By J.M. Poulard
Fresh off sinking the Indiana Pacers with a last second shot on Wednesday night, Monta Ellis and the Golden State Warriors (18-23) will host the Sacramento Kings (9-31) tonight in a rematch of the overtime thriller of December 21st. That loss must have stung the Kings but they will have a chance to avenge it tonight.
On offense, the Kings average 96.9 points per game (21st in the NBA) on 44.0% field goal shooting (25th in the league). Sacramento gets the bulk of their points by simply attacking the painted area to get shot attempts right at the rim. According to Hoopdata, they average 23.2 field goal attempts at the rim (10th in the association) and convert 65.7% of those shots (seventh in the NBA).
In addition to being a team that plays inside out, Sacramento does a great job of relentlessly attacking the boards, as evidenced by their 13.3 offensive rebounds per game (tied for third best mark in the league). The end result is that the Kings end up dominating the paint on most nights, as they boast an impressive 43.0 points in the paint per game (eighth in NBA).
In their last encounter, the Kings were able to put up 50 points in the paint thanks in large part to their 18 for 30 shooting at the rim and six for 20 shooting from less than 10 feet from the basket. Mind you, despite the fact that the Arco Arena tenants put up 109 points on the board in that game, there were still areas where their offense struggled.
Indeed, the Kings only converted 14 out of 60 shots beyond 10 feet from the basket, which translates into a 23.3% shooting mark. Needless to say, those are not great shooting numbers. However, given the fact that Sacramento was able to manufacture so many shots at the rim, it led to their players also drawing a lot of fouls and going to the line 28 times. So although the team’s outside shooting was subpar, they managed to offset it to some degree.
The other area where the Kings struggled was their ball security. On the season, they average 15.4 turnovers per game (26th in the NBA), however they coughed the ball up 20 times on December 21st, which the Warriors turned into 25 points.
On defense, the Kings allow 102.8 points per game (22nd in the league) on 47.2% field goal shooting (26th in the association). Sacramento’s struggles on defense stem from their inability to protect the basket. Their perimeter players struggle to stay in front of their opponents and the Kings frontcourt players do a poor job of offering any form of resistance at the basket. Indeed, Paul Westphal’s team surrenders 20.6 shots at the rim (25th in the NBA) per game and also allows a staggering 69.8% shooting mark (last in the league) on those very same shots.
Those trends held true when they faced the Dubs in mid December. Golden State converted 17 of 22 shots at the basket (77.3%) on their way to 54 points in the paint and 33 free throw attempts.
The Kings defense is not exactly the blueprint other teams would use for their defensive rotations. Indeed, Sacramento players do a good jog of initially providing some help defense, but once they are forced to rotate; that’s when they allow other teams to get clean looks. Whether it’s in pick and rolls or curl screens, their defenders usually end up getting exposed.
With that said, the Kings still have an area in which they excel on defense: forcing miscues. Sacramento forces 15.1 turnovers per game (tied for eighth in the NBA) which typically allows their team to get out in transition, where they score 15.1 fast break points per game (ninth in the league). When Golden State traveled to Arco Arena last month, the Kings were able to force them to commit 19 turnovers, which helped fuel their transition game as they scored 31 fast break points.
We should expect another high scoring game in which both teams get their fair share of attempts at the basket (52 combined shots at the basket last time around). This game will probably be decided by perimeter shooting; the team that does the best job at it will probably get the win. Also, keep an eye on the Monta Ellis and Tyreke Evans match up, should be a good duel.
Sacramento game notes: Francisco Garcia (calf) will miss tonight’s game according to the Kings official site.
Golden State game notes: Stephen Curry and Andris Biedrins both missed the December 21st match up but will suit up tonight.
J.M. Poulard is a part time contributor for Warriors World and you can follow him on Twitter under the handle name ShyneIV.