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Nets hit Sacramento for matchup with Kings

DraftKings preview of Brooklyn Nets vs. Sacramento Kings on TNT Tuesday Night.

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Sacramento Kings v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

For the first time since Kyrie Irving’s hiatus from the team, as well as Jacque Vaughn’s official hiring as coach, the Brooklyn Nets flat-out didn’t play well on Sunday night in Los Angeles. They fell to a Lakers team missing LeBron James - making James’ next opportunity to matchup with Kevin Durant for the first time since Christmas Day 2018 in 2023. The Lakers held Brooklyn at bay from beginning to end, the only real signs of life shown during a 16-3 run during the third quarter.

Defensively, Brooklyn could not contain Anthony Davis, who finished with a monster 37 and 18 stat-line. Some of it was unstoppable shotmaking, some of it was the inability to contain Davis on the glass, who finished with ten offensive boards. But it was a curious decision, nonetheless, to refuse to adjust their strategy. The Nets did not once double AD, instead showing help in the gaps and getting torched anyway. This against a Lakers team dead last, by a lot, in three-point percentage.

In the above tweet, you can say Brooklyn’s defense looks identical both two minutes into the game and midway through the third.

It’s an even more curious decision when you consider that they had to watch their star, Kevin Durant, get doubled and generally hounded every time he touched the ball, especially on post-ups. He still finished with 31, because, well, you know who he is, but it was by no means easy. There was indeed a viral highlight of Russell Westbrook blocking his former teammate one-on-one, but KD rarely saw single coverage on Sunday night.

Those weren’t the only keys to a Nets loss, though. The team shot 26% from three, the aforementioned Claxton injury decimated the rotation (probably not great that the team can’t trust Day’Ron Sharpe with real minutes), and so did the absences of Seth Curry and Ben Simmons on a back-to-back. Overall, they looked like a team finishing up a West Coast road trip after spending Saturday night out in L.A.

Well, they didn’t finish it up. Brooklyn is back in action on Tuesday night in Sacramento vs. the Kings.

Where to follow the game

The game is being telecast on YES Network, as well as the YES App nationally (but not internationally.) WFAN-FM has the radio call for the late tip, scheduled for start at 10:00 p.m. ET, from SacTown’s Golden 1 Center.


Kyrie Irving is out for now, although, again, the situation is ‘fluid’. Whatever that might mean. Both Nets who missed the Lakers game due to the back-to-back are available: Seth Curry with the ankle and Nic Claxton with an ailing eye. Also, Ben Simmons with the knee is available as is Yuta Watanabe after taking a hard fall on his lower back in LA, T.J. Warren with the foot remains out.

The game

The Sacramento Kings are a solid team, maybe even good. This will only make it even funnier if, in a Western Conference that looks good but maybe not like the fiery gauntlet some thought it would be, the Kings still finish in tenth. They’re sitting at 6-6, but at 6-2 after dropping their first four out of the gate.

Predictably, they can score on just about anyone, but are an extremely movable force on D, all adding up to a net rating a breath away from being true neutral (0.1).

But the way they get it done on offense is fairly unique, with Domantas Sabonis as one of the few true post hubs in the NBA. He’s constantly wheeling around the mid-range area, setting guards like Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk up with screens, handoffs, and back-door cuts, and if he frees up the explosive De’Aaron Fox with a out. This all adds up to Sacramento shooting the fewest rim attempts in the league, but making nearly all of them, having by far the best percentage in the league on such shots. The opposing big is pulled away from the basket, after all. They are, though, one of just three teams that get to the rim less frequently than Brooklyn.

The Kings, led by Mike Brown, are content to shoot a bunch of threes, let their stars in Sabonis and Fox take mid-range shots, and take it to the rim mostly when the lane is wide-open. It is paramount the Nets effectively chase guards around screens or commit to switching a smaller player onto Sabonis; that said, it’s hard to stomach a Seth Curry or even Joe Harris guarding the Lithuanian. And, just to make it clear, close out on Kevin Huerter, who is making OVER HALF OF HIS SEVEN THREES A GAME! 51%!

Defensively, the Kings may be better than advertised; they don't give up a lot of threes OR shots at the rim. But opponents are absolutely torching them from deep, shooting nearly 39%, as well as from inside, where Sabonis has never been the greatest rim protector.

Player to Watch

The newest Klutch Sports signee, of course: De’Aaron Fox, who has been unstoppable in clutch time this season and making sure you can’t go under screens against him by shooting over 36% from deep.

(The Kings are a direct descendant of the Cincinnati Royals, who the “Big O” played for back in the 1960s.)

Sure, who knows how the Tyrese Haliburton trade will shake out, down the road. Hali looks like a budding star. But the Kings gained a bonafide offensive centerpiece in that deal, and I'm not talking about Sabonis. Fox is averaging 28 and 6 since the insertion of Sabonis into a Sacramento uniform, and for whatever reason he couldn’t achieve that level of play next to Haliburton, that’s in the past. He’s absolutely balling right now.

There are a bunch of stats and cool highlights I could point to, like the fact that he is 12th in the NBA in scoring, but first among the top 20 in shooting percentage. Or his ridiculous, game-winning 3-pointer vs. the Magic. But all you need to look at, really, is this clip of De’Aaron Fox getting a necessary stop in crunch time:

There are no questions about his future commitment, or his fit in Sacramento. He’s all in, and as much chemistry as he has with Sabonis, there are many possessions where he clears everyone out, goes one-on-one, and gets what he wants. Sure, I led with the uniqueness of Sabonis’ post wizardry, but that’s because there are many deadly isolation and pick-and-roll ball handlers in the NBA. Just know that Fox is one of them, and if the Nets don’t contain him down before worrying about everything else, they may get run out of the building on Tuesday night.

From the Vault

No video, but remember those 2002 Kings, who maybe/probably got screwed by the NBA in the playoffs? Well, it was those New Jersey Nets who handed them their worst loss of the season, winning a February game 117-83.

Byron Scott had a great quote in the post-game, saying, “I was a little surprised we were beating them like we were beating them, but our guys were really in tune tonight.”

Every Net who played at least 20 minutes scored in double digits, including an efficient 25-point effort from Keith Van Horn; this section may be transforming into a KVH ode.

WHAT ARE THE ODDS [via Tom Lorenzo]

Brooklyn Nets +1.5 (-110); ML +105; O/U 224.5

From a betting perspective this one feels a bit like a trap, right? Yes, the Kings are on a 3-game win streak and, sure, the Nets got beat by a LeBron James-less Lakers team that is pretty, pretty bad; but, it feels weird to see them as underdogs in this one.

Brooklyn has been playing much, much better basketball of late as we all know. And of course I don’t like the fact that they’re without Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons, but in the last 5 games the Nets have been 2nd in the NBA in DRTG (102.1) behind only the 76ers.

Yes, in that span the Kings have been scoring at really high clip, good for 3rd in ORTG (117.3) making this essentially a game of stops; can the Nets get enough stops down the stretch to stave off the red hot Kings and/or can the Kings get a few crunch-time stops against the Nets? Mind you, the Kings have been toward the bottom of the league (24th) in DRTG over their last five games.

Here’s what it comes down to for me: can the Nets keep up with the Kings? Do we get the Clippers/Knicks/Wizards Nets whose offense was humming or do we get the Mavericks/Hornets Nets who leaned heavily into their defense to keep close within those games?

The way the Kings offense is playing I don’t see them getting locked down by the Nets - at least not in full, but at the same time I’m not sure the Kings have the defensive ability to make this a runaway game.

Sooo... I’d actually lean into the ML (+105) on this one (a Kevin Durant game winner, maybe?!) but also wouldn’t be mad at you for taking the points. I also like the OVER (224.5) on this one. The Lakers game on night two was a bit of a disappointing-but-also-expected result. Now, with rest I think the offense gets back to clicking down the stretch.

As always, the FWIW: I’m 3-2 on the year with these weekly bets.

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