November 16, 2012; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) waits for the shot between Atlanta Hawks power forward Zaza Pachulia (27) and center Al Horford (15) during the third quarter at Sleep Train Arena. The Atlanta Hawks defeated the Sacramento Kings 112-96. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Sacramento Kings (1-2) vs. Atlanta Hawks (1-2) Preview

After Saturday’s poor showing in Oakland, the Kings return home for their 4th game of the season and need to get back on track. Neither the Kings offense nor defense was particularly impressive against the Warriors, and DeMarcus Cousins was dismal after two great games to start the season. The Kings need to right the ship ASAP, and a Tuesday night contest against a middle-of-the-road Hawks team would be a good starting point.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Sacramento Kings:

Atlanta Hawks

C: DeMarcus Cousins, 6’11, Kentucky
20.7 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 47.5% FG
C: Al Horford, 6’10, Florida
15 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 2.0 BPG, 50% FG
PF: Patrick Patterson, 6’9, Kentucky
3.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 25% FG
PF: Paul Milsap, 6’8, Louisiana Tech
16.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 55.6% FG
SF: John Salmons, 6’6, Miami (FL)
4.7 PPG, 2.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 22.7% FG
SF: DeMarre Carroll, 6’8, Missouri
9 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.3 RPG, 31.6% FG
SG: Marcus Thornton, 6’4, LSU
9.3 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 37% FG
SG: Kyle Korver, 6’7, Creighton
15.7 PPG, 3.3 APG, 54.8% FG, 66.7% 3P
PG: Greivis Vasquez, 6’6, Maryland
9 PPG, 3.7 APG, 42.9% FG
PG: Jeff Teague, 6’2, Wake Forest
18.3 PPG, 8.3 APG, 2.7 RPG, 40.9% FG

Key Bench Players:

G: Isaiah Thomas, 5’11, Washington
30.3 MPG, 19 PPG, 4.7 APG, 50% FG
G: Dennis Schroder, 6’1, Germany
18.7 MPG 6.3 PPG, 3.3 APG, 38.1% FG
G: Ben McLemore, 6’5, Kansas
20 MPG, 8.3 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 38.5% FG
F: Cartier Martin, 6’7, Kansas St.
22.7 MPG, 11.3 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 47.4% FG
C: Jason Thompson, 6’11, Rider
22.7 MPG, 8.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 48% FG
F: Mike Scott, 6’8, Virginia
13.3 MPG, 5.7 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 38.9% FG

 

Last Three Contests:

February 22nd, 2013: Kings @ Hawks – Hawks 122, Kings 108
November 16th, 2012: Hawks @ Kings – Hawks 112, Kings 96
March 11th, 2012: Hawks @ Kings – Hawks 106, Kings 99

Key Matchup: DeMarcus Cousins vs. Al Horford

Cousins’ tour of the NBA big men archetype continues. The first two games (Nuggets, Clippers) it was against athletic freaks. Against the Warriors, he faced the bruising gritty Andrew Bogut. Now with Al Horford, it’ll be somewhere in between, but Horford is the most complete of the big men opponents so far this year.

Horford won’t win games offensively, but he’s an exceptionally skilled player on every aspect of the court. Cousins will have him beat in terms of size, but Horford keeps his ground in the post and is certainly an above-average defender. Cousins needs to prove he CAN score in the low post against bruising bigs and this is a excellent early test.

Three Things to Watch:

1. Body Language: Against the Warriors, the Kings energy levels returned to 2012 standards. This did not sit well with Coach Malone, and for good reason.

“I feel like I have to go to church, go to confession. ‘Forgive me Father for I have sinned,” Malone joked to Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee. “I wasn’t a good husband yesterday. I wasn’t a good father yesterday.’ ”

Look for the Kings to revert to energized levels at home against a talented but still beatable opponent, or else their Coach might just go total nuclear.

A couple Kings in particular—Marcus Thornton and Patrick Patterson—need to turn themselves around immediately or might risk losing their jobs to higher energy, better producing backups (Ben McLemore, Jason Thompson).

 

Nov 1, 2013; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings point guard Greivis Vasquez (10) passes the ball against Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul (3) during the third quarter at Sleep Train Arena. The Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Sacramento Kings 110-101. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

2. Hawks in the Paint:  The Hawks sport a tandem of talented low-post scorers with Horford and Paul Milsap. Milsap isn’t the multi-dimensional player that Horford is—Milsap is great offensively, but has never dominated defensively or on the boards. Still, they combine to be one of the more dangerous big-man duos in the paint, and the Kings defense hasn’t exactly been lock-down near the rim.

3. Vasquez Defensively:  No one should have expected Greivis Vasquez to win the Defensive Player of the Year award, but so far he’s been dreadful defensively. He’s got excellent size, but he lacks the athleticism to keep up with faster opponents. He’s faced Ty Lawson, Chris Paul and Steph Curry to little success.

Now he’ll face Jeff Teague, a solid mid-range scorer who prefers to attack the basket (23 of his 44 shots so far this season have been within three feet of the basket). Vasquez doesn’t have the speed to stick to Teague after the first step. Malone has to figure some way for his lone above-average passer to continue getting playing time when he struggles so badly defensively.

Prediction: Kings 103, Hawks 101

 

 

 

 

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