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Kings vs Hornets Preview: Survive the Hive

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The Kings are looking to start 2018 with a bang and have Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Hornets in their sights for the occasion.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Sacramento Kings Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

The Kings have a chance to go undefeated in 2018 as the Charlotte Hornets come to town, but Sacramento will have to go through a potent Kemba Walker and Dwight Howard combination to do it. Yes, you read that right. Dwight Howard. The Kings will have to play this game a bit short handed at the point guard spot as De’Aaron Fox is still out with a partially torn thigh muscle and Frank Mason III is out with a bruised heel. What a perfect time to face a slow, encumbered lead foot like Kemba right? New year, new Kings! Let’s talk Kings basketball.

When: Tuesday, January 2nd; 7:00 pm PST

Where: Golden 1 Center; Sacramento, CA

TV: NBCSCA

Radio: KHTK Sports 1140 AM

For Your Consideration

Target on Charlotte: Really the biggest thing you should know about Sacramento’s opponent tonight, the deciding factor in whether or not you believe the Kings have a shot at winning one to start off the New Year right is this: the Charlotte Hornets are the worst shooting team in the NBA. Period. We’ve seen more stinkers out of the Kings than smell-goods, but the Hornets can get down right putrid shooting the ball sometimes. They’re 30th in the league in two point percentage at 47.1%, 28th in the league in three point percentage at 34.9% and they’re dead last again in overall shooting percentage at 43.5%. They’re averaging 104.2 points per game (17th in the NBA), 7.2 points per game higher than the Kings, and in all fairness, the Kings are 29th in the NBA in two point field goal percentage, but the Kings make up for their allergy to good two point shots by being 4th in the NBA in three point percentage. The Hornets shooting woes extend to the free throw line as well, where they are first in the league in free throw attempts, but 27th in the league in percentage at 73%. Dwight Howard, who averages more free throw attempts per game than the top three Kings free throw shooters combined is a big reason for this: he’s currently at 55.1% for the season.

Let’s talk about Dwight for a second. Post Dwightmare, he might have been my least favorite player in the league. With the league moving away from his strengths, and with a pile of injuries as high as his inflated sense of self, I had no love for the big guy on or off the court. So it pains me a bit to say that he’s been legitimately better this season than he’s been in a long, long time. Averaging 15.6 points, 12.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game, Howard has seen a resurgence under the Hornets, and while I have little in the way of pride for him, there’s some respect for pulling out of the tailspin of his career and stabilizing for the time being in Charlotte.

As for the rest of the Hornets team, it isn’t all good news for the Kings. The Hornets are an elite rebounding team in the league at 5th in the NBA, they’re second in the entire NBA in turnovers and 3rd in the NBA in player fouls; they take care of the ball and limit their mistakes on both ends of the floor. Limiting their mistakes also extends to their defensive identity in that they’re last in the NBA in steals as well, and 20th in blocks. For the Kings tonight, they’ll have to outperform their averages in three categories: three point attempts, free throw attempts and rebounds. I could copy and paste that into every single preview the rest of the year.

Prediction:

Bogdan Bogdanovic plays the James Harden lead guard role when George Hill needs rest from being alive and on the court at the same time and Bogi shows his true two-way guard self; locking down one of the fastest guards in the league on one end and bullying him on offense on the other end. Skal gets sub-20 minutes tonight and somewhere in the world, Marquese Chriss checks his phone to see that stat, and then smirks. Ominous music plays. Cut to black.

Kings: 103, Hornets: 99