-time head coach David Fizdale. The Grizzlies have strung together a six-game win streak of their own, so they have the hot hand going for them coming into this game.
The big matchup to watch on the court is surely going to be the battle between Marc Gasol and Cousins. The two are elite big men in the league, and Gasol is having a solid season with 19.9 points per game which is good for third highest amongst centers (behind Karl-Anthony Towns and DeMarcus Cousins himself). During this mini-streak Memphis has put together, he has had some dominant performances including a 36-point game against Portland. Watching two high-caliber big men battle it out is becoming something of a lost art in this jump shot/three-ball dominant league, so watching Gasol and Cousins should be fun. The real key for the Kings winning though is going to come from the bench unit and how they handle Zach Randolph. The former All-Star has assumed a bench role at Fizdale’s behest, and certainly helps create some mismatches against backups around the league. Randolph took a leave of absence the last few weeks after his mother’s passing, but has come back and immediately continued contributing off the bench. The Kings will need to have an answer for Randolph, so Willie Cauley-Stein or Kosta Koufos will likely have to be up to the challenge.
Sunday, 18 December 2016 at 07:00 PM ET Away
The Kings end what could be a long week in Dallas, where they have the potential to end it with a high note and another emphatic win over the injury-laden Mavericks. There really isn’t much to say in regards to this matchup given that the Mavs are just so depleted. JJ Barea is still out with a leg injury, Andrew Bogut is sidelined for a while, and Dirk Nowitzki is looking to return from a strained right Achilles. Some people argue that there is no rush for the perennial All-Star to return given the sorry state the Mavericks are in; there is clearly no way they are going to compete in the West so there is no sense in making him come back soon. Some are even making the case that Dallas should sit the future Hall of Famer indefinitely and go the way of Philadelphia: embrace the tank.
With not much changing since their last look at the Mavs, the Kings should hopefully be able to replicate their performance from last week. Salah Mejri has been starting in place of Bogut, was largely a non-factor last week, and DeMarcus Cousins should be able to have a performance similar to his 24-point outing before. The Kings had contributions from all over the court, including Omri Casspi and Garrett Temple off the bench. The lack of scoring power on the Mavericks will probably prove to be fatal for them again, and so long as the Kings take care of the ball and are smart with their shot selections, they should be able to finish off the week with a much-needed win.