What’s up with the Sacramento Kings?
Before their last loss to the Indiana Pacers, the Kings were one of the hottest teams in the NBA. They won nine of their last 12 games and have had a stranglehold of the third seed in the West. Even with the loss to Indiana, Sacramento is still a safe distance away from the fourth seed, leading the Dallas Mavericks and LA Clippers by a couple of games in the standings.
The Kings have racked up wins thanks to their explosive offense. In their last 10 games heading into February 3, the Kings were ranked the fourth best offense in the league based on the points they score per 100 possessions. For the season they’re third in the league in offensive rating (117.9) and are putting up a league best 119.5 points per game.
This Kings team is reminiscent of the early 2000s Kings with Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, and all of their shooters. Domantas Sabonis is the big man that can score or create in the high post while De’Aaron Fox is the crafty point guard zipping around him. The two are surrounded by a ton of shooters who take advantage of all the open shots Sabonis and Fox create for them.
But, just like the Greatest Show on Court, this year’s Kings are also giving up points as much as they score. They’re 20th in the league in defensive rating (114.8) and are allowing 116.4 points per game. In their last four losses, they’ve allowed their opponents to score 115.8 points per game.
The Kings not only get a chance to get back on track against the New Orleans Pelicans, they also have a chance to tighten up their defense against an undermanned West rival.
What’s up with the New Orleans Pelicans?
If the Kings are one of the best offensive teams in the league, the Pelicans have become one of the worst in their last few games. In the 10 games before their last game against the LA Lakers, New Orleans has the worst offensive rating in the NBA. It’s not surprising given that they’ve only managed to score 103.9 points per game during that stretch, failing to break the 100-point mark three times.
Even the return of Brandon Ingram hasn’t helped the team put the ball into the hoop. In the four games that Ingram has played before their last match-up, he’s averaged only 19.3 points on 34.5 percent shooting. Simply put, without Zion Williamson who’s still out with a hamstring injury, the Pelicans are woefully outgunned by the rest of the league.
New Orleans broke out of their offensive slump in their last game against the Lakers. They erupted for 131 points on 52 percent shooting as a team. Six players scored in double figures led by Ingram with 35 points, his best performance since returning from injury. CJ McCollum backed him up with 23 points, while Trey Murphy III had 21.
It’s no surprise that their best performance on offense in the past few weeks also resulted in their first win in 11 games. The Pelicans are looking to keep their offense going, and hopefully string up a couple of wins against the Kings.
Storyline to watch out for
This game will be all about which team will play better defense.
The Kings, not known for their efficiency on the defensive side of the ball can get in trouble against the Pelicans if they play like a sieve in this game. Even if the Pelicans are currently having trouble on offense, if Ingram or McCollum can get hot early, they can really pour on the points. That’s a big problem for Sacramento especially if both are in the zone late in a close game.
As for the Pelicans, they will need to play top-notch defensive basketball to be able to slow down the Kings. They have the parts to work with. With Ingram back, they have three long, lanky defenders to throw at Fox and the other Sacramento scorers. Jonas Valanciunas has the size and activity to bother Sabonis as well. It’s all about putting it together for four quarters, never letting up.
Even though the Pelicans were able to break their 10-game losing streak, they’ll be hard-pressed to keep their winning ways going. The Kings have more than enough firepower — even with Fox still out — to pull out the win.