The two matchups between the Pelicans and Kings this season have presented a steep contrast in narratives. In mid-January, a healthy New Orleans roster (by healthy I mean Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday all suited up), stormed into Sleep Train Arena and rode some hot outside shooting to a 109-97 victory.
Fast forward two weeks later, and a bruised and battered Pelicans team (no Davis, no Evans, no Gordon), outlasted the seemingly bipolar Kings 114-105 behind the shooting prowess of Ryan Anderson. On its surface, the outpouring of points was a positive note for an offense that has, um, not exactly gelled as well as we thought it would. But watching that game back earlier today, I realized that most of the points scored in that game were fluky and the byproduct of facing a team that was either in protest or not going about their business with maximum effort. (Or both.)
To say that the Kings defense is nonexistent would be putting things mildly. So, instead of putting things mildly, I am going to be upfront like an Italian uncle at a dinner party: "Aye, Sacramento... With all due respect, your defense is trash."
(I love how Italians use that "with all due respect" nugget to preface the fury they are about to unleash.)
Defense is mostly about effort and on a possession to possession basis, the Kings' effort is lacking. Guards are allowed to whirl and whiz their way through the lane and drop off shovel passes to feasting big men for easy dunks -- hell, even Omer Asik found success against Sacramento inside. Anderson was curiously left unguarded and sometimes even unaccounted for during the January 27th tilt, playing a tremendous role in his 36-point outburst.
People will tell you that he was auditioning for his future free agent pay day with the Kings, but I believe it may have been the other way around. DeMarcus Cousins and the rest of the gang let Anderson hoist with minimal resistance to perhaps appease the Sacramento native. HOW ABOUT THAT FOR A HOT TAKE!
Here is the point of the preview where I begin to outline the "keys to victory."
With the Kings, it is pretty simple... You have to get stops and jump on them early. The basis of Sacramento's basketball existence relies on their ability to outscore their opponents. Allowing a fresh 109.3 points per game (last in the league), George Karl's band of misfits will rarely see themselves pinned in a 91-89 defensive battle. Instead, they will opt to play matador defense, push the pace and pick and roll their way to the 100-point plateau.
Losers of five of six, the Pelicans look to scoop up a victory as they embark on a six-game road trip starting on Wednesday. I for one hope that we see a whole bunch of Kendrick Perkins to really imprint his role as "the enforcer," and lead New Orleans to a much needed loss.
Gotta let them ping pong balls flow, baby.
What: Pelicans vs. Kings
When: March 7th, 6:00 PM
Where: Smoothie King Center
How: FSNO, 99.5 FM WRNO