The Sacramento Kings have enjoyed a bit of success lately, so what do they have to do to keep their mini-hot streak alive?
The Sacramento Kings are 4-2 in their last 6 contests after a stretch in which they lost 15 of 18 games. The uptick in victories might have to do with the starting lineup shift between Bogdan Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield, which took place six games ago. So what have the Kings been doing correctly and what can they do to keep their hot streak alive?
During their recent stretch of success, the Kings have been avenging early-season losses to teams they should have beaten in previous matchups. They have now defeated the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves twice in this stretch, teams they lost to in December. They even avenged their December 31st loss to the LA Clippers by defeating them in what could end up being the best game of the season for Sacramento. If the Kings are able to continue winning games against less-talented opponents as well as defeat teams that they are outmatched by, there might be a sliver of a chance of getting back into the playoff race.
Unleashing Of The Fox
Over his last six games, De’Aaron Fox has been on a tear, averaging 24.7 points and 6.3 assists on 35% 3-point shooting. He has been aggressive, which has been a great sign after a slow start to the season. Fox still has ways to go in fulfilling his full potential, as he has also averaged 67 percent from the free-throw line and committed four turnovers per game during the stretch.
Hield As Sixth Man
One of the reasons why the Kings might be on this upward trend is Luke Walton making a decision to start Bogdan Bogdanovic instead of Buddy Hield. With this lineup change, Hield has shot 48 percent from deep, compared to 36 percent as a starter. This has been the one adjustment that the team can point to as a major reason for their recent, moderate success.
While one can point to the ineptitude of the Bulls and Timberwolves as reasons for good defensive nights for Sacramento, these are the teams that the Kings lost to early in the season by giving up big nights to below-average teams. For example, the Kings lost to the Bulls on December 2nd and gave up 113 points. In comparison, they beat the Bulls on the road on January 24th while only allowing 81 points.
Over the first 44 games, the Kings allowed the opponent to score 110 points while only scoring 106 points themselves, while in these last six games on average the Kings have outscored them 113-111. In the L.A. Clippers game, one of the better opponents the Kings have played in the last six games, the Kings defense gave up just 103 points.
Can This Trend Continue?
If Luke Walton and Vlade Divac want to keep their jobs, they have to prove now that these six games are not a fluke. Walton should continue to keep Hield as the sixth man, as he is more comfortable in that role. Dewayne Dedmon, who has also stepped it up should continue proving that he needs more playing time. The Kings hopefully can bolster their defense when Holmes is back as well.
If the Kings can significantly improve on the defensive end by the end of the season, it will show promise going into the next year with a whole offseason for Walton to help his players develop in his system.