We’re back! I hope everyone had an amazing Christmas. It really feels like this break in the schedule couldn’t have come at a better time for the Kings. They needed an opportunity to regroup and refocus, and they got one.
So much has been said and written about the Kings decision to let Thomas leave for Phoenix in free agency this past offseason. I don’t care to discuss it again. It was a bad move in the sense that the Kings let an asset walk for nothing in return, but it’s over. Time to move on.
Thomas has played well in Phoenix this season. His numbers are mostly in line with his career averages, but he’s playing about ten minutes less per game with the Suns because they are using him off the bench. He was stuck in the middle of some chemistry issues between the guards on that roster earlier in the season, but they are playing better now, currently riding a four game win streak.
The Suns get a vast majority of their offense from the guard position. Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, Isaiah Thomas, and Gerald Green combine for 61.5 of their 105 points per game. The Kings have had some success defending the perimeter, but their play on that end is completely inconsistent. In their first meeting this season, the Kings defeated the Suns in double overtime, and I thought they defended the Suns guards sufficiently. They are going to need a similar effort tonight.
Coinciding with the Suns four game win streak was the insertion of Alex Len into their starting lineup. Len has started the last five games for Phoenix, and they’ve gone 4-1 in that stretch. Len is still developing.
I don’t want to make his impact sound bigger than it is, but he offers the Suns more skill and size than they had when Miles Plumlee was the starter. At 7’1, Len has the ability to both stretch the floor with his shot and defend the rim with his length, and it looks like his skillset has balanced out the Suns starting unit.
With that being said, I still expect DeMarcus Cousins to carve up the Suns inside. Len has already fouled out in two of his five starts, and he’s only logging about 22 minutes per game. Fortunately for the Suns, they still have Plumlee to put on Cousins when Len inevitably gets into foul trouble, but this is a team that shouldn’t be able to handle Cousins size and strength in the paint.
I’m very interested to see what sort of reaction Isaiah Thomas receives from the Sacramento crowd and the Kings players. There has been some subtle and some not-so-subtle comments made between both sides over the past few months. I wonder if any of that carries over? Either way, I’m expecting an emotional, hard fought game out of both teams tonight.
The Suns play fast. They score a lot of points, and they shoot a ton of threes. In a lot of ways, they are what Vivek Ranadive and Pete D’Alessandro want the Kings to be, and somewhat ironically, these fast paced teams are the ones the Kings usually struggle with.
As with every game since Tyrone Corbin took over, I have no idea what to expect out of the Kings tonight. I’m having a real hard time determining what kind of team the Kings are post-Malone, but this should be another good test.
Check back in to A Royal Pain after tonight’s game for our postgame coverage.