The Kings play their second of a back-to-back against the Chicago Bulls this afternoon before embarking on a six-game road trip through the east coast and midwest.
It’s pretty obvious, but it will be vitally important that Sacramento take care of the 9-13 Bulls on their home floor before making that difficult trip.
Chicago will be finishing up their third and final of a west coast swing, the first two of which were losses, first in Phoenix and then Friday night at Golden State.
Billy Donovan’s team is not performing all that well early this season, forcing him to make some lineup adjustments. They are .500 on their home floor, 4-8 on the road, and in their last ten they’re 3-7. The defense is above-average, but their offense is in the bottom-ten after being in the top half last year.
Notably, Zach LaVine has had a down year production wise. Compared to his previous two seasons—which awarded him a pair of all-star honors—he’s down in scoring and shooting percentage.
Sacramento has got to have this one and make it three straight wins before a daunting six game stretch.
Here are some keys to making that happen.
Take care of the ball
Reader, you can count this in as a key to just about any game, but again, it’s particularly true here.
Opponents of the Bulls commit 16.5 turnovers per game and they turn that into 20.5 points off of them, which is the second highest points off turnovers per contest in the league. They can hurt opponents by forcing turnovers and they will feast off of opponents that make silly mistakes with the ball.
The Kings will be coming off a win against the Clippers in which they turned it over just 9 times, displaying excellent care for the ball despite assisting 67.4% of their made field goals. They have to keep up that same trend against a team whose opponents commit three whole turnovers more than those of the Clips.
Capitalize on perimeter opportunities
Despite shooting 36.5% from three-point range on the season, in their last five games, the Kings are hitting the deep ball at just a 32.5% clip.
In that same stretch, Harrison Barnes has made 20.0% of his three-point looks, Kevin Huerter is shooting 22.2%, Keegan Murray’s hitting 25.9% of them, De’Aaron Fox is converting just 31.8% of his deep attempts.
If ever there was an opportunity to get that part of the offense back on track it would be against the Bulls.
No disrespect to Chicago, but they do allow some of the most three-point makes per game (13.0), and opponents of them have the second highest three-point percentage, hitting a miraculous 38.0% from range.
Keep up the good defense
This goes without saying, but Sacramento has to make sure they continue their defensive momentum. On that end of the floor, Mike Brown has reasons to be pleased, particularly in regards to the wins against the Pacers and the Clippers. Those wins were the two best defensive performances of this young season.
In fact, as a whole, the defense is really coming around.
Over their last six games, the Kings have posted a 107.4 defensive rating, which is not only marvelous, but also shocking considering such a quick shift. For reference, their rating on the year is 112.7 and it was 114.9 in their first fifteen games.
They brought it yesterday against the Clippers, another good defensive team, so it’d make life a lot easier for them if they could bring it into this one, too.
Win the rebounding battle
Neither team is particularly dominant on the glass.
Overall rebounding numbers per game are below average for both teams and they both rank in the bottom-ten in offensive rebounds. Likewise, they secure their defensive rebounds as both are among the top-five in fewest offensive boards allowed (the Bulls lead that category).
In a pretty close game against the Suns this past week, it was the failure to secure a defensive rebound that secured Sacramento’s loss in that one.
Simply put, if the game ends up being a close one, the rebounding battle could be a deciding factor.