That could have gone better. After winning three straight games, the Brooklyn Nets came home to play the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night. What happened? The Nets lost by 25 points. The Nets are still in the eighth seed with their 13-16 record, but it would have done the team wonders if they could have extended their winning streak heading into 2015.
Coming from the West Coast all the way to Brooklyn will be the Sacramento Kings. It's been an injury plagued season for the Kings and they find themselves on the outside looking in on the Western Conference playoff standings. They won their last game, a 135-129 overtime final to the New York Knicks at home on Saturday night. The Kings are 13-17, but I think they still have a good chance of getting back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2005-2006 season.
Where to follow the game
YES Network is where you wanna be if you're near the TV. On the radio, with the New Jersey Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins facing off on WFAN (Pensburgh and In Lou We Trust have more on that game), WCBS 880 AM will carry the Nets and Kings. Tip off is scheduled for a bit after 7:30.
Nothing here for the Nets.
As for Sacramento, Ramon Sessions is dealing with a back injury and he's questionable for this game.
What's up with these teams? Let's get into it:
Offensive Rebounding Rate
Free Throw Rate
Effective Field Goal Percentage
Opponent's Effective Field Goal Percentage
The big rumors surrounding the Nets and Kings appear to be cooled at least, but there' still plenty of time between now and the trading deadline on February 19. The Nets are still reportedly looking to trade one of their big players, and as we get closer to the deadline, more teams might appear in the rumor mill.
In a surprising move, the Kings got rid of head coach Michael Malone earlier this month. Since then, former Utah Jazz player and head coach Tyrone Corbin has been coaching the team on an interim basis. The Kings have been linked to George Karl, Mark Jackson, and amazingly, Vinny Del Negro.
The Nets frontcourt had a rough go of it on Saturday, and tonight doesn't get any easier. Next to New Orleans' (and fellow former Kentucky wildcat) Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins has been the best big man in the league this season. Cousins has improved every season he's been in the league and this year, Boogie is averaging career highs in points per game (24.7), rebounds per game (12.1), and shooting (from the free throw line and the field). What makes it even more impressive is that DMC is doing this while taking on even more responsibility on offense (he's third in the league in usage rate). Cousins is great in the low post, but he can also extend out to the high post. He's also become a better passer and that versatility makes him an almost impossible cover. The front court tag team of Mason Plumlee and Brook Lopez have had a rough go of it in their limited time together, but if you're looking for the optimistic view, they've only played 61 minutes together and Lopez is still working his way back from injury. The Nets should throw a variety of looks at Boogie in the hopes that they can slow down. I'd joke around and say Kevin Garnett should blow in his ear, but that wouldn't end well for him.
The center pieces of the big rumors will be playing, but not against each other to start off. Since returning from the calf injury (he only missed two games for what it's worth), Deron Williams has been coming off of the bench. He and everybody else on the second team had a disastrous Saturday night against Indiana and will be trying to bounce back. As for the center piece that would have come to Brooklyn, Darren Collison has been having a pretty nice season for his new squad. He's coming off of a 27 point and 10 assist night against the Knicks on Saturday and has done a great job replacing Isaiah Thomas. I took a look at Collison and others a while back and everything there still holds up. Jarrett Jack will probably start again and he'll need to continue playing well. Since joining the starting lineup last week, he's been averaging a shade over 20 points a game. His assists have declined each game, but that's a relatively minor complaint when he's been shooting 59 percent from the field.
Player to watch: Rudy Gay
It's been a little over a year since the Kings acquired Gay in a trade with the Toronto Raptors. The narrative surrounding Gay for much of his career has been one of an inefficient player who shot too much. We haven't heard as much of that criticism these days. Over at Raptors HQ, Steven LeBron assesses the trade and writes:
In just one season, Gay has gone from an overpaid not-quite superstar to someone who -- when you take into account the league's new television deal and escalating salary cap as a result -- is adequately paid at worst, underpaid in the best-case scenario. On the court, he's become a more efficient player as well. Sometimes it's about finding a right fit. You could stack talented players on a team, but if they have similar skill sets and offensive approaches (Gay-DeRozan, and in a more recent example, the Phoenix Suns trying to make it work with Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas and Eric Bledsoe), it becomes hard to maximize the full potential of the roster.
Gay signed a three year extension in mid November and has continued to play well. He's the second option on this Kings offense and plays off of Boogie Cousins. Although he's only shooting 44.8 percent from the field, he's shooting 38 percent from three point range and 85 percent from the free throw line. Playing next to Cousins and being fed by Collison has created a lot of great scoring opportunities for Gay that may not have always been there earlier in his career when he was counted on to be the lead option. Altogether, that trio has been one of the league's best, outscoring opponents by 18 points per 100 possessions when they're on the court at the same time.
Gay will be matched up with Joe Johnson. In a lot of ways, these players are similar to one another. Both players have been on the receiving end of criticism due to their large contracts, haven't experienced much postseason success, and are solid players that are best utilized as second options on their teams' offense. Focusing on this contest in particular, Johnson will try to bounce back after his 4-13 showing against Indiana. Johnson doesn't take as many shots in close as you would like (which is why he's not at the free throw line that much), but he might need to change up against Gay. Johnson is a bit bigger than Gay, but Rudy's length can pose some matchup problems.
From the Vault
The Kings retired Peja Stojakovic's jersey about a week ago (week ago) against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Take a trip back to 2004 and see Peja at his best (without Chris Webber, who was suspended at the time and still not back from the knee injury that wrecked what could have been a trip to the Finals in 2003) against the LA Lakers.
More reading: Sactown Royalty
- Brooklyn Nets: Game Notes - Brooklyn Nets
- Sacramento Kings Game Notes - Sacramento Kings
- Sacramento at Brooklyn Game Preview - STATS LLC
- Nets’ Brook Lopez bubbling over with frustration - Andy Vasquez - The Record
- Nets coach on Brook Lopez: ‘Ask him where his confidence is’ - Fred Kerber - New York Post
- Benching a new low for Deron Williams with Nets - Stefan Bondy - New York Daily News