After an up and down game in Los Angeles that resulted in a third win for the Kings against the Lakers this season, the Sacramento Kings find their way back home with a little bit of a playoff shimmer in their eyes. You heard correctly; the Kings are currently in sole possession of the Western Conference 8th seed with exactly half the season in the books. However, there isn't much time to pat themselves on the back because the Atlanta Hawks are in town, sporting a record of 25-17, best for 3rd in the East and only 5 games back of the top spot.
The last time the Kings and Hawks met, Kings fans saw a game that went down pretty much to the wire, before a Paul Millsap runner in the last 15 seconds of the game sealed the deal and closed the doors on what had been a three-game Kings winning streak. Tonight's game can be seen at Sleep Train Arena, on CSN-CA or heard on KHTK 1140 and begins at 7 pm. Let's talk Kings basketball.
A Few Things to Consider:
By the Numbers: As was the case with the last time the Sacramento Kings played the Hawks, the Kings come into Thursday night's matchup with the Hawks in the midst of a three-game win streak. Looking to finish out the final few games before the All-Star break with positive momentum, both Sacramento and Atlanta squandered good opportunities in their respective games by not jumping on their opponents early, which means nobody really got any rest yesterday.
If Sacramento is looking for a home court advantage, however, keep in mind that they're currently below .500 when playing in Sleep Train Arena at 10 wins and 11 losses. Luckily for the Kings, the Hawks aren't much better on the road at 11-10 on the season when they play away from Phillips Arena. Something that stands out about the Hawks is just how consistent they seem to be on both the offensive and defensive ends.
Currently, Atlanta is 9th in the league in offensive rating and 10th in the league in defensive rating, while being in the top 10 in made field goals, made twos and made threes, assists, steals and blocks. The Hawks set out to build a Spurs East when they hired Mike Budenholzer as coach three seasons ago, and while they haven't had the playoff success the Spurs have had, they are doing a damn good impression of their consistency and style of play. The Kings won't be able to take plays off against a team as good at the Hawks, and will need great outings on both the offensive and defensive ends to keep the Hawks at bay.
Its Probably Nothing but...: Something that the Sacramento Kings will need when facing off against the Hawks is the renewed focus of Marco Belinelli and Omri Casspi. Both Marco and Omri have struggled in three of their last five games, and Wednesday night's win against the Lakers shows just what kind of trouble the Kings can get into if they don't have these two particular shooters in rhythm. Shooting 2-10 and 3-11 respectively against the Lakers, with Marco hitting his only two shots from three and Omri going 1-7 from downtown, the Kings found themselves up against a Lakers squad that played scrappy basketball in a game much closer than the final score indicates. Thursday night's matchup against the Hawks will be a nice indicator to see if these mini slumps aren't worth the worry or if they're beginning to spell out a full on cold spell for a team in desperate need of outside shooting.
Odds and Ends:
The Atlanta Hawks have currently won 15 straight games against the Kings, with the last win for Sacramento being February 20th, 2008.
Rudy Gay tied his career high in blocks Wednesday night against the Lakers with six stuffs.
Willie Cauley-Stein recorded his first ever double-double on Wednesday night, with 12 points and 10 boards. Here's hoping there are many more to come for the rookie center.
Prediction: Rondo slides his way through multiple defenders all night (being more of a splitter than a cutter), DeMarcus struggles early but starts to hit his stride just in time, Sacramento wins the hard way: Kings 109, Hawks 107.