Sacramento went 1-2 in their three scrimmage matchups before the games begin to count. Of course, the Kings were one of the hardest-hit teams by injures, and COVID-19 leading up to the beginning of the restart. De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley III, Harrison Barnes, Alex Len, Richaun Holmes and Jabari Parker all missed time during the lead up to the opener, which was challenging for head coach Luke Walton in terms of setting up his potential rotations. The Kings will have most of the players back in the lineup, minus Bagley and Len.
Where: Orlando, Florida
When: Friday, 5 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports California, (Interim play-by-play man Gary Gerould, and color commentator Doug Christie will call the games on NBCSC)
Streaming: fuboTV, NBA League Pass
Kings: Marvin Bagley III (out), Alex Len (questionable)
Spurs: LaMarcus Aldridge (out), Trey Lyles (out), Bryan Forbes (out)
There is no other way to put it: This is a must-win game for Sacramento if it wants to make a run for the postseason. The Spurs are one of the teams the Kings are trying to beat out for the eighth-or-ninth seed in the Western Conference. Losing Aldridge is a massive blow for San Antonio, and with Sacramento’s depth up front, it should be able to win the battle in the paint.
The teams split their two meetings this season, with the Kings blowing out the Spurs by 20 in their most recent matchup in early February. San Antonio averaged 23 turnovers during its first two scrimmage games —both losses— before cleaning things up for the third-and-final matchup against the Indiana Pacers.
Without Aldridge in the lineup, DeMar DeRozan is the focus of the Spurs’ offense, but it has been a committee approach after him. Big man Jakob Poeltl was good in the scrimmage games, while Rudy Gay, Dejounte Murray, and Keldon Johnson have had their moments.
The Kings can hopefully carry over momentum from the their second-half performance against the L.A. Clippers. Although Len will likely sit this one out, guard Bogdan Bogdanovic has liked what he has seen from the squad with most players back and healthy.
“We got all our guys back and that’s what’s really important to us and I think we are ready mentally and physically,” said Bogdanovic.
Harrison Barnes and Richaun Holmes will have no minutes restrictions against the Spurs on Friday as the Kings continue to get healthy at the right time (via @James_HamNBCS)https://t.co/tgJNQe5kxW pic.twitter.com/HKDdULImKB— Kings on NBCS (@NBCSKings) July 30, 2020
It will be interesting to see how Walton divides the minutes, especially up front. Nemanja Bjelica played well in the scrimmage games, and should get the nod as the starting power forward. Corey Brewer and Harrison Barnes will play at the 4-spot at some point, while Richaun Holmes and Harry Giles will be the center options.
Walton knows each team is facing challenges, but with Sacramento experiencing a ton of adversity during the season, and in the lead-up to the shutdown, he’s confident his guys are ready.
“It’s just unknown right now,” Walton said. “Where we have something to fall back on is we’ve been through a lot this season. We’ve been through a lot of injuries, we’ve been through getting off to a really slow start. We’ve been through different lineups so we’d kind of come through all that before the stoppage of play and really found a nice groove as a team. So when you go through difficult things as a group you start to become battle tested.”
There is no-doubt that the Kings have been through a lot, but the excuses go out the window now. The team has its first postseason berth since 2006 within its grasp, and guard Buddy Hield isn’t shying away from the challenge.
“We’re going out there with the mindset that it’s an eight-game tournament and we want all the smoke,” Hield said. “Go out there and compete and try to win this tournament.”
Join in the comments section below, and enjoy having the Kings back in action!