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Preview: The inconsistent Hornets take on the consistently bad Kings in Sacramento

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Charlotte needs to get healthy and start stringing together some consecutive wins.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Charlotte Hornets Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

What: Charlotte Hornets (15-17) at Sacramento Kings (13-20)

When: 10:00 pm EST

Where: Golden 1 Center; Sacramento, California

How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

A trip to Sacramento has always been a welcome journey for teams battling for playoff position like the year’s Hornets. I have nothing but sympathy and respect for diehard Kings fans as they’ve had to endure 14 consecutive years without a playoff appearance and the underachieving 2020-21 team will assuredly make it 15. This game is another one of those “must win” road games against an inferior team if the Hornets want to stay in the thick of the playoff hunt.

The Hornets last eight games have been an up-and-down pattern of win, loss, win, loss, win, loss, win, loss. So I guess that means they win this one?

Sacramento Kings overview

The Kings are hard to figure out. They had a really nice 7-1 stretch from late January into early February with quality wins over the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Denver Nuggets, and Los Angeles Clippers. But just as soon as they started looking competent they immediately decided to go full-on Kings mode by losing nine straight games before narrowly beating the Detroit Pistons on Friday.

The Kings unquestioned leader is lightning-quick point guard De’Aaron Fox. In this his fourth NBA season he’s averaging a borderline All-Star level 22.8 points and 7.2 assists on a career-high 47% from the field. Rookie guard Tyrese Haliburton, the No. 12 pick in last year’s draft, has played exceptionally well this year and his contributing 13.2 points and 5.4 assists per game, but he’s also hitting a ridiculous 43% from the 3-point line. He’s currently day-to-day after missing Friday’s game with a calf injury.

Wings Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield both chip in about 16 point a night with respectable 3-point shooting. The Kings two main bigs are center Richaun Holmes (13.2 PPG, 8.2 RPG) and power forward Marvin Bagley III (13.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG). Sacramento has a couple of proven veterans coming off the bench with guard Cory Joseph and forward Nemanja Bjelica.

How the Hornets can win

First, the Hornets need to get healthy. Both Devonte’ Graham and Cody Zeller missed Charlotte’s last game and are desperately needed to keep Charlotte’s rotations tight.

From a strategy standpoint, beating the Kings really comes down to containing De’Aaron Fox by keeping him from getting to the rim. Fox is shooting 78% at the rim but only 37% from between three and 10 feet. The challenge, of course, is Charlotte lacks a true rim protector who can deter explosive players like Fox from feasting in the paint. This will only get worse if Zeller can’t go. Fox is only a career 33% 3-point shooter and hitting just below 35% this year, so look for the Hornets to go beneath screens and dare him to hit from deep.

If there was ever a game for Charlotte to go nuts on offense, this is it. Sacramento has the league’s worst team defensive rating by a country mile. Malik Monk has led the team in scoring in each of Charlotte’s last two games with 29 and 25 points, and he could very well be the X-factor once again. Interestingly, Gordon Hayward hasn’t led the team in scoring in a game since January 25th. Let’s see if Gordon can get things rolling against the worst defense in the NBA.

Poll

What’s your prediction for tonight’s game?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    Hornets win big
    (41 votes)
  • 48%
    Hornets win a close one
    (70 votes)
  • 18%
    Kings win a close one
    (26 votes)
  • 4%
    Kings win big
    (7 votes)
144 votes total Vote Now