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Kings vs. Pistons Preview: Finding Some Energy in the Motor City

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On the last leg of their roadtrip, the Sacramento Kings find themselves in Downtown Detroit, in a matchup with a Pistons team currently the second best record in the East.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Sacramento Kings Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Saturday! Which means, you’re driving around for yard sales that haven’t been rained out, going to see whatever movie Marvel decided to throw against the screen this season and, oh... oh wait, you can’t go. No, I knowwww, gosh it was going to be so much fun but: you’ve got work to do. The Kings are on, they’re playing Detroit and if YOU watch, they’ll win. No seriously, that’s what I was told. Yes, Stan Van Gundy has his team tied for the second best record in the East at 6-2. Yes, I know the Kings get out of the gate against teams like a legless dog chasing cars. But, if you watch, they’ll win tonight. I swear on Lonzo Ball’s healthy career. Sorry, I heard there was a 9 o’clock of “The Snowman” that still has seats open!

Let’s talk Kings basketball!

When: 4 pm PST

Where: Little Caesars Arena; Detroit, MI

TV: NBCSCA

Radio: KHTK Sports 1140 AM

For Your Consideration

The Deal with Detroit: We’re a tenth through the NBA season so be prepared (or relieved, or saddened) to see more stats getting thrown into these previews. So to start, what do we know about these Pistons? Detroit for one, is a middle of the road three point shooting team; they’re 11th in attempts at 28.6 per game but 18th in three point percentage at 34.2%. Detroit attempts the sixth most shots from inside the arc, and hits the third most two pointers while averaging just a smidge under 51% on two point shots. The Pistons have thrived so far on the offensive glass, where they pull down the third most in the NBA at over 11 offensive boards a game, but they’re 17th in total rebounds, due to being in the bottom ten of defensive boards, pulling down 30.9 a game. The Pistons are second in the league in steals, 8th in turnovers and 9th in player fouls while averaging 104.4 points per game, good for 15th in the NBA.

Now here’s the tough part. Detroit is a fairly middle of the road team, stats wise. They’ve had some early success, sure, but are by no means expected to be the cream of the crop in the East when everything shakes loose. The Kings stats in comparison to Detroit’s: Sacramento is last in the NBA in both three point attempts and makes, taking an average of 20.9 three pointers a game, and hitting an average of well, seven. They’re averaging 33.5% from behind the arc, 22nd in the league. From two, things don’t get much better for Sacramento. The Kings are 10th in the league in two point attempts but are 27th in percentage at 47.6% from two. The Kings are 19th in the league in offensive rebounds at 10.4 a game, 29th in defensive rebounding, and dead last in the league in total rebounds with 40.5 a game. Sacramento is 28th in assists, 21st in steals, 26th in blocks, 29th in free throw makes and attempts as well as in points per game, at 93.1 a contest, which means the NBA average, middle of the road team averages 11.3 points per game more.

Comparing a couple more stats: The Pistons are 23rd in pace compared to the Kings 29th. The Pistons are 13th and 14th respectively in offensive and defensive rating, with the Kings currently hovering at 29th and 26th respectively. The Pistons hold their opponents to 101.4 points per game, 9th best in the NBA, while the Kings hold teams to 105.5 points per game; the 16th best in the league.

The writing on the wall is always harsh when you’re giving the Sharpie to the Kings, so let me give you a couple of stats to meditate on and be happy about. Luka Doncic is averaging 17.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists on 63% shooting from two, 36.2% shooting from three in 26.2 minutes a game in EuroLeague. He isn’t even 19 years old yet.

Where Do I Start? So this sounds like a question that should start and end in the preseason, but here we are. Who starts tonight? I don’t mean who plays the most minutes, but who is starting this game for the Sacramento Kings? Fans have talked about it at length on Sactown Royalty and on Twitter, talking heads have spit their takes on the television screen, and if I listened to him, I’m sure that Grant has said something about it between hanging up on callers on his radio program; this team gets off to terrible, dismal, world-darkening starts. They’ve changed and rearranged the starting line up four times in the Kings eight games and there isn’t much that seems to be working.

A microcosm of this is the power forward position; Skal starts the season opener at power forward. The future is now! The next four games see Z-Bo at the power forward. Then a switch after this whole spotting-opponents-fifteen-points-in-the-first really starts rearing its inconvenient head. My hope was Coach Dave Joerger was moving Zach Randolph to a bench role in a permanent move that finally gave Skal a chance to strut his stuff and get comfortable with his role. That game ends up being against a Wizards team who went up by 19 in the first quarter, and the next game Skal is back to the pine and by Wednesday’s game against the Celtics, Skal is down to 16 minutes while perfectly healthy.

These slow starts are soul sucking for viewers and players alike. But what’s the solution? Maybe players like Skal can’t hold their own against today’s NBA starters yet, but we know that Zach Randolph can’t. Maybe George Hill needs to move to shooting guard (Editorial note: Hill will be out today due to personal reasons), maybe De’Aaron Fox needs to start, maybe Buddy should be banished to the shadow realm until he can find his shot. If it takes some creative starting lineups for the Kings to at least be competitive in the first few quarters than so be it. If the Kings want to stick to certain players still having to earn their roles, I’d be fine with it if the game was engaging at the start. Which is something right now, these games just aren’t. There’s a million things that can be done, but something must be.

Prediction: [Please just let the Kings be within 10 at the end of the first quarter]

Kings win, duh!

Kings: 104, Piston: 99