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NBA Preview: New Orleans Pelicans look to bounce back against disappointing Sacramento Kings

Both teams envisioned better starts, but many had penciled in Kings as playoff sleeper.

New Orleans Pelicans v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

After seeing their winning streak come to an end last night in Los Angeles, the New Orleans Pelicans head 384 miles north to play the Sacramento Kings on the second night of a back-to-back.

This will be the first of three meetings between the two teams this season. New Orleans was 3-1 against the Kings during the 2018-19 season.

Sacramento (13-22) currently sits two games and two spots ahead of the Pels in the Western Conference standings, but this has been a very disappointing start for a team that many viewed as a sleeper pick to make their first trip to the postseason since 2005-06.

The Kings snapped an eight-game losing streak with a 128-123 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday, so they will be rested and ready by tip-off.

They will be playing without the services of guard/forward Bogdan Bogdanovic (right ankle), and Marvin Bagley III (midfoot sprain).

Bagley has already missed 26 games this season, but Bogdanovic has been Sacramento’s top bench scorer, averaging 14.5 points, 3.6 assists, and 3.0 rebounds. The Kings are 0-5 without him in the lineup.

Memphis Grizzlies v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Stopping the Kings begins with containing former Pelican first-rounder Buddy Hield. Hield leads Sacramento in scoring with 20.4 points per game, while making nearly four three-pointers each night.

However, as the Kings have struggled as of late, so has Buddy. Over his last 10 games, his scoring has dipped to 16.4 points per game, and he is shooting 37.3 percent from the field (32.6 3P%).

He’ll need plenty of support from his talented backcourt mate, De’Aaron Fox. He had a season-high 27 points, nine assists, and five steals against Memphis. Fox has been limited to 17 games this season due to injury, but seems to be finding his rhythm and showing why he could be a star in the making.

The Kings have lived and died with their perimeter players, and so far the results have not been good.

At 105.6 points per game, Sacramento has the NBA’s 25th best offense. The Kings are 19th in the league in field goal percentage (45.1) and 22nd from behind the three-point line (35.0).

Their lack of an inside presence and reliance on the outside shot has made Sacramento one of the league’s worst rebounding teams. That should be welcome news to the Pels after dealing with the Lakers’ front line last night.

Opponents have shot 46 percent from the floor against Sacramento over their last 10 games, while averaging 110.5 points per game. The Kings are 7-20 when they allow 100 points are more, and the Pelicans are 0-3 when they don’t reach the century mark.

The Pelicans will be looking for Lonzo Ball to continue his strong play as of late. Ball scored 23 against the Lakers after dropping 27 on the Rockets in his previous game, giving him back to back 20-point nights for the first time in his young career.

Almost everyone else, with the exception of Derrick Favors, will be trying to put their LA performances in the rear view mirror.

Jrue Holiday, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart were a combined 16-of-48 (33.3 %) from the floor, including going 3-for-18 from deep.

The looks don’t expect to be as hard to get against a Kings team without a true inside presence. That should also help New Orleans get to the free throw line, a place they couldn’t find with a map against LA.

A 17-point deficit at the charity stripe shouldn’t be a problem in Sacramento, and the Kings don’t have anyone that comes close to Anthony Davis on the inside.

A split on this road trip isn’t the best outcome, but it isn’t the worst either.

Expect the Pelicans to bounce back with a much better performance tonight. The long march back to .500 took a step back, but should begin anew with an overthrow of the Kings.

Where To Watch/Listen

What: New Orleans Pelicans (11-24) at Sacramento Kings (13-22)

Where: Golden One Center, Sacramento, CA

When: Saturday, January 4, 2019 9:00 PM CST