Sacramento Kings (4-7) at Los Angeles Clippers (8-5) Preview

Nov 1, 2013; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) goes to the basket against Los Angeles Clippers center Ryan Hollins (15) 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

The Kings head to Los Angeles on a (GASP!) winning-streak, but their next few opponents feature some tough ones. First comes a road matchup with the Clippers, who bested Sacramento 110-101  at the beginning of the month. Since then, Chris Paul has proven himself an MVP candidate, Blake Griffin has become scarily efficient in the paint, and… the Clippers are still struggling defensively (allowing the 3rd most points to opponents). This one could be a shootout, even if both Coaches (Mike Malone and Doc Rivers) preach defense first.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Sacramento Kings:

Los Angeles Clippers:

C: DeMarcus Cousins, 6’11, Kentucky
21.5 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 46.4% FG
C: DeAndre Jordan, 6’11, Texas A&M
10.1 PPG, 13.2 RPG, 2 BPG, 57.1% FG
PF: Jason Thompson, 6’11, Rider
6.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 46.4% FG
PF: Blake Griffin, 6’9, Oklahoma
23 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 56.3% FG
SF: Luc Mbah a Moute, 6’8, UCLA
4.3 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 47.8% FG
SF: Jared Dudley, 6’7, Boston College
7.2 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 43.5% FG
SG: Ben McLemore, 6’5, Kansas
8.5 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 38.4% FG
SG: J.J. Redick, 6’4, Duke
15.8 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 44% FG, 36% 3P
PG: Greivis Vasquez, 6’6, Maryland
10.5 PPG, 5.4 APG, 47.2% FG
PG: Chris Paul, 6’3, Wake Forest
19.3 PPG, 12.5 APG, 2.5 SPG, 44.3% FG

Key Bench Players:

G: Isaiah Thomas, 5’11, Washington
27.7 MPG, 18.4 PPG, 4.6 APG, 47% FG
G: Darren Collison, 6’0, UCLA
14.2 MPG, 5 PPG, 1.5 APG, 34.3% FG
F: Travis Outlaw, 6’8, Starkville HS
14.9 MPG, 6.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 48.9% FG
G: Jamal Crawford, 6’5, Michigan
26.5 MPG, 16 PPG, 2.3 APG, 48.4% FG
F: Patrick Patterson, 6’9, Kentucky
23.4 MPG, 5.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 39.4% FG
F: Matt Barnes, 6’7, UCLA
20 MPG, 5.9 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 34.2% FG

 

Last Three Contests:

November 1, 2013: Clippers @ Kings – Clippers 110, Kings 101
April 17, 2013: Clippers @ Kings – Clippers 112, Kings 108
March 19, 2013: Clippers @ Kings – Kings 116, Clippers 101

Mar 19, 2013; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas (22) drives to the basket past Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul (3) during the third quarter at the Power Balance Pavilion. The Sacramento Kings defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 116-101. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Key Matchup: Isaiah Thomas (and Greivis Vasquez) vs. Chris Paul

When you combine the play of Vasquez and Thomas, the Kings point guard position has finally morphed from a constant question mark into a pretty damn reliable plus for Sacramento—a rare, consistent bright spot in an otherwise (aside from DeMarcus Cousins) inconsistent year.

Thomas seems to thrive against the NBA’s best point guards, and a matchup with Chris Paul takes the cake. His averages of 19.3 points, 12.5 assists and 2.5 steals are near the/at the top for the point guard position. The Clippers may have sworn off the “Lob City” identity, but they still excel in the fast break, and Paul’s passing instincts combined with the athleticism they sport on the front line makes for one of the most intimidating offensive weapons in the game.

Keeping Paul contained (and limiting him both as a scorer and as a floor general) is a must for the Kings.

Three Things to Watch:

1. Solidified Rotation?: Has Mike Malone settled on his rotation? Will Jimmer Fredette and Travis Outlaw continue to come off the bench as John Salmons and Marcus Thornton remain seated? Will Malone beg Carl Landry to hurry up his healing process so the Kings might have some consistency from the PF spot?

And, more importantly – are we seeing the last games for Thornton, Salmons and/or Patterson as Kings?

2. Griffin Time: Blake Griffin was always an athletic freak, but this season he’s proving to be a more efficient low-post scorer as well. He’s at career highs for points and  field goal percentage , while 135 of his 222 shots have been three feet or closer to the basket (he’s shooting 66% in the post).

The good news for the Kings is he’s still struggling to find a reliable mid-range game , and he’s still a mediocre defender (according to Synergy, he gives up .93 points per defensive possession, 205th in the league). Jason Thompson and Patrick Patterson haven’t had great success against Griffin in the past, though.

3. Keep up the Energy: In the past six quarters (the second half of the home contest against the Suns, then the entire road game in Phoenix), the Kings have matched the intensity Coach Malone has been preaching all year. No matter how this season goes, the Kings—who are still not an exceptionally talented team—should be judged on their tenacity and energy rather than their win totals. Another performance like the games against the Suns, regardless of the outcome, would be a welcome sight against a tough Clippers team.

Prediction: Clippers 107, Kings 103

 

Topics: Sacramento Kings

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