4:30 p.m. Pacific on Comcast SportsNet California
The Kings started off their longest road trip of the season last night in Chicago, and while they fought valiantly and got big performances from each of their main players, the defense was terrible and the Bulls came away with the victory.
Tonight the Kings travel to New York, and Madison Square Garden, a building the Kings have had a lot of recent success in. You have to go back to January 15th, 2007 to find the last time the Kings lost in New York. In fact, New York was the only East Coast team the Kings beat in the miserable 2008-09 season.
Tonight won't be easy though, as the York Knicks have finally found their groove thanks to the emergence of one Jeremy Lin (you might have heard his name mentioned somewhere). Lin has carried the Knicks to a 6 game win streak, starting 5 of those games, and averaging 26.8 PPG and 8.5 APG during that span. Lin has done most of his damage in the Pick & Roll, as according to Synergy Sports, almost half of his possessions come as a P&R Ball handler. As anyone who watches the Kings knows, the Kings have been killed by the Pick & Roll this year, but not by the Ball handler. Instead it has been the roll man or cutter who has destroyed the Kings.
The Knicks happen to have two of the best roll men in the league in Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire. As big as the hype surrounding Lin is, those two guys are the ones I'm worrying about. Chandler is 38 of 53 in P&R situations this season, and is currently shooting an absurd 70.4% from the field. Chandler is also one of the best defensive big men in the league and a huge reason why New York's Defensive Rating has gone from 22nd last year to 8th this year.
Stoudemire is in just his 2nd game back after taking a leave of absence following his brother's untimely death. Last night he finished with 21 points and 9 rebounds, but did struggle with his shot, something that's been a regular occurrence throughout this season. His 44.2% from the field is a career low, and he spends about a quarter of his time in Isolation possessions, where he's only converted on 34.7% of opportunities. Still, Stoudemire is an offensive force, and Jason Thompson will have his hands full.
Carmelo Anthony will miss tonight's game with a back injury. This is good news for the Kings, as they really have absolutely nobody who can guard him.
Sacramento will once again need big performances from their big players to win this game, and the defense will have to be much better. The one flaw Lin has shown in these past six games is that he can be very turnover prone, and so the Kings should pressure him as much as possible, and make him beat you with his outside shot. Essentially, play Jeremy Lin like you would play Tyreke Evans, but make sure you stick to roll men like Chandler and Stoudemire. The Kings have a terrible tendency to make bad switches and over-help, as evidenced last night by the continual leaving of Kyle Korver wide open from three.
The Game begins at 4:30. Game Threads are at 4:30 and 6:00.
Let's Go Kings!