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Kings vs. Hornets Preview: The Buzz Around Sacramento Grows

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The Kings have a .500 record as they head into the second half of the season, but if they want to keep it they’ll have to go through Kemba Walker and his Eastern Conference 8th seed, the Charlotte Hornets.

Kimani Okearah

I’ll take that mic back now, guys, thanks. It’s a Saturday in mid-January in Sacramento and that can only mean three things: you’re simultaneously bundled in a sweater and wearing sunglasses, your neighbor is filing a claim on his Nissan that was crushed by a massive tree branch coming down in the night and somewhere deep in a Florida swamp Pete D’Alessandro is leaning on his mosquito savaged paws and wistfully imagining all the kids out in Sac who must be shooting hoops outside one moment and stabbing their friends in the back the next.

Oh no! Wait! I forgot! The Kings have themselves a basketball game tonight against the Charlotte Hornets, a team exactly one Kemba Walker injury away from being less relevant in the NBA than Pete D’Alessandro. The Hornets come into tonight grasping onto the 8th seed out East, sporting a record of 19-22 on the season (and the sweetest color combos in the league) and if the Scores don’t handle their business, a quick reminder that Kardiac Kemba has never met a close game he hasn’t tried to rip the heart out of. Let’s talk Kings basketball!

When: Saturday, January 12th, 7:00 PM PST

Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, CA

TV: NBCSCA

Radio: KHTK Sports 1140 AM

For Your Consideration

Ta-King Care of Business: I’ve been away for a cool minute and in that time, the Kings have pretty much stayed the course. Sure they’ve won a few in the final moments and lost a few in the final moments but for the most part, the Kings have been the Kings; consistently inconsistent and winning half the time they play. AND THAT IS ABSOLUTELY BONKERS, YA’LL. I mean I’m trying to stay casual here but HOW ARE WE DOING THIS?? THAT ISN’T RHETORICAL- WRITE ME AN ESSAY AND I’LL POST IT UNDER MY NAME AND CLAIM YOU’RE GETTING EXPOSURE SOMEHOW WHEN IT GOES SEMI-VIRAL ON TWITTER. I NEED TO KNOW. Tim Maxwell shared this on Twitter last night and it blows my mind, but somehow the Kings only have to win 4 games to beat Las Vegas’ projected wins for Sacramento. Vegas knows everything. They knew Dumbledore was gonna die, they knew where I stashed that drunk guys chips when he dropped them into my stall in the bathroom of Caesar’s Palace. Vegas is rarely wrong (and very touchy, both literally and figuratively). The Kings are blowing predictions out of the way everywhere they go, and now that they’re doing it, every game is winnable and every mistake amplified.

So that leads me a bit into what the Kings have to do tonight against the Hornets to push themselves over the .500 mark. First things first, those turnovers. Twenty-five turnovers against the Phoenix Suns. Nineteen turnovers against Detroit Pistons. These aren’t the numbers of a team operating efficiently, and against a guard built the way Kemba Walker is, numbers like that for a third straight game will absolutely kill you. The Hornets straight up take care of the basketball as a team; first in the NBA in turnovers with only 12.2 a game. To be fair the Kings are usually pretty careful about the ball too, 13th in the NBA at 13.5 a contest. But again, like I mentioned early, even small trends like this are going to get amplified. With the Kings in a playoff race (and they are in a playoff race) little setbacks lead to big losses which leads to you seeing a Lebron-less Laker squad squeaking into the Western Conference playoffs which leads to you seeing highlight reels titled “THA DPOY of LA” all over Twitter in the summer that features exactly one Lonzo Ball tip block against Steph Curry in a playoff game where Lonzo went 3-14 and the Warriors won by 35. No one wants to see that, so yes, we’re sweating some of the small stuff now.

The second thing the Sacramento Kings need to take care of this Hornets squad is to find a way to contain Kemba Walker. Now, I love Kemba Walker. The dude has a massive heart, a killer instinct and just plays with every ounce of his being. If you need some context as to what Kemba does for Charlotte. What Kemba is to Charlotte... Isaiah Thomas should have been that for the Kings. Well, and for Phoenix, and honestly for the Celtics, and also the Cavs and the Lakers too if things had gone as they ha- you know what never mind. The fact is Kemba is the motor that takes Charlotte from grandma’s custom painted PT Cruiser to Uncle Terry’s 2009 Mustang Convertible. If the Kings can keep a lid on Kemba’s contributions, they’ll have the night. No Hornet other than Kemba averages more than 16 points. Only three (Jeremy Lamb, Malik Monk and Marvin Williams) average more than 10 ppg. Slow Kemba, stop Charlotte.

Lastly, the Kings need to rebound. The leading rebounder for the Hornets is Cody Zeller with a whooping 6.2 a contest. He’s out after needing wrist surgery. Currently their active leaders are Marvin Williams and Jeremy Lamb, each with 5.6 boards a game. Willie Cauley-Stein: I see you reading this. You’re going to get paid on night’s like tonight. 7 boards might win Sacramento the game but grabbing 15 boards over sleepy competition like Willy Hernangomez and Bismack Biyombo is going to boost those averages closer to 10 and get yourself on the ESPN ticker. This could be a night off for you, don’t let it be.

#Lensface

Prediction

De’Aaron Fox and Kemba Walker put on offensive clinics for the fans, spinning and sidestepping like a Maloof at a Board of Governor’s meeting, and Marvin Bagley and Willie Cauley-Stein both grab 14 plus rebounds.

Somewhere putrid and pathetic, Pete D’Allesandro dofts his bucket hat to take unsuccessful swipes at swamp flies. An egret shits on his bare head.

Kings 118, Hornets 114