After a 91-88 grind'em out win against the Atlanta Hawks at Sleep Train Arena on Thursday night, the Kings are now faced with the task of playing the Indiana Pacers, who are playing on the second night of a back to back after losing to the Golden State Warriors on Friday night.
The Pacers come into Saturday night's matchup against the Sacramento Kings with a record of 23-20, and are currently losers of four of their last five games as well as 5-6 in the month of January. The Frank Vogel coached Pacers are seemingly searching out for an identity in a way much akin to the 2015-16 Sacramento Kings. With an added emphasis from on high to push the pace, spread the floor and become an uptempo style team, the Pacers moved their starting center Roy Hibbert to the Lakers for chump change, awkwardly pushed for All-Star Paul George into playing the power forward position and in the process of implementing these changes, have seemingly lost what took them to within a game of the NBA Finals just two years ago. As always this game can be seen on CSN-CA or listened to on KHTK 1140 and begins at 7:30pm. Let's talk Kings basketball.
A Few Things to Consider:
Only the Strong Survive: As previously alluded to in the intro, the Sacramento Kings and Indiana Pacers are in very similar, and very precarious spots within their respective conferences. While a look at current positioning would show that the Pacers are 5th in the East, a check of the record would show that the margin for error is zero. With an entire league thrust into a sudden and uncomfortable parity, the Pacers are 2.5 games out of the third best record in the east, and 2.5 games away from being the 12th seed. For both the Kings and Pacers, wins are at an absolute premium coming into Saturday night's game. Neither team can allow themselves to give into the idea that they are still trying to figure themselves out. With momentum and home court having a decidedly purple tinge, the Pacers will look to rely on an offense that they are still building on the fly, and a defense that is second in the league overall in defensive rating.
Much like the Hawks, whom the Kings downed on Thursday night, the Pacers are rated pretty evenly across the board. They're eighth in the league in both points per game and opponent's points per game, and are 7th in the league in pace. They play fast, but not too fast. They defend well, but they're still in the midst of losses in four of their last five games with their only win being a four point victory to the plummeting Phoenix Suns. With both teams desperate to shape their own destinies and seeing themselves falling short of the goals they had set for themselves, this game should make for an intense affair.
Centers of Attention: When the 2015 NBA Draft rolled around, the Sacramento Kings weren't the only team looking to get themselves a mobile center. While Sacramento happily ended up with Willie Cauley-Stein, the Pacers themselves were glad to pick potential center-of-the-future, Myles Turner. Both Willie and Miles met this year with a bench role that led to an extended time away from the game with injuries: Willie with a dislocation of his finger and Myles with a thumb fracture that needed surgery.
With their return from injury has also come an increased focus on the young big men to help bolster the defense of their respective teams. In the month of January, Cauley-Stein has seen the floor for an average of 17.6 minutes a game, and has turned in averages of 7.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks while shooting 61.5% from the field. Turner on the other hand has seen an average of 14.4 minutes of action, and has contributed 8.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks on 63.6% from the field. While this matchup may be a bit more intriguing a few years down the road, it has been great to see what each of these young men bring to the floor in limited playing time.
Odds and Ends:
There are currently three players in the NBA with the last name of Hill; George Hill, Jordan Hill and Solomon Hill. The Pacers employ all three of them.
Prediction: As the Kings are set to chase the 7th seed, Willie Cauley-Stein decides to yawn and smash all over the young Indiana rookie center, and Indiana sees the L's continue to pile up: Kings 109, Pacers 101.
For the other side of the coin, please head over to Indy Cornrows.