After a game against the defending champs on Saturday night in which the Kings played some of their best offense of the season and still lost by 12, the Kings are now looking to defend home court against the struggling Pels. Winners of only 11 games this season and on the second night of a back-to-back in which they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans finds itself skirting the razors edge on whether or not they want to make a playoff push, or dial it in for ping pong balls in May. Wednesday night's game against the Pelicans may also be void of the usual big man matchup of DeMarcus Cousins vs. Anthony Davis. Davis did not play against the Lakers Tuesday night citing a back injury. As always, this game can be seen at Sleep Train Arena or on CSN-CA, can be heard on KHTK 1140 and begins at 7 pm. Let's talk Kings basketball.
A Few Things to Consider:
The DeMarcratic Members of Cuzizstan Rise Again: DeMarcus Cousins has been on an absolute rampage in 2016. In his 5 games to start the new year, Boogie has scored under 30 points only once, in a game against the Lakers, where he scored 29. His rebounding for the month has been equally ridiculous, seeing him grab under 10 boards only once and having him gobble boards to the tune of 17 and 19 against teams with strong big men in the Mavericks and Thunder respectively.
Most encouraging however is the fact that in the last five games, DeMarcus has a field goal percentage of 51.4% and a three point percentage of 42.9%. This surge has come at an absolutely critical point in the year, where the have's and have not's are now slowly starting to separate themselves and the Kings are still sitting on the fence about where they really deserve to be. With DeMarcus himself indicating in a post practice interview on Tuesday that he finally is getting his legs underneath him after a bout of injuries, and with Coach Karl recently praising DeMarcus for taking charge of a postgame talk after a scare against the Lakers on January 7th, DeMarcus seems to be coming around to the fact that it is both his play and demeanor that are the key to the Kings making a push for the playoffs. Look for Wednesday's game to be a continuation of DeMarcus' January trend, especially if Anthony Davis decides to rest his back.
Between a Rock and a Hard Spot: The Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans matchup is an intriguing look at two teams that start with opposite expectations from most national talking heads, and are now at critical stages in the search for what comes next. Kings fans all know about how little respect Sacramento's off-season moves have gotten and the endless circus that the 2015-2016 season has brought. But for all the high's and low's the Kings are sitting just a few games out of the 8th season and are looking to make serious ground up in the month of January.
The Pelicans on the other hand, were playoff fate incarnate last season, getting in on the final day of the season with a win against the Spurs, which in turn ended up dropping the Spurs from the 2nd seed to the 6th, and set up the fantastic Clippers-Spurs series and so on. They were also favorites for a lower playoff spot this year as well, and with Alvin Gentry coming over from the Warriors to shore up their coaching spot, their future looked bright. But the NBA gods are fickle and the Pelicans have been decimated by injuries, by backlash to the defensive philosophy changes instituted by Gentry, and by the coaching staff finding they really didn't have the personnel for the offense they're looking to run. All that being said, they are both two games from the worst record in the Western Conference and six games out of the playoffs.
The Kings and the Pelicans have taken opposite roads but have now each reached the breaking point in their seasons. If a playoff run is coming from the Pelicans, they have to start beating teams ahead of them in the standings, teams like the Kings. If Sacramento is looking to make one of those remaining playoff spots their own, they have to start beating the teams that they're supposed to beat. No more collapsing against inferior teams. No more losing streaks against teams like the Pelicans. Starting tomorrow the Kings play the Pelicans, Jazz, Clippers and Lakers. They must win at least 3 of those games. Not should, must. Now's the time to fish or cut bait for each of these teams, and fans should really start to see their team's true colors in the coming weeks of play.
Odds and Ends:
This game sees the return of former Sacramento Kings point guard, shooting guard, small forward, and occasional scapegoat Tyreke Evans. Mr. Evans is currently in his third season with the Pelicans, and has had his ups and downs, but has played a very good last couple of games, averaging 16-6-7 while also hitting 38% from deep. The game also sees the return of former King, Toney Douglas who played in 71 games for the Kings back in 2012.
Back when I was in high school, I found myself playing varsity basketball, high up in the mountains, in a round-robin practice tournament against Galena High School out of Reno, Nevada. It was my first real game of varsity basketball and considering how I had just transferred to this school, I was nervous. Around midway through the second quarter Coach throws me into the game at small forward and I immediately run down a fast break and block Galena's best player off the back board, corral the rebound, zip through a couple of defenders and score a layup. With gallons of adrenaline now flowing through me, I barely made out my coach screaming at me to come to the bench to sit. Confused, I sat down next to him and asked what I'd done wrong. He looked over and told me to shut up and watch.
The kid who had replaced me was near identical in looks to me and was seeing his first action as a member of the varsity team as well. Galena's best player grabbed the ball from the point guard, ran the length of the floor, lined himself up against my lookalike, then charged full tilt towards the rim, dunking the ball harder than I'd ever seen a kid dunk before. He dunked with enough force to throw my teammate out of bounds on his butt and into the pads.
After the oooh's and ahhh's quieted, Galena's best player ran down the court, waited for my lookalike to get the ball and then proceed to baiting him into a shot. That shot was promptly blocked into the top row of the tiny gym we were playing in. Seeing my doppelgänger teary-eyed from getting destroyed on both ends of the court, my coach turns to look at me and says "You're welcome". That player was New Orleans Pelican, Luke Babbitt.
Prediction: Omri comes back and immediately starts hitting threes from Davis, CA, Kings see they drew an easy matchup against the Pels, and Rudy has a sick dunk somewhere in the mix: Kings 120, Pelicans 100.
As always, for the other side of things visit: The Bird Writes