Three days ago, the Houston Rockets defeated the Sacramento Kings at home behind a 50-point triple-double from James Harden, as well as strong showings from Harden’s front court partner Chris Paul and the rim-running efforts of Clint Capela. Bogdan Bogdanovic had his strongest game of the season for the Kings, scoring 24 points, grabbing 9 rebounds, and dishing out 8 assists, but poor shooting performances from De’Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes, and Buddy Hield were too much to overcome for the visiting Kings
When: Tuesday, April 2nd, 7:00 pm PST
Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, CA
Radio: KHTK Sports 1140 AM
For Your Consideration
James Harden is the center of Houston’s offensive universe, and slowing down his effectiveness as a foul magnet is the first key to limiting the Rockets’ attack. In his last foray against the Kings, Harden dominated the Kings in the paint, both as a scorer and as a facilitator. He drew eight fouls and knocked down 17 of his 18 free throw attempts, taking and making more shots from the charity stripe than the entire Sacramento roster.
Once Harden was able to get his perimeter defenders backpedaling, he drew the attention of Sacramento’s interior defenders in help situations, opening up a plethora of easy scoring opportunities for Clint Capela. Houston’s do-it-all big man scored 24 points on only 13 field goal attempts, with 6 of his 7 dunks coming on passes assisted by Harden. The Kings don’t have a strong paint protector even when facing an average opponent, meaning Sacramento’s wings and guards must help their bigs by staying in front of Harden and prohibiting easy dives into the key.
The Kings are also going to need much better shooting from three of their best players, De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Harrison Barnes. Dave Joerger’s starting guards and small forward combined sink just 17 of their 44 (38%) shots last week, and that lack of efficient scoring simply won’t get it done against a potential NBA Finals contender. Each player must knock down their open jumpers and sink their layups to have a shot against a team with Houston’s pedigree.
Mike D’Antoni’s scoring machine is predicated on James Harden’s ability to get into the lane, draw the attention of opposing defenses, and unlock open shots for his teammates. Sacramento’s wing defenders must push Harden to the right as often as possible, stay disciplined and keep their hands out of the cookie jar in the paint, and stay home on shooters when they’re not assigned to the league’s leading scorer. On the offensive end of the floor, the Kings should get out and run as often as possible, as easy buckets in transition is a much better plan than attempting to score in the half-court against the likes of Chris Paul, PJ Tucker, and Clint Capela.
Iman Shumpert reveals himself to be a double agent for the Kings and steals the left shoe of every player on the Rockets, Houston feels imbalanced the entire game, and the Kings walk away with an easy victory.
Kings 119, Rockets 110