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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs @ Sacramento Kings

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The Spurs finish off their West Coast road trip tonight against the energized Kings.

Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

At the start of this season, if you were to have told me that the Sacramento Kings would be over .500 on November 15, I would have directed you to the nearest rehab clinic. This isn't as much of a knock on the Kings as it is an analysis of Sacramento's schedule.

Sacramento kicked off the season at home against two heavyweights in the Warriors and Trail Blazers. Their prospects didn't look much better in their next seven games that featured road games in Los Angeles, Denver, Phoenix, OKC, Dallas, and Memphis. Even the bad teams in that stretch are tough outs with their (quite literally) pressing atmospheres and/or boisterous crowds. Any crackpot dream of the Sacramento Kings making the playoffs could very well have ended a week and a half into the season.

And after the Warriors bludgeoned Boogie and his buddies in the second half of their home opener, it appeared we could chalk up another season of the Kings being the Kings. But then they beat Portland. Then the Clippers on the road, the Nuggets twice in a row, and finally the Suns in Phoenix. The Kings were 5-1, and garnered their best start in 13 years.

There's been a rough patch over the past three games, but each comes with its fair share of "did it actually mean anything?" Chesapeake Energy Arena, even without Westbrook and Durant, is a tough place for any team to play at, and their game at Dallas didn't feature Darren Collison where they were still able to keep it close until the final few minutes.

The big issue for Sacramento is shooting. Ben McLemore is a prolific shooter, and appears to be blossoming nicely in his second year, but the rest of the team is loaded with shooters who are average, streaky, or struggling. Nik Stauskas will play a key role on a team at some point in his career (probably sooner than later), but his jumper hasn't been falling and it has limited the rest of his game. Darren Collison is a solid shooter, but has poured in a mere three of 20 from deep so far. Sacramento is hitting threes at a putrid 30.2% clip, and is making fewer per game than a team whose coach doesn't even believe in the shot.

So far in this early season, the Sacramento Kings have been masterful at getting to the line and shutting down opposing offenses.

Despite bricking their way to the 19th best FG% in the league, the Kings are able to put points on the board by drawing fouls and making the most of them. With Rudy Gay, DeMarcus Cousins, and Darren Collison manning the helm, the Kings are shooting a league best 36.4 free throws per game, which is mind-blowing to think about when Dwight Howard and James Harden play on the same team.

The most dramatic improvement in the Sacramento Kings between this year and last is their defense. It was to be expected that Collison would provide better defense than Isaiah Thomas, King of the Dwarves, but could anyone have imagined this large a disparity? He and McLemore surreptitiously form one of the best defensive backcourts the NBA has to offer, and they've shown it so far. The Kings have held opponents to a 42.7% FG percentage for sixth best in the league, which is a marked improvement over their 46.1% and 20th best last season. And while it is early in the season, these numbers are particularly impressive given the high quality of offensive talent they have faced so far.

The Sacramento Kings look to be much improved from last season. Boogie has been tearing up the court all season long, but the fact that DeMarcus has forgone all of his silly shenanigans from years' past is refreshing and bodes well for them. We've gotten a glimpse at a mature DeMarcus Cousins and it's encouraging.

Good teams distinguish themselves from the rest of the NBA by the way they respond to adversity. The Kings have made strides in the right direction, but are they ready to be considered a good team? We'll find out tonight.

Matchup to watch: Tim Duncan vs. DeMarcus Cousins. For whatever reason, DeMarcus Cousins really does not like Tim Duncan.

DeMarcus is an aggressive player, but he always takes it to a whole other level when facing Timmy. Despite enduring some frustrating games against the likes of Kendrick Perkins and Miles Mason Miles Plumlee, Boogie has remained (relatively) clear-headed so far. Let's see if it stays that way tonight.


@

San Antonio Spurs


Sacramento Kings

November 15, 2014

Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, California

9:00 PM CDT

TV: FSSW

Starters

Tony Parker

PG

Darren Collison

Danny Green

SG

Ben McLemore

Kawhi Leonard

SF

Rudy Gay

Boris Diaw

PF

Jason Thompson

Tim Duncan

C

Demarcus Cousins


Game prediction: Spurs by 8.

For the Kings' perspective, visit Sactown Royalty.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and you can get your San Antonio Spurs tickets from Daniel Farias with Spurs Sports & Entertainment: Tel: 210-444-5607 | dfarias@attcenter.com