The Atlanta Hawks begin a west coast road trip Friday night against the Sacramento Kings. Can they knock off Boogie’s team and get the road trip started in a positive way?
The Atlanta Hawks finished off their most recent home stand the right way. They defeated the Denver Nuggets rather easily thanks to a lightning fast start. Atlanta scored 72 points in the first half and never looked back. Denver trimmed the lead to four points at one point in the fourth quarter, but the Hawks have Paul Millsap, and the Nuggets don’t, so everything was okay.
The Hawks are now flying west. Their first stop is a shiny palace in Sacramento where they’ll take on the Kings. They have already played once this season. Atlanta nabbed the victory in their first meeting. The Hawks won 106-95 thanks to 18 points and 11 rebounds from Dwight Howard. Howard also held DeMarcus Cousins to 14 points and 12 board (good enough, right?).
Atlanta shot just 41.8 percent from the field in that contest, but they did shoot 11-for-30 from three-point range. When Atlanta knocks down three-pointers they tend to come out victorious. The Kings shot well, shooting 48 percent from the field and 43.5 percent from three-point range, but a dismal fourth quarter where they scored just 14 points sunk them.
Tonight they’ll be looking for a little revenge. Wins have been hard to come by for the Kings. They have long been known as one of the most dysfunctional organizations in the NBA. That is what has come to define them as a franchise. To erase that label they are going to have to start winning.
Sacramento is 21-32 on the season and in 10th place in the Western Conference. They’re still just two and a half games back of a playoff spot. Given the weakness of the bottom the conference the Kings absolutely have a chance of sneaking into the postseason.
They are still not a very good team. They have the 14th ranked offense in the NBA, scoring just 108.2 points per 100 possessions. Their defense is what holds them back the most, much to the chagrin of coach Dave Joerger. They allow 110.9 points per 100 possessions which ranks 23rd in the league. This is not grit and grind.
The Kings do have a superstar, however, giving them a chance to win any game they play. DeMarcus Cousins is the best center in the league and if you don’t know that you’re just a hater. Taylor Swift said it best, “and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate.” She is a poetic goddess.
Cousins enters into tonight’s contest averaging 27.9 points and 10.7 rebounds per game on 45 percent shooting and 36.6 percent from three-point range. You read that correctly. Boogie Cousins shoots above league average from three-point distance now! That’s just unfair.
Sadly, Cousins just doesn’t have much talent around him. Sacramento’s roster is a bit of a mess. Rudy Gay‘s season ending injury left them without a second banana. Their second leading scorer is now Darren Collison at 13.4 points per game, followed by Garrett Temple at 7.7 points per game.
Those two are fine role players, but having them as your second and third leading scorers is not ideal. Their offensive rating being as high as 14th is a testament to how good Cousins has become.
It appears that the Hawks will once again be without Thabo Sefolosha. It will mark the seventh game in a row that Sefolosha has missed due to a groin injury. As we’ve mentioned, Sacramento doesn’t exactly have any terrifying wing scorers. Sefolosha’s absence won’t hurt near as badly as it did Monday night against Gordon Hayward and the Utah Jazz.
Tim Hardaway Jr. has filled in admirably for Sefolosha in the starting lineup. Hardaway can’t match Sefolosha’s defensive impact, but his offense is significantly better. In the month of February Hardaway is averaging 18.4 points per game on 49.2 percent shooting and 41.4 percent from outside. The Kings will have to find someone to slow him down.
Boogie against Dwight Howard or Paul Millsap will be the match-up to watch in this one. For all his faults Cousins is still one of the best players in the NBA. He’s must see television whenever he’s on the court.
The numberFire projections give the Hawks the edge in this one. I agree, but I don’t feel good about it. This Hawks team has shown that they can lose to anyone. This Kings team has shown that they can beat anyone. That was never more evident than in Wednesday night’s win against the Boston Celtics. This one should be fun. I’ll get the coffee brewing.