With the Kings (sans DeMarcus Cousins) pulling out a win against the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night, the Kings started February off the way they'd have liked to ended January; with a win. Looking to pick up some of the momentum that was lost during the four game skid that directly proceeded a five game winning streak, the Kings come into Wednesday night with a matchup against the Chicago Bulls. With the Bulls playing just under .500 basketball since the turn of the calendar, the Kings can look to capitalize on a squad that is still trying to figure out their new head coach's schemes and their places in terms of importance to the team. This will be the last opportunity to see the Kings play in Sacramento until the 19th, due to a road trip that is interrupted by All-Star Week in Toronto. As always, this game can be seen on CSN-CA and can be heard on KHTK 1140 and begins at 7 pm. Let's talk Kings basketball.
By the Numbers:
The Chicago Bulls come into their matchup against the Kings winners of 8 of 17 games in 2016. Coached by Fred "The Mayor" Hoiberg, the Bulls are in a fairly similar situation as they were last year with Tom Thibodeau, save for one glaring issue: their effort level. While the Chicago Bulls have found themselves over .500 for the season, 17th in the points per game and 14th in points allowed, and are currently the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference, there have been issues all season regarding the effort that the team puts out during the game. Losing games they should win, getting blown out in games against other elite teams; they sound a bit like the Sacramento Kings. However, as the Kings have won 9 of their last 16 games, the Bulls have lost 9 of their last 13. What seems to be the problem?
Well if Jimmy Butler is to believed it's leadership; He infamously said that the Bulls' head coach Fred Hoiberg needed to "coach harder". Going beyond that, the Bulls are currently 25th in the league in offensive rating. While they've attempted the 12th most amount of field goals this season, the Bulls are 26th in field goal percentage and 29th in the league in two point percentage. They are 14th in three point percentage, however they take fewer threes than 24 other teams in the NBA. Where the Bulls make up for their offensive follies is their defense. Currently the Bulls are the hold their opponents to league lows in field goal percentage and two point percentage, while being in the top 10 in three pointers made, attempted and percentage. The Bulls also don't give their opponents many chances at the foul line, coming in at 5th in the league at free throws attempted.
The Chicago Bulls on paper are championship contenders. They have an injury-prone, former MVP at point guard, an elite offensive and defensive shooting guard, a still great big man in Pau Gasol and a ton of good pieces to fill in around them. This game almost feels like the rare instance where it is a trap game for both teams. The Bulls are struggling but potent; the Kings are, well, struggling but potent. As with most nights in the NBA, the team that comes out hungrier will probably get the win and with each of these teams in need of some positive momentum, Kings fans can expect to see a bit of a donnybrook.
Odds and Ends:
This game sees the return of former Kings point guard, Aaron Brooks. While Brooks wasn't much of an impact player in his time with Sacramento, his inclusion on the team came at the cost of waiving now Miami Heat center, Hassan Whiteside.
Both teams are banged up but the Kings could be missing as many as three starters. Rajon Rondo, DeMarcus Cousins and Ben McLemore are all listed as questionable.
Predictions: As Vivek continues to builds his Taj Mahal downtown, the old barn in Natomas rocks like Noah's Ark during the flood, with Rondo finding a way to jimmy the lock on the Bulls defense and Sacramento finds more shots falling than not: Kings 105, Bulls 95.
For the other side of things, please see our friends over at Blog a Bull.