Sacramento is playing great basketball, winning their last three games and six of their last eight. As they pop up on unsuspecting radars, they are slowly approaching bandwagon royalty and could further that status later this evening.
The Kings will play their first nationally televised game of the season tonight against the visiting Brooklyn Nets.
The Nets are still without Kyrie Irving, and after both missed Sunday’s game against the Lakers, Seth Curry and Ben Simmons could be out as well.
Still, Kevin Durant is averaging over 30 points per game this season for a Nets team that has been pretty solid defensively.
Overall, they have the 13th ranked defensive rating, the most blocks per game, and allow the least points per game. More specifically, in their previous six games, Brooklyn has posted a 99.7 defensive rating and has allowed an average of less than 40 paint points per game.
But Jacque Vaughn’s team will be coming off of a really rough showing down in Los Angeles against the Lakers, where his team gave up 116 points (the only time in the previous 6 where their opponent scored 100 or more), 56 of which came in the paint. Anthony Davis scored 37 points with 18 rebounds in that one.
The Kings will be coming off a great win against the Warriors where Domantas Sabonis scored 26 points with 22 rebounds.
Here’s why the Kings could have a hell of a night in Brooklyn’s lone visit to Sacramento this season.
Sabonis is the key, especially against Brooklyn
Brooklyn has been one of the better defenses as of late. As noted, in their last 6 contests, they’re protecting the paint and holding their opponents to less than 100 points on average. They have also had opponents shoot just 33. 2% from beyond the arc in that stretch.
But their game against LA showed just what the Kings might be able to do against them.
Despite the fact the Nets are, in the big picture, one of the better defenses at protecting the basket and paint, they do not have a ton of imposing size. Nic Claxton is their long center who averages over 2 blocks per game, and Durant is second, averaging 1.9 per game. Outside of those two, there is not a ton of vertical size.
When you put that up against a Lakers team that is led by Anthony Davis, it did not produce anywhere close to the same results. Davis had 37 points and 18 rebounds, the Lakers scored a total of 56 paint points, and they shot over 40% from beyond the arc as a team.
Davis was skilled enough to score on Claxton here and there when left one-on-one, but the overall lack of size elsewhere allowed the Lakers to do several things to get plenty of other good looks.
Plus, Davis could clear out, and a guard could drive to kick it for a three or take an easy score at the basket. And if they double-teamed AD, that, too, can generate a look from deep or a lane to the rim.
When Davis wasn’t in, the Lakers exploited the switch whenever they could. In the matter of a few minutes in the second quarter, Russell Westbrook fed Wenyen Gabriel twice inside against smaller defenders.
And on the other side, when Claxton was resting and not there to defend inside, opportunities in the paint became even more open.
The Kings should be able to toy with this Nets defense in very much the same way. They have Domantas Sabonis, who will be able to score inside—especially against smaller guys, who he’s noted postgame on Sunday that he needs to “punish” any mismatches—pass and distribute whether double-teamed or not, and continue to benefit with the floor-stretchers around him.
On that last note, Sacramento is a better three-point shooting team than the Lakers, and the Nets do happen to allow a 37.8% clip from that range to their opponents.
Whether it’s scoring for himself or opening up opportunities for teammates, the Kings center could be a huge issue for the Nets.
Sabonis is the center of everything the Kings do offensively, and given how Davis matched up against this Brooklyn team on Sunday, expect Domas to be a big part of Sacramento’s Tuesday night effort.
Win on the glass and make them pay
The Kings may not be atop the leaderboards in total rebounding or offensive rebounding, but they do have a 74.2 defensive rebounding-percentage. Plus, they allow the 6th least total rebounds to their opponents, and the third least offensive rebounds.
Sacramento may not dominate on the glass as a team, but they’re more than solid.
The Nets, on the other hand, are like the Kings in that they are near the bottom of the league in rebounding and offensive boards. Unlike their Tuesday night opponent, though, Brooklyn has the second worst defensive rebounding-percentage. They are also in the bottom ten in total rebounds allowed, and they give up the fifth most offensive rebounds.
Again, Sabonis is huge here. Out of his 22 boards, the big man had 6 offensive rebounds, and the team added another 3 for a total of 9. As a result they had 17 second chance points.
The Kings should be able to have a chance to dominate the offensive boards and have a rebounding advantage. Moreover, they should see more second chance opportunities; Brooklyn allows an average of 15.2 second chance points, which is the 7th most in the league.
Sabonis provides nice size and a big, strong presence on the glass, but guys like Harrison Barnes (5.4 rebounds per game), De’Aaron Fox (5.1), Keegan Murray (3.7), and others should be able to contribute on the glass.
The Kings can win the rebounding battle and make their opponent pay, and they should be able to pull it off.
Win that possession game
The Kings have the 10th highest pace factor at 101.20 while the Nets, at 97.56, are ranked near the bottom of the league.
Sacramento should be able to use that to their advantage.
It’s probably less about tiring the Nets out than it is about winning the possession game. Sacramento has a chance to get plenty of opportunities to score.
All of Brooklyn’s wins in their last 6 games have come by them holding their opponent to less than 100 points. They held Washington to 86 points, Charlotte to 94, Dallas to 96 (in a loss), the Knicks to 85, and the Clippers to 95.
If Sacramento dictates the pace, they could very well piece together some big runs that could give them a huge advantage in points.
And they have a few ways to do it.
For one, they can use their size. As noted, Sabonis will be a huge factor, as will rebounding, which can open up for scores both inside and out.
But given the personnel of the Nets, the Kings will also have the option to play small, too.
Brooklyn won’t help out a ton because they don’t turn the ball over too much (top 10 in the league on that front), but their opponents do shoot the 7th most attempts at the free throw line, somewhere the Kings have gotten as of late (25 free throw attempts per game through their last 3 contests).
Sacramento will have some options to win that possession battle, and it helps they should have more players available than their opponent, too. And if they can score more than 100—which, honestly, shouldn’t be an issue—they should be able to come out on top.