After another sloppy loss dropped the Kings to five games back of the eighth seed on Wednesday night, the frustrating calm of reality begins to set in that, with the sudden parity in the Western Conference, the strange injuries leading to franchises suddenly floundering, the Sacramento Kings will not be able to take advantage and drive themselves to the playoffs. All the risky trades and signings, all the preseason hype from ownership, management and players alike, the 20-23 high water mark; all the Kings horses and all the Kings men couldn't make the playoffs happen again. So now what? With 24 games left to be played, where do the '15-'16 Sacramento Kings stand? With only 6 games left against teams over .500, their opportunity to play spoiler for others is significantly diminished. On the other hand, if the Kings go on a tear against their weaker opponents in the final 20 games or so, they stand to lose their draft pick to the Chicago Bulls on top of missing out on the playoffs. So what are the fans and players and management expected to see in the final quarter of the season?
Well, the most immediate thing would be the game the Sacramento Kings will be playing in Dallas against the sixth seeded Mavericks on Thursday night. With a record of five games over the .500 mark at 33-28, the Rick Carlisle led squad will be looking to take advantage of a team with four straight losses, on a second night of a back to back, who also happens to be missing their second best player due to injury. Winners of three games in a row, the Mavericks are only half a game back of the scorching hot Portland Trail blazers for the seventh seed. Come playoff time, that's the difference between facing an OKC Thunder squad that has somewhat struggled of late, and a San Antonio Spurs team that might not have have ever had the word "struggle" introduced into their cyborg hivemind society. Dallas will be coming out focused and smelling blood in the water with Sacramento in town. Thursday nights game can be seen on CSN-CA, heard on KHTK 1140 and begins at 5:30pm. Let's talk Kings basketball.
Mavericks by the Numbers:
This current iteration of the Dallas Mavericks have done a fantastic job of putting aside the DeAndre Jordan embarassment, the pundits preseason doubts and well, father time, and have put together a winning basketball squad that sees the likes of Raymond Felton, Zaza Pachulia and the ghost of Deron Williams playing meaning, playoff worthy basketball. Currently 12th in the NBA in points per game at 102.5 and 9th in offensive rating, the Mavericks find success in scoring at a high, yet efficient rate, while also being only 23rd in the league in pace. Currently 11th in the league in field goals attempted and 21st in field goal percentage at 44.1% a game, the Mavericks seem to survive by taking the 5th most three's in the NBA, while being 5th in the league in total makes, but only 20th in the league in percentage at 34.6%. With nearly an inversion from two point range, the Mavericks are 23rd in two point attempts and makes, but on the higher end of the league in percentage, shooting 49.2% from inside the arc, good for 12th overall in the league. The Mavericks also take advantage of free throws, being 11th in the league in attempts and 4th in the league in percentage at 79.1%. Lastly the Mavericks are very good at valuing possessions, being 7th in the league in defensive rebounds, and 5th in the league in turnovers.
On the defensive side of the basketball, the Mavericks are a bit more of a grab bag. They're 15th in the league in opponent points per game, 19th in defensive rating, and don't tend to get many steals or blocks, being 25th and 29th in the league, respectively. They also give up the third most three point attempts in the NBA, and are 22nd in three pointers made against them, however, the Mavs hold their opponents to a tick under 34% from beyond the arc, 6th in entire NBA in that category. Dallas also seems to have a rebounding issue, in that they're the second worst in the league in giving up rebounds to their opponents. They also tend to have a problem fouling on the defensive end, committing the 3rd most fouls in the NBA.
The path to victory for the Sacramento Kings lies in a very similar area to that of Wednesday night's game against the Memphis Grizzlies, with the difference being that Dallas has a better offense, and no where near the same bigs or defensive intensity. The Kings must be able to hit three pointers when given to them, must take advantage of a poor rebounding team and must again get their thin front court in foul trouble. On the defensive end, if the Kings can take what they seemed to be doing in the second half of Wednesday night's loss to the Grizzlies and apply it for a full game against the outside shooting of the Dallas Mavericks, this could be a signature win, as much as a signature win could be had this far south of .500.
Odds and Ends:
-This game sees the return of Rajon Rondo to Dallas for the first time since his time playing their last year. The last time the Sacramento Kings were in Dallas, they played in a double OT that ended in absolute heart break for the Kings, but saw Darren Collison starting for Rondo after he was scratched from the game with back spasms.
-The Kings haven't won a regular season game in Dallas since February 27th, 2003.
Prediction: The Kings za-za-zoom out of the gate, by Dallas plays Lucy to the Kings' Charlie Brown and pull the game out from under the Kings control. Late in the fourth, DeMarcus finds the strength to go beast mode, and the Kings hit a couple of timely shots, just in time to eek out a victory: Kings 109, Dallas 104.
For the other side of things, please see our friends at Mavs Moneyball.