Three weeks after the two teams were first scheduled to meet, the Kings will finally face off the Grizzlies. Unfortunately, both squads still have issues with the injury report.
For Memphis, it’s no longer health and safety protocols, but rather a number of other maladies — nearly all of them on the left side of the body, incidentally — that has the Grizzlies rotation in tatters. Sacramento could also be without two starters, and the team’s first attempt to play without De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III didn’t go so well.
There’s really no replacing Fox, though Tyrese Haliburton can be better with his decision-making. His jump-passing betrayed him against Orlando, and the Kings really suffered from the high volume of turnovers. Having a quicker hook for the rookie and sprinkling in more Cory Joseph and Kyle Guy could help Haliburton be more in a rhythm, but has to start given the dearth of playmaking in the starting five without him.
Ideally Fox does play, not just because Sacramento needs him, but also because his battle against Ja Morant would pit two of the most dynamic point guards in the league against one another.
Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, California
When: Sunday, Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. PT
How to watch/listen: NBC Sports California, KHTK Sports 1140 AM
Opposing perspective: Grizzly Bear Blues
Projected Starting Lineups
Kings (12-13): De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Marvin Bagley III, Richaun Holmes
Grizzlies (10-11): Ja Morant, Grayson Allen, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jonas Valanciunas
Kings: De’Aaron Fox (left knee), Marvin Bagley III (left calf) — QUESTIONABLE
Grizzlies: Brandon Clarke (right calf), Sean McDermott (left shoulder) — QUESTIONABLE; Desmond Bane (personal), Jaren Jackson Jr. (left knee), De’Anthony Melton (left shoulder), Killian Tillie (left foot), Justise Winslow (left hip) — OUT
As for playing without Bagley, the Kings have more options, but they chose the wrong one Friday. Glenn Robinson III had a horrific outing despite a promising first few minutes. The jump from fringe rotation player to starting five was too much for Robinson. Sacramento would be better off playing DaQuan Jeffries in those minutes, as the second-year forward looked perfectly comfortable in his season debut.
Nemanja Bjelica was also quite good in his first game back since January, but the Kings would get too big in the starting lineup with him next to Harrison Barnes, especially against a Memphis team that is very athletic on the wing. Bjelica could still be used in backup 4 or 5 minutes as the Grizzlies don’t have any back-to-the-basket centers coming off the bench.
A key for the Kings this game will be the possession battle. Memphis does well on the offensive glass, and the Grizzlies also force turnovers at a high rate. If the Kings can close out defensive possessions and take care of the ball, Memphis’ half-court offense is among the worst in the league. The Grizzlies don’t get to the foul line either, which should help obviate some of Sacramento’s worst tendencies.
The Kings appeared to be turning the page before the last two games set them back. The loss to Philadelphia was more reasonable, considering the talent of the 76ers, but the effort against the Magic was not excusable. This Memphis team will make the Kings work. Hopefully, they’re up for the challenge.