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Kings vs. Grizzlies Preview: A Skirmish Between Upstarts

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After getting a few days off, the Kings will take their fresh legs to Memphis in the hopes of yet again besting Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and promising rookie Jaren Jackson Jr.

Kimani Okearah

After three days off to explore the world, rest their legs, find their jumper, decide if playing small forward for a professional basketball team is something they really want to keep trying to do in this one life they were given, the Sacramento Kings have come into Friday night’s contest against the Memphis Grizzlies well rested and ready to get out there and get to running. They’ll have to too if there’s any expectation to win tonight’s game, because the Grizzlies... the Grizzlies are pretty damn okay. Since the Kings found a way to pull out a victory in their fifth game of the season against the Grizz way back on the 24th of October, both the Kings and Grizzlies have taken it upon themselves to be the surprise teams of the West. Sporting an 8-5 record, Memphis is clinging to the slimmest of margins on the Kings for the annual Watercooler Guy Who Doesn’t Watch Sports “Wait, They Aren’t Trash?” Award, an unexpected yet coveted position for Sacramento to be in this season. Tonight’s the night we reclaim that lead, tonight’s the night Danny from accounting starts to notice!

Let’s talk Kings basketball.

When: Friday, November 15th; 5 pm PST

Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis TN

TV: NBCSCA

Radio: KHTK Sports 1140 AM

For Your Consideration

Memphists of Fury: Let’s get this out of the way early, because it is the hot ticket item for every team the Kings will play this year: The Memphis Grizzlies are the slowest team in the NBA in terms of pace. The slowest. With Mike Conley still only a season removed from major issues with his feet and Marc Gasol being an aging big guy, that’s probably to be expected. Memphis is not a buzzsaw of offensive activity; they’re the surgeon’s knife. While Memphis may also sport the second lowest points per game at 102.9 a contest, their pace and limiting of possessions also gives them reason to flex the fact that they hold teams to the lowest per game average in the league at 101.6 a game. For fun, the Kings give up 115.5 points per game (25th in the league). So yeah, while most teams are zigging and the Kings probably zigging hardest of all, it’s the Grizzlies who have zagged and zagged better than anyone else in the league.

So let’s give a breakdown of what it is that the Grizzlies are doing real quick: They’re 26th in three point attempts, but have the 12th best percentage in the NBA at 36%. They’re 29th in attempts inside the arc, and 24th in percentage at 49.4%. But, see when I see that I think “Oh okay, so these guys draw a ton of fouls” but they don’t, being dead center of the pack in the NBA in terms of free throws attempted and they don’t shoot particularly well when they get there at 75.4%; 18th in the league in that particular stat. They’re last in the league in both offensive and defensive rebounding as well and yet here they are, trudging along and collecting wins along the way. So they’re doing something right......... right?!

On the defensive end, they fare much, much better. While only 27th in the NBA in blocks, the Grizzlies are 6th in the league in steals and only three other teams in the NBA foul less than they do. The more and more I look at these numbers, the more and more they remind me of the San Antonio Spurs team the Kings played the other night. They limit possessions and mistakes (best in the NBA in turnovers), they slow the tempo down and then they execute. The Grizzlies hold their opponents to the least amount of shots in the NBA, forcing them to be productive when they get those open looks. Memphis holds their teams to the 4th least amount of threes and the absolute least amount of twos and again, because they foul as little as they do, there aren’t many opportunities for free points. They wrap you up, choke off your air supply and let you squirm into a bunch of bad shots until they can toss it to Courtney Lee for a last second - oh, oh wait no sorry I got away from myself there.

Memphis is not a team to be taken lightly. They’re unorthodox, they’re mixing youth and vets rather well while recovering from timely injuries, and they’re finding ways to win. They’ve beaten the Bucks. They’ve beaten the Nuggets. They’ve beaten the Jazz twice already.

Prediction

Knowing that many of us here at Sactown Royalty have got money headed towards disaster relief based solely on their performance tonight, the Kings decide to take solely three points and free throws tonight. This Moreyball works, and the Kings not only figure out that it works, but they ride this strategy to NBA Finals appearance this year.

I, on the other hand, go absolutely broke paying $5 per three and a dollar per free throw and wind up moving into whatever remains of the hills to become a wandering bush man.

It was worth it.

Kings 145, Grizzlies 102.9