Game 15 Preview: Kings vs. Pacers

The Sacramento Kings get a short reprieve at home before heading out for another road trip, beginning Friday in San Antonio.  Tonight, they face the Indiana Pacers, a team trying to solidify itself among the Eastern Conference elite.

Gametime: 7 pm PST
Broadcast Information: Click here.
For Pacers perspective, visit fellow TrueHoop Network blog Eight Points, Nine Seconds.

Kings Probable Starters (4-10)

Tyreke Evans Marcus Thornton John Salmons J.J. Hickson DeMarcus Cousins

Following Monday’s loss, head coach Keith Smart said he would make changes to the lineup.  However, yesterday it appeared he changed his tune according to Cowbell Kingdom’s James Ham.  With a record of 3-3 at Power Balanace Pavilion, the Kings will try to stay above .500 at home tonight.

Pacers Probable Starters (9-3)

Darren Collison
Paul George
Danny Granger David West
Roy Hibbert

What a luxury – the Pacers are coming off three days rest after defeating the Boston Celtics 97-83 at home on Saturday.  They’ve won games, including three straight, because of their defense.  Only three teams (Philadelphia, Dallas and Chicago) have better defensive ratings than Indiana this season.

3-on-3 Roundtable

You may be familiar with ESPN.com’s 5-on-5 roundtables, which feature opinion and analysis from ESPN writers and TrueHoop Network contributors on pressing NBA topics. Along with other THN blogs, Cowbell Kingdom has brought that format to the local level in the form of our own 3-on-3 roundtable.

Tim Donahue and Jared Wade of Eight Points, Nine Seconds join me to preview today’s Kings/Pacers game.

1. Match-up to watch?

Tim Donahue:  Roy Hibbert vs. the Sacramento bigs.  Defensively, there’s really no one on the Kings that can deal with Big Roy, but at the other end, there’s also no one for Roy to guard. Both Cousins and Hickson are quicker and more athletic than Hibbert, and both get to the line at a high rate. Foul trouble for Hibbert could be key with Foster not making the trip.

Jared Wade: With Tyreke coming off a few lousy games and Darren Collison not exactly being, let’s just say, Gary Payton, that would be the concern. DC has been markedly better this season than his first as a Pacer but he isn’t always aggressive in the scoring department. And if he gets out-dueled 25-10, that will force the other guys to make up a lot in their match-ups.

Jonathan Santiago: Tyreke Evans vs. Paul George.  The Pacers swingman is building his reputation as one of the league’s better defenders.  He’ll probably check Evans tonight, with former New Orleans teammates Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton going head-to-head.

2. Stat that decides the game..

Tim Donahue: Sacramento’s offensive rebounding percentage. The Kings are the worst shooting team in the league (42.8 effective field goal percentage). The Pacers are fourth best at field goal defense (45.2 percent). If the Kings can’t pound the offensive glass (third in the league at 29.3 percent) against a Pacer team that’s pedestrian on the defensive glass (19th at 73.2 percent), then Indy will roll over them pretty easily.

Jared Wade: If the Pacers shoot 45 percent tonight, they’ll win. There aren’t many teams that shoot worse than the Pacers (at 41.3 percent), but the Kings (dead last in the league at 39.6 percent) are one of them. Fortunately for Pacers fans, Indy keeps their opponents missing, too. So far they’re the 4th best team defensively, keeping opponents to a meager 41.5 percent. Sacto is the polar opposite, allowing 47.8 percent. If all these trends align, look for the Pacers to win by 10.

Jonathan Santiago:  Offensive rebounding, particularly for DeMarcus Cousins.   A large chunk of his offense actually comes off missed shots by his teammates (22.7 percent to be exact, according to mySynergySports).  Keeping Roy Hibbert and David West off the boards will be critical to his offensive output this evening.

3. True or False: The Pacers offense catches up with their defense tonight against the Kings.

Tim Donahue: Sure feels like true. Sacramento is 29th in field goal defense (51.2 percent), which should help Pacers, but they’re also 29th in defensive-rebounding percentage. These are the two most important defensive statistical categories, largely explaining why the Kings are 28th in defensive efficiency. The Pacers O lives on the offensive glass (fourth in offensive rebounding percentage) and by getting to the line (fifth in FT/FGA). The Kings don’t send people to the line much (seventh in FT/FGA), but Sacramento’s league worst 71.4 percentage shooting allowed at the rim on the second most attempts per game seems to imply that’s less about discipline and more about apathetic defense.

Jared Wade: True. Coming off a five-game road trip and heading out for another three-gamer on Friday, Sacramento really needs this win tonight. But the Kings are losing by nearly 12 points per game and haven’t beaten a good team this year other than the Lakers minus Bynum. Well, the Pacers are a good team for the first time in seven years. And coming off an unheard-of-this-year three-days off, they won’t be the team to help Sacto get back on track.

Jonathan Santiago: True.  The Kings are perhaps the worst defensive team in the league, ranking dead last in opponents points per game (101.8) and second to last in defensive rating (108.5, league average is 102.6).  If the Pacers can get it going in transition (where the Kings are third worst in the league, surrendering 15.8 fastbreak points per game) and inside (where the Kings give up a league high 50.1 points in the paint per contest), Indiana’s offense may look like world beaters tonight.

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.