Hope you packed your prayers, for they will be required.
SACRAMENTO KINGS 8-12, 106.5 ORtg (#15), 109.7 DRtg (#23), 92.8 Pace (#11)
The offense was expected to be good; that defense? Um, a bit of a surprise. The C's have been suffocating -- Boston's D is six points per 100 possessions better than last year's top team (Chicago). Last season, the top 10 defenses were within six points per 100 possessions of each other. So far this season, no one is within six points of Boston. Rather awe-striking. As such, we can probably expect the Kings to suffer a bit -- especially when you consider who has been so fortunate as to beat Boston this year. Cleveland won a thriller as LeBron James took over, and Orlando won a thriller as Dwight Howard couldn't be stopped. Two losses, two big performances from the early MVP contenders. You think even Ron Artest and John Salmons are going to be screaming to the rim? Of course, even if you do break down Paul Pierce and Ray Allen and get some points... you have to deal with a very high-level offense. Pierce and Allen have been getting inside and to the line plenty; Kevin Garnett has a True Shooting % over 60, which is Kevin Martin/Andris Biedrins territory. Eddie House is stroking 44% from three. The team does have two key offensive weaknesses -- offensive rebounding and turnovers. Kendrick Perkins and Tony Allen have the main offenders on turnovers, and Perk is out tonight. But of course Perk is your best option for an offensive putback -- Glen Davis just doesn't get the same lift, I guess -- so his absence is double-edged. The Kings do force a lot of turnovers; getting to Ray, Davis and Rajon Rondo will be key in this regard. I suspect Artest will be on Pierce; I suspect The Truth will either go quietly into the night or will explode. No standard issue games from him when such a challenge presents itself.
It is doubtful. Even if the Kings can force some turnovers and limit Garnett's output, you still have to score against these guys. Rondo is a terrific defender, and he should give Beno Udrih fits. Beno's gift -- speed, a quick trigger -- can be negated by Rondo's own agility and length. I assume Salmons will draw Ray; Salmons should get into the lane repeatedly and at will, unless Doc Rivers and Tom Thibodeau draw up a zone (which would be deadly if Brad Miller/Spencer Hawes aren't on fire). Artest and Pierce is always a spectacle of some sort; if Mikki Moore can play Davis to a draw, I think we'd be happy. (These young salty power forwards -- think Craig Smith -- tend to give the Kings fits in general.) Miller will get thoroughly molested by Garnett in the first quarter at least; guards have to cut to the rim to have any chance of forcing KG to ease off. Of course, when KG does ease off, driving and cutting becomes more difficult because of The Ticket's instincts and length. Also, Quincy Douby should take extensive notes while Eddie House in on the floor. Watch and learn, QD.
La victoire morale
I think most sane fans would be happy with a competitive game. We know first-hand how boring 20-point first half deficits are; this whole shebang is entertainment first and last, so entertainment shall be the goal.
Of course, this is the NBA. In 2001 (if I recall correctly), the Lakers got swept by the worst team in the league. Anyone can win any night. The Kings should not be in awe of Boston -- they've beaten KG, they've beaten Pierce, they've beaten Ray. This is a bit different, of course. But it's not so ridiculous to imagine Salmons and Artest and Francisco Garcia running like jackrabbits after a case of Pixie Stix, right? Faith! Hope! Naive, absurd blindness to reality!
The game's on (alert, TiVoers!) News10 at 4:30p. Enjoy, and go Kings.