(Ed. Note: Welcome Will Griffith to the Sactown Royalty team as our official game preview author! You may know him as the commenter formerly known as maloof-fool-am. You can follow him on Twitter here.)
After a 116-104 win against the Durant-less Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night, The Sacramento Kings now head to Dallas to take on the scrappy Mavericks. After finishing out the year winning five of their last six, the Mavericks have yet to win in 2016, losing by 24 to the Heat and Pelicans by 7. The Kings on the other hand haven't lost in this calendar year and are currently average 129 points a game since the ball dropped, a perfectly sustainable trend. Tuesday's game begins at 5:30 PST, can be viewed on CSN-CA and can be heard on KHTK 1140. Let's talk Kings basketball.
A Few Things to Consider:
The Duality of (Sacra)Men(to): Three straight losses to end 2015 has given way to two wins to start 2016 and suddenly the Kings are back again in the race for the 8th seed, sitting pretty at 9th and a game and a half back of the Jazz for the final playoff spot in the West. If anything can be gleaned from the small sample size of the last five games, it's that the Kings scoring has gone to another level in the new year. In Sacramento's three losses to close the year, they averaged just a hair better than 100 points per game. In the next two games? They've scored 142 points (the most points in a regulation game in two years) and 116 points, for an average of 129.5 points per game. This while seeing Sacramento's starting shooting guard Ben McLemore disappear and Rudy Gay really struggling to string meaningful possessions together. The other side of the coin, however, is that the Kings are now allowing teams to score 108 points per game, 111.5 in these first two games of January. The Kings on the season are 3rd in the league in points per game, 4th in assists per game, 10th in rebounding per game, but are now 30th in opponents points per game. The Kings seem to be throwing defense to the wind, in the hopes of daring teams to shoot it out with them, but with a starting SG that isn't producing and a starting SF who is struggling to find any kind of consistency, Sacramento are less playing shootout and more likely playing Russian Roulette.
Where in the World is Guard Ben-23, Yo?: One of the most disappointing developments this season is that of Ben McLemore. While its true there are flashes of evidence that Ben has improved his passing and ballhandling, the only real consistency that Ben has had this season is that he is consistently irrelevant when in the game. Ben has scored 3 points in each of the Kings two wins in 2016 and hasn't seen his points in double digits in seven games, and has scored double digits just four times since the end of November. It isn't just that he isn't hitting shots, it is that he isn't taking them either. If you wanted to see a game where Ben McLemore took more than eight shots in a game, you would have to go all the way back to December 5th, where he went 8-14 from the field for 19 points in a loss to the Rockets. With a Kings team hungry for spacing and three point shooting, a consistent Ben McLemore could go a long ways in buoying the Kings on the nights where one of the Big Three aren't producing.
Marc O' the Beast: One bright spot of late that has come of late is the Marco Belinelli that has shown up the last three games. Marco was seemingly the only person who showed up to play basketball against the Sixers, and kept the Kings in a game that they were obviously being outplayed in, scoring 28 points on 11-17 shooting. He's continued his hot streak in these last two games as well going for 19 against Phoenix and 21 points Monday night against the Thunder. Belinelli has taken 16 free throws in the last 3 games, hit 2 threes or more and has shot 58% from the field. He's also ended up taking most of the minutes from the aforementioned McLemore, as George Karl has had to search for someone at the SG spot willing to take shots.
Odds and Ends:
- If you live under a rock and haven't heard, George Karl passed former Chicago Bull's coach Phil Jackson in Monday's win against the Thunder, passing him for 5th All Time in Wins. Congratulations, Coach!
- Rajon Rondo and Darren Collison are both former point guards of the Mavericks and while neither of them found long term success with the team, Darren Collison did do this:
- Yesterday's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder was the first time in team history that the Kings had won in Oklahoma City. The Kings have an even longer losing streak in Dallas, having not won there since 2003 when Keon Clark tipped in a game-winner.
Prediction: "I felt on fire!" says Rudy Gay, the Kings hit their stride just in time, and Dallas sees no wins, skiing into the new year with three straight losses:
Kings 110, Mavs 108.