By Will Z
After a tough loss to the 76ers, the 2nd seed in the East, the Kings continue their homestand against the 2nd seed in the West in the Grizzlies. Sacramento got up big against Philadelphia and showed that they could compete with the best, but were unable to close out the tight game. Tonight will be another tough test to see how the Kings can match up with the best in the league as they close out the season series against Memphis.
The Kings come into the game 1-2 against the Grizzlies on the season and look to tie up the season series. The main headline after the last game was Steven Adams and his 23 Rebounds, 13 of which were on the offensive glass. The Kings got outrebounded 57-47 in the 10 point loss and the Grizzlies won the 2nd Chance Point battle 15-11. It may be a recurring theme tonight, as the Grizzlies continue to lead the league in both Total Rebounds and Offensive Rebounds per game, averaging 49.4 and 13.4 of each, respectfully.
It's still an area where the Kings have done a good job this year, limiting opponents to 9.6 Offensive Rebounds per game, 3rd least in the league. But then again, they aren’t going against Steven Adams every night. They’ll have to make sure they find him early on shots, box out, double team box out, whatever you have to do to keep him from going off on the boards. Keegan Murray has been a Rebounding machine lately though, so hopefully him being more attuned to grabbing boards may just be the thing to help tonight.
Another key piece to watch tonight is Desmond Bane, who is back for the Grizzlies after missing the last 2 games against the Kings. Bane scored 31 Points in the first matchup of the season on 6-of-8 (75%) from beyond the arc. He’s shooting an absurd 42.1% from 3 this season on 7.3 attempts per night. Throw in his 5.2 Rebounds and 4.2 Assists and you are dealing with a legitimate star who fits exactly what the Grizzlies need around Ja Morant. Ja gets most of the attention, but as Kings fans have seen, he can carry a team when he gets going, and the numbers back it up. The Grizzlies are 13-1 when Bane shoots over 40.0% from deep.
For the Kings, we are seeing a stretch where both Harrison Barnes and Keegan are playing extremely high-level basketball. For what feels like the first time all season, both of the Kings starting forwards have been on torrid stretches. In the last 10 games, Barnes is averaging 21.9 Points, 3.8 Rebounds and 1.5 Assists on 54.9/52.3/86.4% shooting splits. In the same stretch, Murray has averaged 14.3 Points, 5.7 Rebounds, and 1.3 Assists on 53.3/50.8/92.9% splits. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Kings have gone 7-3 over that 10-game period.
When the two of them get going together, it opens up so much for the Kings offense. It’s what makes the Kings offense so special. If a player or two can get going on a hot streak, they have the ability to carry the team for a number of games. We saw it with Huerter in the beginning of the year, Monk in the middle, Sabonis had a completely dominant stretch, and now the Kings are getting absurd production from their two forwards.
Whether it continues to be Barnes and Keegan tonight, or another player steps up, the Kings will need all they can get tonight to get back in the win column against one of the league’s best teams.