Before I get into my usual breakdown, it feels like the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings have played 11 times so far this season. Every three or four days, it feels like we have a matchup against Sacramento. Nothing wrong with that, I do enjoy me some Boogie Cousins, but man, I'm glad this is the last game between the two teams for awhile. Feels like I know Sacramento more than I should.
Anyway, the New Orleans Pelicans are winners of five of their last seven games, but they also enter their matchup against Sacramento banged up. Anthony Davis is yet to pass the mandatory concussion protocol while Tyreke Evans' status remains uncertain with tendinitis in his knee. Both would change the Pelican game plan - Davis would push Ryan Anderson up into the starting lineup while Evans would mean Jrue Holiday, Toney Douglas and Norris Cole have to absorb all of the playmaking duties.
After open mocking for their ownership situation, trades and signings in free agency and overall ineptitude on the coaching staff, the Sacramento Kings are on the verge of being a playoff team. In a weaker Western Conference, they are in position to contend for the eighth seed, holding down the ninth seed but one game behind eighth seed Portland.
Rajon Rondo continues to drop dimes - 11.8 assists per game. The Marco Bellineli/Ben McLemore duo has helped space the floor for Sacramento, and Rudy Gay leads as a combo forward who can get a bucket for the Kings when need be. The other, less heralded guys like Willie Cauley-Stein (5.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, good defense), Omri Casspi (12.4 points, 44.8% from three, New Orleans nemesis) and Darren Collison (awful defender, 12.6 points, 4.2 assists, 37.6% from three) all offer different good things for the Kings, good enough to make them contenders for the final spot.
But let's talk about DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins is playing like one of the five best players in the world right now. He's scoring the basketball and getting every tough rebound for Sacramento. By proxy of having the ball so much, he's having the occasional 3-4 assists, and he's active defensively, meaning he can get a block and steal or two. Check out the numbers below:
YEESH. Social media talks so much about trading Boogie this, or trading Boogie that, that we often, and I mean OFTEN, forget just how talented he is. Yes, he's a headcase (to me). Yes, he has trouble with coaches sometimes. He's difficult to deal with, but man, he's an excellent basketball player, one that I hope finds Basketball Valhalla whether it's with Sacramento or not.
Three Keys to Victory
Jrue Holiday on Rajon Rondo - Stifles their offense. If you get Rondo off of his game, you can potentially match up with Sacramento's offense, and thus, make it more of a winnable game with Davis and Evans (potentially) out. I say, put Jrue Holiday on him. Long arms, tall, smart defender, Jrue should be able to bother and pester Rajon on the perimeter and on the pick-and-roll.
Shooting the three - The Pelicans will need to knock down a ton of threes to win this game. Ryan Anderson, Jrue Holiday, Norris Cole, and Toney Douglas will have to give them 12-15 between the four. If they can get the occasional Alonzo Gee three and a handful from Dante Cunningham from the corner, the Pelicans will have a good chance of winning this game.
Omer Asik on DeMarcus Cousins - For whatever reason, the last time these two teams played, Boogie was getting annoyed with Asik. Cousins finished with a very light 32 points and 12 rebounds the last time they played, but Asik was in his bag for a bit there. If I'm Alvin Gentry, I would give this matchup plenty of time together, hoping that Boogie would get more and more agitated and into foul trouble.