The 11-14 Sacramento Kings, winners of three straight games, currently sit at 10th in the NBA western conference. Sacramento will embark on a decently important three-game road trip starting today, Friday 12/10. The Kings start the roadie against the short-handed Charlotte Hornets, moving onto Cleveland the following evening for the second game of a back-to-back against the Cavaliers, finishing the road trip on Monday 12/12 against the Toronto Raptors. I strongly dislike giving predictions … but I probably will end up doing that at the end of this article … first though, a little information on the Kings upcoming road tests.
Road Warriors .. NAH … Road KINGS
The Kings have played BETTER ON THE ROAD THIS SEASON, than at home. Which sounds good when you’re going on a road trip, but really not great overall if you’re under .500 at home, with playoff aspirations. The Kings have been TRENDING to turn those home woes around, going 5-3 under interim head coach Alvin Gentry, including 3-2 at home.
The Kings looked like they belonged in the NBA western conference play-in conversation by beating up on the 5-20 Orlando Magic in SacTown on Tuesday night. Simply put, it’s important to take care of the ‘bad’ teams in the league. The Kings played terrible defense during the game, bettering that effort in the second half, optimistically. From listening to head coach Gentry’s post-game press conference, it sounds like the Kings individual defenders need to LOCK IN more consistently, and not let up their intensity late in possessions, or ‘take possessions off’. That takes focus, effort, and sacrifice, which is much easier to produce than a consistent free throw stroke … essentially, take care of business and play like a professional.
Kings Against the League
The Kings have been BAD on defense, not as historically bad as last season, but not good enough yet. Sacramento ranks 29th in the NBA in points allowed, 30th in offensive rebounds allowed, and 29th in field goals allowed. Not to get defensive, but the Kings do rank 7th overall in defensive rating somehow. A couple of other defensive bright spots for the Kings are ranking 15th in assists allowed and 13th in three pointers allowed and three point percentage.
On offense the Kings are doing a bit better. Amongst all 30 NBA squads they rank 2nd in free throws made and free throws attempted, 6th in points, 7th in offensive rebounds, amongst a few other ‘top half of the NBA’ rankings. On the flipside, the Kings are ranked 21st in free throw percentage, 24th in assists, and 25th in three point percentage. All of those can be improved upon with this current Kings squad level of talent.
At any rate, back to the road trip! The Kings start the three-game roadie in Charlotte against a VERY shorthanded Hornets team. The Hornets have listed LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Mason Plumlee, Jalen McDaniels, and Ish Smith all OUT due to health and safety protocols. This needs to be a win for the Sacramento Kings, plain and simple, toasted and buttered, no doubt about it!
The Kings are currently 6-6 on the road, 13th overall in terms of road records, in the NBA. Even though they will be without many of their main players, Charlotte is ranked 1st in the NBA in points scored, 1st in field goals attempted, and 2nd in three-point percentage. They also rank 25th in total rebounds and 25th in free throw percentage. The Kings will be without starting forward Richaun Holmes, after leaving the game with another face injury against the Orlando Magic. After being sick, poked in the eye, now leaving the court bleeding from the face … Holmes MUST have some good karma coming his way, and maybe a ‘rec-spec’ prescription. Bottom line, the Kings need to make the most of this OPPORTUNITY and get a win in Charlotte.
The very next evening the Kings will travel to Cleveland to take on the 14-12 Cavaliers. This will be a tough test for the Kings. Will they drink their post-game recovery shakes, put on their sleep masks during the plane ride, and do the necessary things to get ready for the second game of a back to back, on the road? They could get some fast food, not rehydrate properly, stay up late watching movies … and not put themselves in the BEST position to win. Let’s hope they choose the first option.
Cleveland ranks 9th in the NBA in assists and 10th in free throw percentage. Darius Garland is leading the way for the Cavs statistically, averaging 19.5 points, 7.2 assists per game, while shooting 89% from the free-throw line. Rookie Evan Mobley has also been a player to watch, averaging 14 points, 2 blocks, 8.2 rebounds per game.
This will be a tough game for the Sacramento Kings. I predict a loss. A Kings loss in either of these first two games of the roadie makes the final game of the road trip against the Toronto Raptors even MORE IMPORTANT.
Cold Weather Kings
After getting Sunday off, the Kings will finish their three-game roadie in Toronto, against the Raptors, who are currently 11-14, 12th in the NBA eastern conference. The Raptors may give the Kings some trouble with their style of play. Toronto ranks 1st in the NBA in offensive rebound percentage and 4th in turnover percentage on offense. Pair that with 9th in points allowed, 3rd in steals, 3rd in FG allowed, and 2nd in turnovers forced. The Raptors strengths match up well against MANY of the Kings weaknesses – taking care of the ball and giving up offensive rebounds, which lead to second-chance points.
I have faith in the ‘Road Kings’ and think they will end the road trip with a WIN in Toronto, finishing their three-game wintery road trip at 2-1. After the Raptor game, the Kings will travel back home to play Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards on Wednesday 12/15 at Golden One Center! The Kings home arena currently ranks 26th in attendance in the NBA. Shoutout to ARCO Arena.
Check out PART 1 of my Sacramento Kings WIN/LOSS Predictions!
As always GO KINGS!
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images