The Kings exited the trade deadline with a clear objective of competing for the play-in this season, despite having the opportunity to collect assets for the future. That makes this two-game set in San Antonio of utmost importance.
It’s hard not to think of the last time the Kings played the Spurs, back in the bubble, when both teams were also in the mix for a play-in berth in Orlando. San Antonio ran all over Sacramento in the first quarter and proved that the Kings weren’t quite ready to compete at that level. The question now is if that’s still the case.
The Spurs are currently in 7th place in the West while the Kings are in 11th. Even though these two games are on the road, Sacramento really needs a split at least to keep pace, if not gain ground, in the standings. but it will be a tall task.
Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
When: Monday, March 29 at 5:30 p.m. PT
How to watch/listen: NBC Sports California, KHTK Sports 1140 AM
Opposing perspective: Pounding the Rock
Projected Starting Lineups
Kings (21-25): De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Tyrese Haliburton, Richaun Holmes
Spurs (23-20): DeMar DeRozan, Keldon Johnson, Jakob Poeltl, Dejounte Murray, Derrick White
Kings: Hassan Whiteside (right knee) — QUESTIONABLE; Marvin Bagley III (left-hand fracture), Jahmi’us Ramsey (right hamstring strain) — OUT
Spurs: Keita Bates-Diop (right hamstring), Gorgui Dieng (coach’s decision), Lonnie Walker IV (right wrist) — OUT
The Spurs have been treading water, and their record hasn’t been all that impressive recently. However, they absolutely truck teams with bad defenses. Against the bottom 10 teams in defensive rating, San Antonio has the third-best point differential in the league. For most the season, Sacramento has not just been one of those poor defensive teams, but the very worst. Over the past two weeks, the Kings have perked up to league average, and they’ll have to be that good against the Spurs.
One thing San Antonio does really well is maintain possession. The Spurs have the lowest turnover rate in the league and allow the fewest additional points per possession in transition, which is traditionally a good source of offense for the Kings. Sacramento has a good halfcourt offense — 10th in the league, per Cleaning the Glass — but that will be up against the sixth-best halfcourt defense. In particular, the Kings are quite good at getting to the rim and finishing there, which could be more challenging against Jakob Poeltl, one of the league’s better defensive centers.
The last time the Kings were riding this high, when De’Aaron Fox was player of the week in February, they crashed hard. Really hard. No one’s expecting them to win at a pace of 7 out of 8 games the rest of the way, but they have to be more consistent. Getting a good result against the Spurs is the way to start.