The Kings have four more home games in this homestand (an early season scheduling I once called “strong”) and their matchup with the Nets features a veteran team with disappointing record.
Will the Kings find the muster to pull out a victory against an (alleged) preseason contender?
Note: The projected lineup below for Sacramento is, to the best of my guesswork, a projection. At press time, Coach Malone had not unveiled his starting five or discussed exactly what changes he planned to make to the roster. The lineup below is my own personal projection and will be certainly proven incorrect by gametime.
Portland Trail Blazers
|C: DeMarcus Cousins, 6’11, Kentucky |
23.5 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 49.1% FG
|C: Brook Lopez, 7’0, Stanford |
20.2 PPG, 6 RPG, 2.3 BPG, 58.8% FG
|PF: Jason Thompson, 6’11, Rider |
6.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 48.5% FG
|PF: Kevin Garnett, 6’11, Farragut A. |
6 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.8 APG, 32.1% FG
|SF: Luc Mbah a Moute, 6’8, UCLA |
1 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 0% FG
|SF: Paul Pierce, 6’7, Kansas |
13.7 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 3.3 APG, 49.1% FG
|SG: Ben McLemore, 6’5, Kansas |
8.8 PPG, 2.3 APG, 43.5% FG, 41.7% 3P
|SG: Joe Johnson, 6’7, Arkansas |
13.2 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 2.2 APG, 49.1% FG
|PG: Greivis Vasquez, 6’6, Maryland |
9 APG, 4.3 APG, 46.3% FG
|PG: Deron Williams, 6’3, Illinois |
10.8 PPG, 7.5 APG, 2 RPG, 42.4% FG
Key Bench Players:
|G: Isaiah Thomas, 5’11, Washington |
27.5 MPG, 18 PPG, 4.5 APG, 47.3% FG
|G: Jason Terry, 6’2, Arizona |
18 PPG, 6.5 PPG, 1.3 APG, 43.8% FG
|G: Marcus Thornton, 6’4, LSU |
28.3 MPG, 8.7 PPG, 33.3% FG
|F: Andrei Kirilenko, 6’9, Russia |
13.3 MPG, 5.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 42.9% FG
|C: Patrick Patterson, 6’9, Kentucky |
25.8 MPG 5.7 PPG, 36.6% FG
|F: Andray Blatche, 6’11, S. Kent HS |
21.5 MPG, 6.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 38.1% FG
Last Three Contests:
January 5, 2013: Kings @ Nets – Nets 113, Kings 93
November 18, 2012: Nets @ Kings – Nets 99, Kings 90
March 31, 2012: Nets @ Kings – Nets 111, Kings 99
Key Matchup: DeMarcus Cousins vs. Brook Lopez
Cousins played his last two games defended by Robin Lopez, and now he’ll go against the more talented twin.
Brook is as tough a defender as his brother and five times the scorer. He leads the Nets in points and is shooting an absurd 58% from the field. He isn’t as sharp a rebounder as Robin (the 6 RPG this season and his career average of 7.3 are concerning for a seven footer), but he’s just as tall as Cousins is, so he won’t be an easy box-out.
Cousins meanwhile had two excellent games in a row against the Trail Blazers, and the losses weren’t in any way his fault. Cousins has remained a bright spot (the other two being Isaiah Thomas and Ben McLemore’s growth) in an otherwise bleak season. His tour-de-force against tough big men continues against an Eastern Conference All-Star in Lopez.
Three Things to Watch:
1. Lineup Changes: News will likely leak before gametime (check out A Royal Pain for up-to-date information) of Malone’s promised changes to the rotation. These will almost certainly be more than merely starting lineup changes, because nothing would really change if (example only) Coach started Ben McLemore at SG and then proceeded to give Marcus Thornton the majority of SG minutes anyways.
Coach Malone has a really tough task. Sacramento lacks many players who can both score AND defend. Sacramento has three players—Cousins, Thomas and McLemore—who have been both good offensively and defensively. The remaining players have struggled at one end of the floor (or both).
Kings coach Michael Malone said there won’t be wholesale changes to the lineup, just a couple changes. #NBAKings
— Sean Cunningham (@News10Sean) November 12, 2013
Changes are coming, and no one should begrudge Coach Malone his current position of trying to figure this mess out.
2. Young and Agile vs. Older and Wiser: The Kings can’t touch the Nets in terms of experience and basketball IQ, so the key to victory will likely be in out-hustling the Nets, who have three starters (Johnson, Peirce and Garnett) who are over the age of 32.
The two most talented Nets players, Deron Williams and Lopez, have plenty of hop in their step. Williams is fast enough to get by Greivis Vasquez and strong enough to cause Isaiah Thomas problems, but he hasn’t really been a huge scoring threat so far this season. The Cousins/Lopez matchup, as discussed above, will be critical.
The fights at the 2-4 (where Malone is likely to make changes to the rotation) will be key. More players besides Thomas, Cousins and McLemore need to step up if the Kings hope to beat the smart and experienced Nets, who have a chip on their shoulder with a mediocre 2-4 start.
3. Bench Battles: No matter who starts (and finishes) the game for Sacramento, the players on the bench will need to be ready to face a very deep Nets lineup.
Andrei Kirilenko would be a starter on many teams in the NBA (including Sacramento). Jason Terry isn’t the same 2011 championship model, but he’s still a capable backup. Shaun Livingston is playing very well as backup point, and Andray Blatche has had some excellent games against Sacramento in the past (averaging 10.7 points, 5.7 boards and 62.8% against the Kings, all above his career averages).
No matter the changes Malone makes to the rotation, Sacramento doesn’t have the pure talent to stick with the Nets from players 1-12. Hopefully the bench will stick with it and tough it out, but energy and toughness have been a serious deficiency.
Prediction: Nets 97, Kings 93