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Game 67 - at Atlanta

The super-long and detailed game threads take a lot of time. The team is teetering on the brink of vacation, so it doesn't exactly behoove me to spend lots of energy and time telling you all about Zaza Pachulia and Josh Smith.

So unless a winning streak delivers some tenacity in the playoff surge, the game threads will exist in a more casual, unstructured sense.

Atlanta does almost nothing well. Their "strength" is forcing turnovers, and they are tied for 7th in the league in that category. Otherwise, the offense is terrible thanks to incredibly bad shooting, the defensive rebounding is nonexistant, and they give up a lot of free throws (26.5 per 100 FGAs - slightly better than Orlando's 28.6).

Of course, the Kings' calling card has been drawing fouls, led by Kevin Martin. Speed is #6 in foul-drawing among guards this season, behind Corey Maggette, Steve Francis, Chauncy Billups, Dwyane Wade, and Andre Iguodala. But John Salmons, Ron Artest, Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Mike Bibby all draw fouls better than average for their positions as well, providing tons of charity ammunition for an above-average FT shooting team.

Sacramento's other strengths? Protecting the ball and forcing turnovers. During that five-game slide into Bolivian, the Kings coughed the ball up 91 times while their opponents suffered from 77 turnovers. Against Orlando, the Kings had nine turnovers to the Magic's 18.

The Kings mediocre shooting percentages, coupled with their inability to stop the opponent from shooting at a high clip, make turnovers a big, big issue. When you can't outshoot your opponent (like the Kings could earlier this decade), you have to get more shots off. Without a stud offensive rebounder who gets playing time, that means winning the turnover battle.

The Kings are 3.5-point favorites. I think Speed should be able to exploit Atlanta's mediocre backcourt and get to the line. If Bibby has another bad night, well then I just don't know. Hopefully Shareef will get the start again - no ill wishes to the in-pain Kenny Thomas, but there's no one in a Hawks jersey who can guard Reef. The Kings should attack the post with Artest and Reef often, and let Martin operate on Josh Childress and Salim Stoudemire. Salmons has played well lately, and he's better than any Hawks sub.

On talent, the Kings are much better (even if Joe Johnson were healthy). If they can execute at even 75%, this should be a win and an easy cover.

(Of course, 75% is a lot to ask.)

Game at 4. (This is the last weekday game that starts before 5, a nice note for those of us who work.)