Sacramento Kings game previews between November 14 and November 20, including games against: Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors.
With every step forward the Kings take, it seems they take a few back. That’s the reality of reshaping and finding your identity as a team, which is very clearly in progress with Dave Joerger at the helm. Sacramento followed up their back-to-back wins with back-to-back losses that included giving up a 19-point lead to the Los Angeles Lakers. That was deflating, watching that lead get washed away after a dominant half of basketball. Then to have to travel to Portland for a back-to-back was rough, but the Kings responded pretty well in spite of the loss. They went toe-to-toe with the Trailblazers, with a valiant effort by DeMarcus Cousins to send the game to overtime where they ultimately lost by two. They responded well overall, and need to continue to do so; the next five games are going to be rough.
San Antonio Spurs
Wednesday, 16 November 2016 at 10:30 PM ET Home
For better or for worse, Sacramento has been playing to the level of competition thus far. They’ll need to play to San Antonio’s level as they did in their previous meeting where the Kings kept things competitive. This time around, San Antonio looks to roll into town with a full roster as they have been maligned with some injuries to start the year. That’s worrisome considering they were 7-2 with the injuries and had a strong win over the Rockets in their first game with a healthy team.
The Spurs are coming into Golden 1 again for this matchup, and they’re doing so as one of the best defensive teams thus far. San Antonio is third in opponent field goal percentage, 10th in points allowed and eighth in opponent rebounds per game. The Kings offense will have to challenge them, which is much easier said than done. Another 37 point double-double from Boogie would certainly help, but most importantly they need to come out after half-time with some tenacity. Most of their close and competitive games are lost due to poor third quarter performances, including that tough loss to Los Angeles. The last time they played the Spurs, they went into the locker room after putting up 57 points in the first half and came out and only put up 14 in the third and gave up the lead. Falling flat like that takes away any and all momentum, and they will need every bit of momentum they can get to overcome the Spurs.
Los Angeles Clippers
Friday, 18 November 2016 at 10:30 PM ET Home
Game number two of the five-game homestand doesn’t get much easier as the Kings take on the Clippers. As their record indicates, the Clippers are playing phenomenal basketball. Blake Griffin leads the team in points with 20.2, and Chris Paul isn’t far behind at 19 points per game. The matchup to watch though will be DeAndre Jordan and DeMarcus Cousins. Depending on who you ask, these two are considered the best centers in the NBA with many arguing for one or the other. The two spent the summer as teammates winning gold in Rio for Team USA, but on Friday they will be the marquee matchup, going at it in the paint.
As if the Spurs stifling defense wasn’t enough of a challenge, the Clippers sit atop the league in opponent shooting percentage and points allowed per game. The defense they are playing is outstanding; they can force turnovers, and limit ball movement and assists. Luc Mbah a Moute is known for his stifling defense, and that will pose a challenge for Rudy Gay who he is likely to match up with. With Jordan on Cousins and Mbah a Moute on Gay, the Kings primary scorers are going to be well defended. The Kings will be challenged to find scoring elsewhere and may need their bench to step up to the plate. Don’t be surprised if Darren Collison comes out with the second unit to facilitate the offense there and provide scoring.
Sunday, 20 November 2016 at 09:00 PM ET Home
The good news? The Kings won their matchup in Toronto last week, so there is that at least. The bad news? DeMar DeRozan is scoring at a historic pace and Jonas Valanciunas, who was sidelined with an injury last time, is back. Instead of having two rookie bigs starting, Valancuiunas will likely match up with DeMarcus this go-around. Suffice to say, getting the W may be a little tougher in Sacramento than it was up north. A major factor here will be the performance of Rudy Gay; he tends to play well against his former team, averaging 21.4 points per game against the Raptors. He was the leading scorer against the Raptors last time, and if he can put on another solid performance that should help open things up for the Kings again.
One of the other keys to victory will again be second half intensity. The Kings simply struggle with scoring in the third quarter and allow teams to stay in the game. In their last matchup, they had a 50-44 lead going into halftime and only put up 16 points in the third, allowing Toronto to take a 68-66 lead. Now while that is only a two point deficit, it is an absolute momentum killer. They were able to come away with the win in the end, but that usually isn’t the norm in these scenarios. It helped that DeRozan had his only under 30 point performance thus far against the Kings (he still put up 23), but if he scores closer to his (insane) 35 point average this time, they may not be able to overcome another poor third quarter performance.