March 7, 2018, 2:54 pm
The Kings will play host to the streaking New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night, winners of nine straight games.
DeMarcus Cousins’ absence was meant to be the nail in the coffin for the Pelicans’ season but they’ve certainly put those assumptions to bed with some stellar play of late. What’s more impressive is that six of their last nine wins have come on the road, so playing in Sacramento tonight shouldn’t scare them at all.
The Pelicans were already one of the league’s highest ranked offensive units, scoring 112.5 points per game which is good for third, but over their last nine they’ve been an unstoppable beast on that end of the floor. Over their past nine outings they’ve scored at least 120 points in eight of those, scoring 118 in the other contest. They also rank second in assists per game with 26.6.
New Orleans has the personnel to get out, run and do damage from all over the court with Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday running the show, and the likes of Rajon Rondo, Nikola Mirotic and others helping them out. They have been, and will be, a nightmare to guard for Sacramento who’ll need to put forward their best defensive effort tonight.
Willie Cauley-Stein will sit out again with a lower back issue, making the containment of Davis a whole lot tougher. Kosta Koufos likely draws that assignment initially while Skal Labissiere — if he plays — could help out in spurts too, leaving Zach Randolph and Vince Carter to chase Mirotic around the perimeter; not a great recipe.
Defensively the Pelicans can be exploited, ranking 29th in the league when it comes to points allowed (111.7 points per game). The Kings’ best bet is to try to turn up the pace themselves led by rookie De’Aaron Fox. Pushing the ball and making the Pelicans work defensively is one way to tire them out, making life more difficult when it comes to producing on the other end.
The two teams have already met three times this season with Sacramento taking two of those contests. The Kings managed to hold the Pelicans to under 110 points in each of those wins and Randolph has been instrumental in getting them across the line offensively.
The Kings know how to bet the Pelicans, they’ve proven that, but New Orleans are playing their best basketball in many years and are trying to lock down top-4 seeding in the playoffs so they’ll be motivated and ready to rumble.
PG – De’Aaron Fox
SG – Bogdan Bogdanovic
SF – Justin Jackson
PF – Skal Labissiere
C – Zach Randolph
Skal Labissiere (knee) – PROBABLE
Willie Cauley-Stein (back) – OUT
Iman Shumpert (foot) – OUT
HOW TO WATCH
When: 7 p.m. PST (10:00 p.m. ET)
Where: NBCS California