The Kings have come out of the meatgrinder that was their November scheduling with a record of 5-8 on the month, and to be honest, that’s pretty thrilling! Where many prognosticators (including yours truly) felt the Kings had a better chance at being 3-18 then 10-11 at this point in the season, they’ve battled through fatigue, front office drama and an awkward schedule of back to backs and long breaks to find themselves only half a game out of a playoff birth at a quarter way through the season. Now more good news! The December schedule is far, far better suited for Kings victories than the previous month, and their first crack at getting back to 50-50 basketball comes against an Indiana Pacers team that will be without their star player, Victor Oladipo. Sit back, grab some nasty eggnog and kick your feet up. Oh, and as always, let’s talk Kings basketball.
When: Saturday, December 1st; 7:00 pm PST
Where: Golden 1 Center; Sacramento, CA
Radio: KHTK Sports 1140 AM
For Your Consideration
The Pace Makers: So correct me if I’m wrong here, but the Sacramento Kings are a good solid December away from being the Indiana Pacers of last year right? I mean, they don’t represent the same style or brand of basketball and even the stakes are a bit different for a team stuck in the pit of hell that is the Western Conference, but the Indiana Pacers of 2017-18 were supposed to be a fairly high lottery team with a mishmosh of post-Paul George pieces and then suddenly, they weren’t bad. Victor Oladipo finally turned the potential of his #2 pick into a usable skillset of a #1 option on a playoff team, and the Pacers came out of nowhere to win 48 games, all the while being the darkhorse media darlings of the season. The Kings are really pretty damn close to being that surprise team in the NBA this year. Obviously, the Clippers have assembled a Frankenstein’s monster and the Grizzlies are outperforming their expectation with Gasol and Conley back, but the Kings are the better story because, well, they’ve sucked for a lot longer than both of those teams in recent times and they play a far more watchable, far more fun brand of basketball. This side trail means nothing, has really even said nothing but... yeah, it’s nice to expect terrible and have your team surprise you with good basketball. We should do this whole Pacers thing more often.
Saturday’s game against the Pacers is going to be one in which you’re going to get to see them flex the full breadth of defensive prowess. A quarter of the way through the season, the Indiana Pacers have held their opponents to the lowest points per game average in the NBA at only 102.3 a contest. In the same vein as we saw from the Memphis Grizzlies a few games back, the Pacers are going to drag the Kings into the mud, eliminate the speed of their game and force the Kings to do it their way. As we saw from the previous Memphis game (and a couple others this season), the Kings have a habit of being fine with that. They shouldn’t be.
Indiana holds the third best defensive rating in the league, and for good reason. For one, they’re averaging nearly ten steals a game, fourth in the NBA, but for all that pass hunting they’re doing, they don’t foul. I mean they do not foul; they’re currently third in the entire NBA league in keeping their hands to their damn selves. The Pacers also hold teams to the second lowest field goal percentage in the NBA from inside the arc. Two pointers are going to come at a premium tonight with guys like Myles Turner on the inside and former King Darren Collison up in their guys grills all night. I have to go back to the steals thing for a second because I just saw something that had me blinking really hard for a solid five seconds. The Pacers run five guys out on the floor every night that average over 1.3 steals a game: Tyreke Evans, Corey Joseph, Thaddeus Young, Darren Collison and Victor Oladipo all do it. Now take a guess at how many guys the Kings have that can say the same thing. Fox is easy. Willie has got really active hands. Buddy is a solid defender. Shumpert? The answer is zero. The Kings leaders in steals are Fox, Shump and Bjelica with Fox being the highest at 1.2 a game. Wild.
The Kings are going to have to take advantage of the gifts that Indiana gives them, and the really fun looking present, the one that you see under the Christmas tree and know that THAT is the one you’re gonna be most pleased with opening is that the Pacers allow their opponents to shoot the second best percentage in the NBA from deep. At 37.7% and being middle of the road in terms of how many they give up, the Kings are going to have plenty of time to spot up from long range, and they HAVE to punch above their weight class. The Kings average the 5th least amount of three point attempts in the NBA and tonight it just won’t do. Those extra points aren’t coming from free throws and the Pacers have literally sharks roaming the interior; salvation comes from the long ball.
All this talk changes with the fact that Victor Oladipo, the team’s unquestionable leader, their leading scorer and ball hawk is out with a knee injury for the game tonight. With Oladipo gone, the Pacers leading scorer is Bojan Bogdanovic; a man averaging 15 points while shooting nearly 53% from long range and over 53% from inside the arc. The Pacers will have to make up Oladipo’s offensive and defensive outputs somewhere along the way, and that mystery man will be whoever you get the feeling you need to curse at first. The Kings have a really nice opportunity here to get a win against a young, feisty defensive team in the Pacers and while the schedule is softer in December, the Kings really should be eyeing a game like this as a golden opportunity to pick up wins where they weren’t expected.
S(acramento) T(heater) R(eview)
Oh hey, look what’s come back to haunt your previews with an alternative to watch instead of bad games! I originally fashioned this segment before the season started and well before we all knew the Sacramento Kings were the best team in professional basketball. After their hot start, I told myself we’d only get back to if the Kings find themselves below .500. Well... It’s now DECEMBER and that’s finally happened. So, these have kind of changed in purpose! Now when they appear, instead of a solid alternative to bad basketball, they’ll be a sad, painful remind of better basketball earlier in the season.... Great!
Tonight’s movie: A Christmas Story
What IMDB Says: In the 1940s, a young boy named Ralphie attempts to convince his parents, his teacher and Santa that a Red Ryder BB gun really is the perfect Christmas gift.
What I Say: It’s December 1st! Which means one thing and one thing only: literally every individual thing you do for the next month will be accompanied by the grating soundtrack and visual styling of the Christmas holiday season. You’ll be subjected to sniping fellow customers at every shop, parking lot traffic directed by George Miller trying to fulfill his Fury Road kicks and music designed solely as a psychological test of long your subconscious can handle hearing the same song repeated by different vocal ranges before your auditory cortex comes rolling out of your ears. So why am I tossing you a softball here this early into December? Why suggest the quintessential Christmas movie? Why sit you down and tell you to watch a movie that literally airs for 24 hours straight every year between Christmas Eve and Day? Well because the movie is set in Indiana, and I need Hoosiers in my back pocket for later this year. That’s literally it. Enjoy!
Willie Cauley-Stein and Myles Turner will spend the night slapping against each other like two fresh caught salmon in cooler and will each end up with identical stat lines. Buddy Hield scores 40. Fox has 15 assists. Dave Joerger tries to walk into the Indiana locker room at the end of the night, and refuses to leave when they ask him to, instead saying over and over again that he could swear he was the coach of this team, and acting confused whenever someone says something contrary to that.
Kings: 114, Pacers: 106