Game Preview: Kings (6-5) vs. Bulls (8-3)

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The Kings are still above .500

The Kings are still above .500

The Kings are still above .500

Keep telling yourself that. It helps.

I didn’t like how the Kings played in Tuesday night’s loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. It didn’t help that neither DeMarcus Cousins nor Rudy Gay were completely healthy, but beyond that I just didn’t like the Kings demeanor or focus. How many times can Eric Gordon score over Nik Stauskas, or Ryan Anderson shoot uncontested threes before somebody changes something? I found that game incredibly frustrating to watch, but it’s time to move on. You can find our postgame coverage of that game here and here.

It’s a new day, and another nationally televised game for Sacramento. Chris Webber is working the game for TNT, and Mike Bibby is going to be at Sleep Train. If I lived in Sacramento, it would be a night I wouldn’t want to miss.

Quick side note on Bibby – I was a huge Mike Bibby guy. Of course, in that era we liked every player because the team was so good, but aside from Vlade Divac, Mike Bibby was the guy I identified with. I always found it interesting that nostalgia has sort of pinned Jason Williams as the point guard everyone remembers. I guess I get it. He was flashy, and 30 years from now odds are people are going to remember the impact Jason Williams had on the NBA while Mike Bibby’s legacy outside of Sacramento will slowly fade away, but I’ll never forget his Kings run. If you’re at the game tonight, show Mike Bibby a little extra love for me.

Let’s get down to business.

What To Watch For:

Who’s playing? On the Kings side, both Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins are probable, and Rudy Gay is questionable. For the Bulls, Jimmy Butler is probable, and Pau Gasol and Derrick Rose are questionable. Those are some major pieces for both teams, and their availability tonight could provide a major swing for one team over the other.

Strength of Schedule: We are about twenty days into the NBA season, and to date the Kings have had the (statistically speaking) toughest schedule in the NBA. That’s probably the biggest reason why the Kings hot start was so impressive. Chicago plays in the east, which is why their 27th strength of schedule rating isn’t all that surprising, but it is valuable information. The Bulls are 8-3, and they are legit. I’m not saying they aren’t better than the Kings, because they are and they should be, but I don’t think the gap right now is as big as it seems. They have wins over New York, Minnesota, Orlando, Philadelphia and Detroit. Not exactly the NBA’s elite.

Defense: The Bulls are probably the most impressive defensive team in the NBA. And to make matters worse for the Kings, two of their best defenders are going to spend 30+ minutes per game on the Kings best scorers tonight. With Joakim Noah guarding DeMarcus Cousins, and Jimmy Butler defending Rudy Gay (depending on how the Bulls matchup), the Kings are going to need to find offense from somewhere else. This is no small task for the Kings, whose offense has been less than impressive through 11 games, but if the Kings are going to win tonight, they are going to need more than usual from Ben McLemore, Darren Collison, and the entire bench unit.

The Line (5-6): I dropped below .500 on Tuesday night when I picked the Kings -3 over the Pelicans. I was actually a bit surprised to see that the Kings are 1.5-point favorites tonight. I’m assuming this is because the Bulls injuries are a little more severe. Even though Gay is listed as questionable, considering the fact that he played when he was listed as questionable on Tuesday, I think Rudy is going to play tonight and Vegas probably does too. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t like what I saw out of the Kings the last time out, and I don’t like them as favorites tonight against one of the best teams in the NBA. It pains me to say this, but I’m taking the Bulls. Prove me wrong!

Final Thoughts: There is a lot going on tonight. The game is on TNT. Webber and Bibby are in town. Charles Barkley is probably going to have to address what DeMarcus Cousins said about him in this article. Remember Aaron Brooks? He’s on the Bulls. Mike Dunleavy, too.

I’m expecting an interesting night.