After a lopsided victory in Phoenix in which Sacramento led by as many as 26 points, the Kings find themselves back in Sacramento for the very first regular season game in their new home, the Golden 1 Center. Sure, it’s on the second night of a back-to-back, and against a Spurs team that put an absolute beat down on the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday, but Kings players and fans have always seemed to get up for big games, and this is the definition of a big game. In what might be the most important second game of the season ever in Sacramento, fans have the opportunity to finally celebrate what was once only a pipe dream; the Kings are playing basketball in a state-of-the-art arena downtown. Grab your cowbells and leave your inside voices at the door. The Kings are home, at last.
Let’s talk Kings basketball.
When: Thursday, October 27th, 7:30pm PST
Where: Golden 1 Center; Sacramento, CA, CSN-CA, KHTK Sports 1140
A Few Things to Consider:
Twin Towers: While just about every team in the league has decidedly moved to starting with small ball lineups in the hopes of increased pace and outside shooting, the Kings and Spurs are rather unique in that they both sported starting lineups involving two traditional big guys in their opening games. Thursday night’s game in Sacramento will allow fan’s to see a somewhat dying breed in which the power forward and centers aren’t converted small forwards or marksmen from the outside, but rather, back to the basket workmen. That isn’t to say that any of these four are one dimensional. Outside of Kosta Koufos, the other three are rather great mid-range shooters with the ability to pass the ball and operate out of the high post. On Tuesday night’s game against the Warriors, Greg Popovich correctly exploited the lack of size that the Warriors now have down in the post, and the players took that advantage to either draw the defense in and kick out, or to simply score over the likes of Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia and Javale McGee. The Spurs won’t be so lucky come Thursday night, as the match up against Sacramento comes with playing against two big men who can both score and defend, in DeMarcus and Kosta. How will DeMarcus exploit his natural physical advantage on players like LaMarcus and Pau? He’s said in the past that he tried early in his career to fashion his game after Gasol, and has always taken their match up to heart. Better yet, how can Koufos contain such a dynamic offensive threat as LaMarcus Aldridge? The first step to beating the Spurs would be containing what the big guys can do down low. If they can keep the ball away from the block and high post, the disruption could be enough to really take them out of their plan and stretch how well the opposing players adjust to being bodied down low.
All Kawhi on the Western Front: It’s difficult this early in the season to not get excited about a player who is performing well early on, but it would be even more foolish to not get giddy over what Kawhi Leonard is poised to do this season. For a preview of what’s to come, the man put up 35 points, 5 steals, 5 rebounds with three being offensive, and 15/15 from the charity stripe all while matching up against some guy named Kevin Durant. Coming into Thursday night’s game at Sleep Train, Rudy Gay will be tasked with both defending a dynamic score already equal or better to what Rudy is capable of on a given night, while also having to score points against a reigning Defensive Player of the Year. Sacramento’s defense will already have their collective plates full trying to figure out how to contain the big guys down low, but throwing in a player of Kawhi Leonard’s caliber only makes matters that much worse. This will be the first real test of the fledgling season for the Kings, and for any bit of hope that they can make the playoffs. Containing Kawhi Leonard on any level should be a massive confidence boost for the defense and on offense.
Point Guard Watch, Game 2: Sacramento’s game against the Spurs means another opportunity for Ty Lawson to prove himself to a fanbase that is rather lukewarm to his positioning on the roster. In Wednesday night’s blowout against the Suns, Ty Lawson ended up playing 36 minutes and contributed nine points, seven assists and six rebounds, while only turning the ball over twice. Lawson’s game was a tale of two halves: the first half saw him hustling for loose balls, pushing the ball up the floor, and constantly finding himself in the middle of the action. But in the second half, Lawson found himself a bit more out of control and even needed to be pulled in the third for a couple of silly errors. Thursday night, he matches up against Tony Parker and Patty Mills, and will have to continue to produce for the Kings to have a shot at winning this game. While Parker seems to be playing on his last legs, he’s still a tricky offensive player, who Ty will have to then exploit with his speed on the other end to keep it close. Patty Mills on the other hand is a quick guard, with the ability to finish at the rim as well as shoot outside jumpers and it will be how Ty Lawson contains Mills that will greatly impact the final score of this game. For the first time in over a decade, the Spurs don’t have a clear advantage at the point guard spot, and Ty will have to recognize and exploit Tony Parker’s speed to give himself a clear advantage.
Prediction: Greg Popovich decides to rest his starters right before the game, and the Kings end up down 15 at halftime, behind 25 points from a player that Popovich literally pulled out of the crowd before the game. Kawhi Leonard won’t speak the entire time he’s in Sacramento. In the second half, Arco Thunder will appear one last time, and the Kings will respond to the will of the crowd by locking the Spurs down on the defensive end and going on a scoring tear late to beat the Spurs on Golden 1 Center’s opening night:
Kings: 104, Spurs: 99