Game Time: 7:00 p.m. Pacific TV: CSNNW
The Sacramento Kings have not been having a fun NBA season. Since they last fell to the Trail Blazers in their second game of the 2011-12 campaign the Kings have gone 5-10. They've actually won 2 of their last 3 but those victories can't erase the memories of the poundings they've taken against various and sundry NBA teams. You don't even have to dig into advanced stats to figure out the reason they're losing. 114, 113, 110, 112, 128...those are all actual point totals of Kings opponents this season. Mayan calendar buffs have speculated that the world will end on December 21st of this year. They're actually off by 10 months or so. When the Kings 114-point defense meets the Pistons 79-point offense on Friday, February 17th, 2012 everything within six parsecs will be vaporized by the violent matter/anti-matter explosion. Plan accordingly. And somebody warn the Venusians.
The guy who continues to produce for the Kings is also the one who didn't want to be there earlier in the year, DeMarcus Cousins. 14 points, 11 rebounds, 1.5 blocks...if he could stay in the game he might be a beast. Sadly he's never met a personal foul that he hasn't wanted to try, sometimes twice. Second season, new coach...doesn't matter. His play vacillates between awe-inspiring and boneheaded.
Point guard Tyreke Evans is an amazing physical specimen. When he's hot he'll post 25 on you easy. When he's off it's more like 9. He remains the Kings' leading scorer on average with 16.5 per game. He's really more of a scoring guard at this point, which is fine given the makeup of his team. Marcus Thornton, starting at shooting guard, is having a hard time getting on track this year. He's a fairly poor shooter and isn't providing much defense either. Jimmer Fredette and Francisco Garcia only occasionally hit the broad side of the barn. If the shot's not coming from Evans in the backcourt, you're in good shape.
John Salmons usually starts at small forward but was ill in the Kings' last game. He's having shooting woes every bit as bad as the guards. Power forward has been a carousel as new coach Keith Smart frantically searches for someone who can put the ball through the net. J.J. Hickson couldn't. Jason Thompson can under the right circumstances. Don't even ask about Travis Outlaw. (OK...ask. But you're going to hear a number below 27% from the field. Really don't ask about his three-point percentage. Remember when we all thought he could shoot them?)
In short, you have DeMarcus Cousins, an off-and-on Tyreke Evans, and a bunch of guys you're saying prayers for every time they loft the ball. That's coupled with the defense we mentioned earlier. Ugh.
In order to prosper the Kings need to fast break or get it to Cousins when he's hot. Keep their center from going bananas and their guards from running the floor on you and you're golden. The only asterisk is that you also have to keep them from rebounding their misses. They're an excellent offensive rebounding team. But really, this is basic defense. Don't let them run, guard the middle in the halfcourt, rebound the ball. They don't pass effectively so concentrate on the guy with the ball and watch their team run the clock down just to get a low percentage shot.
On the other end the Blazers should be able to score anywhere inside the three-point arc. The Kings give up more points in the paint than anyone, more fast break points than anybody besides Minnesota, and an incredibly high percentage on two-point shots. The only thing they do well is guard against the three. If you settle for threes against them, though, you deserve what you get.
Provided they play with any energy the Blazers should find a comfortable welcome as they return to the Rose Garden tonight. The first goal of this game should be to win it, obviously. The secondary goal should be a comfortable enough lead that even Portland's impoverished bench can get some quality garbage-time minutes in anticipation of three games in three nights. Both of those need to happen in order for this evening to be a true success.
Read about the Kings at Sactown Royalty.
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