The Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans find themselves in similar situations tonight, as both teams have playoff aspirations in a deep West but have yet to make it. Games like tonight are potentially huge in the end of the year when the standings are getting sorted out, so expect both teams to give their all. Tonight's action tips off at 7:00 pm tonight on Comcast SportsNet California, NBA TV and on KHTK 1140.
3 THINGS TO LOOK FOR
1. The Pelicans have a reputation as a defensive team, with long athletes and big bodies at every position, but it's their offense that has been really clicking so far. Anthony Davis is averaging 25.2 points a game on a ridiculously efficient 57.9% from the field and Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson are all averaging at least 16 points a game as well. Eric Gordon is another guy who can potentially fill it up, although he's struggled so far this season. This is a dangerous team with a lot of weapons.
2. Omer Asik missed last night's game against the Trail Blazers and if he misses tonight against the Kings that's potentially a huge boon for Sacramento, as they don't really have any other player that can guard DeMarcus Cousins. Asik is a very good defender, but behind him the Pelicans don't have much depth. Jeff Withey is only in his second year and Alexis Ajinca weighs as much as one of Cousins' arms. Anthony Davis is also not strong enough to guard Cousins, and that's a matchup the Kings should try to take advantage of if they get it.
3. The Kings can't expect Rudy Gay to play either, so someone is going to have to step up in his likely absence. Ben McLemore is one such possibility, and Casspi will see more time as well. It'd be a nice game for Ramon Sessions to bring some scoring punch and Nik Stauskas to get into a rhythm.
MATCHUP OF THE GAME
Tyreke Evans vs. Omri Casspi/Rudy Gay
Last year, the Kings did a very poor job of containing Tyreke Evans despite the fact that they knew his strengths and weaknesses better than any other team in the NBA. Evans averaged 21 points on 48.3% from the field, 6.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds in four games against Sacramento, all numbers much higher than his season averages. Sacramento especially had a hard time keeping him out of the lane. Rudy Gay is questionable to play tonight or else he'd be guarding him, so it's likely up to Omri Casspi to guard Evans. Evans has shown a lot of improvement as an outside spot shooter this year (46.4% from three on 3.1 attempts a game), but it's still preferable to let him settle for jumpers than get to the basket. Right now he's shooting just 36.2% on two point field goal attempts, including a career-low 43% from 0-3 feet, but he's even worse from 3 feet to the three point line. Evans is also New Orleans' leading passer at 7.2 assists a game, so forcing him to try to do things on his own will likely be part of the game plan as well.
It's the return of Jimmer Fredette,
and Johnny Salmons, how could we forget?
Plus there's Tyreke
and all his mystique,
So don't turn off your television set.
Kings 104, Pelicans 103 after New Orleans' Game Winning attempt is a 1-4 flat for Tyreke Evans.