Every season, there comes a point when the team needs the All-Star Break. The Kings have arrived at that point.
Losers of six in a row and down two starters, this Sacramento team needs a moment to reset and get healthy. Instead, the Kings are on the second night of a back-to-back in Milwaukee to face the two-time defending MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks.
The Bucks haven’t been quite the world beaters they were in recent seasons, but their offense is five points per 100 possession better than it was a year ago when they finished with the best record during the regular season. This is a team that can find seams easily, whether that’s Antetokounmpo barreling his way to the basket, Khris Middleton showing some newfound facility in the pick-and-roll, or the bevy of shooters that can make teams pay when the two stars draw help.
Where Milwaukee has struggled, at least relatively speaking, is on the defensive end. The Bucks allow a large volume of threes, and that gives underdogs a chance if they can just get hot from distance. This could be a good game for the Kings to go small — some more Nemanja Bjelica at the 5, please — and spread the Milwaukee defense out. Put good shooters in the game, and take what the Bucks defense is giving.
Where: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
When: Sunday, Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. PT
How to watch/listen: NBC Sports California, KHTK Sports 1140 AM
Opposing perspective: Brew Hoop
Projected Starting Lineups
Kings (12-17): De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Cory Joseph, Marvin Bagley, Hassan Whiteside
Bucks (17-13): D.J. Augustin, Donte DiVincenzo, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez
Kings: Harrison Barnes (left foot), Richaun Holmes (right knee) — QUESTIONABLE; Chimezie Metu (right wrist), Glenn Robinson III (right knee/not with team) — OUT
Bucks: Jaylen Adams (health and safety), Jrue Holiday (health and safety), Jordan Nwora (left ankle) — OUT
The Kings are also fortunate to be facing the Bucks now, when they have been going through their own lull. Before their most recent win over the Thunder, the Bucks had lost five in a row, unable to figure things out without their third-best player Jrue Holiday. Their point-of-attack defense has taken a real hit, and De’Aaron Fox has to take advantage of the D.J. Augustin matchup for Sacramento to be successful.
Milwaukee has also been a bit stagnant in the half court without Holiday. The team’s lack of another creator in his absence serves as a reminder of the trade that almost happened between these two teams during the offseason. The Bucks are a little too predictable without another guard like, say, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and it certainly would have benefited the Kings to have a young player like Donte DiVincenzo instead of just cap space going forward.
Nevertheless, the matchup that takes place tonight will have plenty of compelling matchups, with or without Bogdanovic. Whether the Kings will come out on top is an entirely different question. They’ve gone through highs and lows all season; if they’re going to take another upswing before the end of the first half of the season, this would be a good time to start.