Of the four teams Sacramento met or will meet during this homestand, all have below average offenses, and three have dreadful offenses. Indiana is one of those three. The Pacers have averaged 101.3 points per 100 possessions this season, despite a wide-open offense predicated finding and taking the open three, and despite the presence of Danny Granger, a simply divine scorer.
Indiana has shot terribly from long-range this season: 30.8 percent, 24th in the league and some 40 points off league average. (By contrast, the Kings shoot 38.4 percent from distance, fourth in the league.) There is reason to believe this is just a cold start for Indiana: the team did shoot nearly 38 percent from three last season, and Troy Murphy in particular has been uncharacteristically errant, shooting 31 percent a year after shooting an incredible 45 percent. You figure Murphy (who takes nearly half his attempts from beyond the arc) will sort things out. You hope, of course, it doesn't come against the Kings, who this season have already given up a few big games to perimeter-based bigs, including Oklahoma City's Jeff Green, David West of New Orleans and Zach Randolph of Memphis.
If it's any matter, Indiana has improved quite a bit on defense. The team has surrendered 105 points per 100 possessions early this year, some 4.2 pt/100p better than last season, in which the team finished 19th in defense. If we may discuss specifics, Indiana has improved its shot defense (whether that's real or based on some well-timed opponent cold streaks remains to be seen) and its defensive rebounding remains solid. The Kings have risen to No. 9 in the league in team shooting, so, assuming the Kings aren't cold, our charges should challenge Indiana's new resistance. Further, Sacramento has managed to place 10th in foul-drawing, despite the absence of uberwhistlegetter Kevin Martin. No team fouls more frequently than Indiana. Jason Thompson and Tyreke Evans should get plenty of free throw attempts; let's hope Spencer Hawes and Donte Greene join them.
THE KEY BATTLE
Jason Thompson vs. Troy Murphy. Murphy, again, is perhaps the league's best massive shooter, a veritable Mehmet Okur without the excuse of European birth. Many consider this stigma to be just that -- a stigma, something to be frowned upon. But in actuality, Murphy (when his shot is true) is more valuable than your typical low post 17-point scorer. Why? Well, perimeter-based players are less susceptible to turnovers ... which is a huge deal for big men. Further, while free throws are the most efficient shots in the NBA, don't count out the fact that most big men suck at shooting free throws, and that three-pointers are, well, worth three points.
Murphy is also a great defensive rebounder, and that's where this battle could potentially turn in the Kings' favor: can Thompson steal more than a couple rebounds from Murphy and part-time running mate Jeff Foster? J.T. has shocked us against some other good-to-great defensive rebounders, so I'll keep that candle burning heading into tonight. Of course, I think I'd rather see the Kings hit all their shots. Thompson plays into that as well: every minute Roy Hibbert is not on the court is an opportunity for the Kings to run plays through J.T. in the post. On defense, Murphy is quick as frozen beets. Thompson has developed a few clever moves, and I hope he attacks with them tonight.
Team medical consultant Grant Napear reports that center Spencer Hawes (bruised knee) will either play tonight or wear women's underwear under his tailored suit.
The guard match-ups will be really interesting -- I write this Tuesday night with no clue if Donte Greene will continue to start, or if Beno Udrih will get back into the first five. If Paul Westphal sticks with Evans/Greene, Pacers two-guard Dahntay Jones (a solid if not better defender with decent size and strength) will potentially be assigned to mark Evans (Sacramento's top weapon) which leaves 5'11 T.J. Ford on 6'10 Greene. Guh. (Of course, if Jones guards Greene, then Evans will live in the post, with the only issue being with Foster or Hibbert can help quickly enough, and if so whether Evans can hit the open man cleanly.) If Beno re-enters the unit, he should be at an advantage across from Ford, but not nearly as big of one as Evans or Greene offers. It should be interesting.
Kings by 8.
The Dahntay/Donte transition dunk-off will be epic.
The game will begin at 7PM on Comcast SportsNet and KHTK 1140 AM. Game thread at 7, Game thread 2 at 8, post-game thread at 9:45, recap at IKEA West Sac.