Game On: Kings @ Pelicans

Published: January 21, 2014

Tonight, the 14-25 Kings come to town to take on the 16-24 Pelicans. Though New Orleans owns the better record, Sacramento has been the better team recently, going 5-5 over its past 10 compared to 2-8 for NOLA. The addition of Rudy Gay in mid-December has actually improved his new team, as Gay has been more efficient with the Kings (19.8 PER) than he was with the Raptors (15.1 PER). Given the current health of each team, Sacramento will put the more talented team on the court from top to bottom, but they have struggled on the road this season (5-12 thus far), which is enough to likely make New Orleans the slight favorite.

What the Kings do well

  1. Defensive rebounding. The Kings are tied for 5th in the NBA in defensive rebound rate, collecting an average of 75.9% of opponents’ misses. This strength will be an interesting test for the Pelicans, who rank 4th in the NBA in offensive rebound rate (28.7%). Something has to give; who will win this battle? Playing without both Anderson and Holiday, the Pelicans will likely have to get some second chance points to achieve a victory tonight.
  2. Get to the free throw line. The Kings are 7th in the NBA in free throw rate, averaging .305 free throw attempts per field goal attempt. Given the fact that the Pelicans allow an average of .328 FTA per FGA (2nd worst in the league), this could become a nightmare match-up for New Orleans. Cousins leads the team with 9.7 FTA per 36 minutes and makes about 73% of them, pretty decent for a center. Isaiah Thomas and Rudy Gay both average over 5 FTA per 36 minutes and each shoot over 85% from the FT line. Like I said, this is a huge area of concern.
  3. Score at the rim. The Kings are right around the league average in shots at the rim, but they’re 7th in the NBA in FG% at the rim, converting 62.2% of their attempts. If the Pelicans’ cannot protect the rim, the Kings have a lot of players who have a very high rate of success from in close.

What the Kings don’t do well

1, 2, and 3. DEFENSE. Tonight pits two of the three worst defensive teams in the NBA – the Pelicans allow an average of 107 points per 100 possessions, while the Kings allow 106.1 points per 100 possessions (only the Jazz have been worse thus far). They give up the highest 3-point percentage in the NBA at 38.7%. Sacramento also allows 14.3 fast break points per game, 7th most in the NBA. If the Pelicans can force the Kings into some inefficient looks from guys like Rudy Gay, Marcus Thornton, and Derrick Williams, they should be able to get out and run.

How the Pelicans can take advantage

  1. Don’t put the Kings into the bonus early. If the Pelicans commit their 5th team foul with 6+ minutes left in the quarter, there is a very good chance that they will lose that quarter given how good Sacramento is at getting to the line. Stay disciplined on defense and only commit fouls to prevent easy points.
  2. Keep your best rim protector at the rim. Monty likely won’t want to match Davis up on Cousins, so finding a way to do so may be difficult. Kings’ starting PF Jason Thompson likes to do most of his work inside, but Derrick Williams and the freshly back from injury Carl Landry both like to play outside. The Pelicans simply cannot afford a Stiemsma/Ajinca foul party on Cousins for reasons stated immediately above.
  3. Contain Isaiah Thomas. Brian Roberts has his work cut out for him tonight. The Kings’ PG is super quick, and he is absolutely the spark plug for that offense. He is coming off a monster game in Sacramento’s loss to Oklahoma City on Sunday night, dropping 38 points on just 18 shots. If Roberts lets Thomas get wherever he wants, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rivers get a chance to try and stop him.

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