Six days ago, the Kings started their season on a high note with one of the most fun openers in recent memory. In doing so, they spoiled the debut of the reigning Western Conference finalists and self-proclaimed darlings of the NBA bubble, potentially incurring their wrath in the process.
Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, California
When: Tuesday, Dec. 29 at 7 p.m. PT
How to watch/listen: NBC Sports California, KHTK Sports 1140 AM
Projected Starting Lineups:
Kings: De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Marvin Bagley III, Richaun Holmes
Nuggets: Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Michael Porter Jr., Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic
Kings: DaQuan Jeffries (back) — QUESTIONABLE
Nuggets: JaMychal Green (calf strain), Greg Whittington (knee) — QUESTIONABLE
There are plenty of elements of their game plan from opening night that the Kings can hope to replicate. First among them is the offensive glass. Richaun Holmes, Marvin Bagley, and Hassan Whiteside are all more athletic than their Denver counterparts; they should be able to command the boards and create extra chances for the Kings while also closing out possessions on the defensive end.
The Kings also have to make a concerted effort to get into the paint on their offensive possessions. They can’t afford to get into a 3-point shootout with the Nuggets; Jamal Murray may have missed all five of his attempts from deep in the first matchup, but that’s unlikely to happen again. Sacramento did a good job of guarding the line and limiting Denver to only 29 3-point attempts last week. That volume is achievable, even if it’s unlikely that the Nuggets are as cold from beyond the arc.
One of the bugaboos for the Kings in their loss to Phoenix was an inability to keep tabs on the Suns role players. They were so focused on the trio of Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton that Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson went off. That was almost a problem for the Kings against Denver the first time around, as Michael Porter Jr. and Will Barton had high-scoring nights. The Kings can’t allow those types of performances if Murray also gets going.
Offensively, it would be nice to see the Kings diversify their crunch-time playbook if the game gets to that point. There have been a lot of high pick-and-rolls for De’Aaron Fox, and if the defender goes under, then Fox is left with a midrange jumper; there has to be more movement and another option for the offense in those situations.
It will also be interesting to see if Glenn Robinson III gets any run in this contest. He was a healthy scratch in the first meeting, likely because the Nuggets aren’t a wing-heavy team and Harrison Barnes was cooking. But Robinson could be a good change-of-pace forward in the second unit if the three-guard lineups don’t get the job done.
It’s unlikely that the second game of this season series will live up to the first, but here’s hoping for an exciting contest nonetheless as the Kings get back in the win column. Enjoy the game!