Perhaps the two biggest surprises of the Western Conference have been the Sacramento Kings and the Memphis Grizzlies. Sacramento’s success has been a complete shock to many, but Memphis probably shouldn’t have been. After all, they still have Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, two very good players that are finally healthy after a couple of years of injuries.
The Grizzlies also continue to employ the same Grit-N-Grind style that has seen them to so much success over the last decade, and as a result have the 6th best defense in the NBA. In the Western Conference, every game matters and with both of these teams slumping recently and entering at 16-15, this is one both teams want.
Let’s talk Kings basketball!
When: Friday, December 21st, 7:00 PM PST
Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, CA
Radio: KHTK Sports 1140 AM
For Your Consideration
The Grizzlies got off to a great start this season but have fallen off quite a bit since then. They have lost their last four games in a row, and are just 1-6 in their last seven. The Kings have done a bit better but have been blown out by the Thunder and Timberwolves in their last two games. Sacramento has been dealing with some injuries to core players like Bogdan Bogdanovic, Iman Shumpert and Marvin Bagley, but Memphis has dealt with similar issues to their supporting cast.
The Kings need to win this one in order to avoid another losing homestand. They won the earlier home matchup this season 97-92, on the second night of a back to back no less. It was Sacramento’s only win of the year where they failed to break 100 points. That’s largely due to Memphis’ ability to control the pace of a game. Memphis is dead last in the NBA in terms of Pace at 94.6 possessions a game. The Kings are 2nd with almost a full 10 more possessions a game at 104.2.
The style of play between these two teams is super different. Just take a look at where these two teams are ranked in terms of when they take their shots.
Memphis’ shot clock usage ranks:— Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) December 21, 2018
First 7 seconds: 28th
Middle 10 seconds: 30th
Last 7 seconds: 1st
First 7 seconds: 1st
Middle 10 seconds: 27th
Last 7 seconds: 28th https://t.co/P8Oa1SP74d
The Kings thrive in getting out and scoring in transition, whereas Memphis is more methodical, playing through either Conley or Gasol and also rookie stud Jaren Jackson Jr. Jackson was instrumental in Memphis’ victory over Sacramento in their last matchup, a 112-104 Grizzlies victory in which Jackson scored a game-high 27 points on 11-16 from the field.
The Kings will almost certainly be without their own rookie, Marvin Bagley III, who suffered a bone bruise last week against the Warriors. It also remains to be seen if Iman Shumpert and Bogdan Bogdanovic, who both missed the previous game, will play. According to James Ham, it looks like both will be game-time decisions. The Kings could badly use their help as evidenced by the lack of help from the bench in their absence. (UPDATE: The official injury report is now out and both Shumpert and Bogdanovic will be available for the Kings tonight).
Sacramento will also hope that old man Buddy Hield will continue his recent hot streak. Against the Timberwolves and Thunder, Hield was one of the lone bright spots. Hield dropped 21 against Minnesota in just 18 minutes, with 16 of those points coming in about a 6 minute span in the first quarter. He followed that up with a career-high 37 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder in which he shot 7 of 14 from beyond the arc. Hield has scored 20 or more points in 8 of his last 9 games and is shooting 46.6% from three on almost 10 attempts a game during that span. The only player in the entire NBA who is shooting better on similar volume is Stephen Curry.
Sacramento plays better basketball than the Memphis Grizzlies and scores more points at the end of four 12 minute quarters of regulation. Fans are happy with the result, unless they are fans of the Memphis Grizzlies. Then they are not happy because their team lost.
Kings 114, Grizzlies 108