During Sacramento’s recent swoon, most of the discussion has been on their defense, and fairly so. The Kings currently allow 120.9 points per 100 possessions, per Cleaning the Glass, which would be the most points in NBA history. It’s hard to call them the worst defense outright since offenses have improved steadily over time, but if the Kings aren’t the worst, they’re at least close.
However, the other side of the ball has been giving the Kings issues in recent games as well. Against the Clippers, the problem was turnovers. Sacramento gave the ball away 18 times — and the phrasing is deliberate, because several turnovers were a result of pure sloppiness rather than defensive pressure — and those giveaways resulted in 29 points. The Kings only scored 13 points off turnovers, and that was basically the difference in the game.
Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, California
When: Friday, Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. PT
How to watch/listen: NBC Sports California, KHTK Sports 1140 AM
Opposing perspective: Posting and Toasting
Projected Starting Lineups:
Kings (5-10): De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Marvin Bagley III, Richaun Holmes
Knicks (8-8): Elfrid Payton, Reggie Bullock, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson
Kings: Marvin Bagley III (wrist) — PROBABLE; Hassan Whiteside (left hip soreness) — QUESTIONABLE; Jahmi’us Ramsey (groin), DaQuan Jeffries (ankle) — OUT
Knicks: Frank Ntilikina (knee), Austin Rivers (achilles) — OUT
Harrison Barnes has also dropped off after a hot start to the season. Barnes was averaging 17.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game on 53.1/43.1/79.2 shooting splits after the team’s win over Indiana. During the four-game losing streak, despite playing about the same minutes per game, Barnes is averaging 9.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.3 assists with 31.4/28.6/91/7 shooting splits. Without Barnes as a release valve in the half court, defenses can load up on De’Aaron Fox and shut off the playmaking at the source.
The Knicks are well positioned to take advantage of Sacramento’s offensive weaknesses. New York has the fourth-best defensive efficiency in the league and forces the worst opposing shooting percentage in the league. At the rim, Mitchell Robinson and Nerlens Noel are both effective shot-blockers, and the team’s collective length makes jumpers difficult. One area to exploit could be the 3-point line, if the Kings can take advantage, because the Knicks will willingly concede threes.
Defensively, the Kings should do their best to pack the paint. New York doesn’t shoot particularly well from any area of the floor, but they try to bully their way to the rim as much as possible. Sacramento’s overhelping shouldn’t be as much of an issue against a team that can’t make the Kings pay with jumpers.
It’s been a rough stretch for the Kings, and it could get even uglier with a loss tonight, because Sacramento doesn’t play again until Wednesday. Whatever the result is, the Kings will have to sit with it for five days. Probably best to just get a win!
Enjoy the game, and comment below.