When a team like the Miami Heat or San Antonio Spurs wins three straight games, it's a ho-hum moment. When the Sacramento Kings do it, it's almost cause for a parade in California's capital city. Have the Kings started to turn things around or will they get a very rude wake-up call on Tuesday night at Indiana? The Pacers opened as 10.5-point favorites on NBA odds with a total of 194.
No team would like to see Sacramento continue to win more than the Chicago Bulls. Why? The Kings owe Cleveland their first-round pick in the 2014 draft if it's not in the Top 12. That picked was sent to Chicago last week by the Cavs in the Andrew Bynum trade. The Bulls would love to rebuild on the fly with that pick, perhaps Charlotte's 2014 protected and their own. The Bulls will get the Kings' pick if it falls outside the Top 12 in 2014 or outside the Top 10 picks in 2015, 2016 or 2017.
It's highly unlikely Sacramento (15-19-1 ATS, 19-16 O/U at sportsbooks) doesn't finish with one of the 10 worst records in the NBA. The three-game winning streak is nice, but the Kings are still 14th in the West at 13-22. This mini-turnaround came after a players'-only meeting was called last Sunday. Sacramento surprised Portland 123-119 on Tuesday and routed Orlando 103-83 on Friday. Sunday, the Kings totally obliterated Cleveland as 3-point favorites on NBA odds, 124-80, the largest margin of victory in the NBA this season and the third-largest ever for the Kings. It's not like the Cavs were on the second of a back-to-back or anything, and they had been 2-0 since the Deng trade.
Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins has the physical gifts to be a Top-5 player in the league but mentally sometimes he leaves a lot to be desired. "Boogie" is certainly focused right now. He was named Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday, averaging 25.0 points and 12.7 rebounds last week. Frankly, he's the best center in the NBA at this moment, averaging 23.3 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Cousins has 10 straight double-doubles, the longest streak by a King since Chris Webber in 2002-03. Rudy Gay also has been playing well since being traded to Sacramento from Toronto, averaging 20.5 points on 52.3 percent shooting in 15 games.
Pacers Put On Clamps At Home
While the Kings put on an offensive show in their last game, the Pacers showed why they are the NBA's best defensive team by clobbering visiting Washington 93-66 on Friday night, the fewest points scored by a team all season. Starting Indiana guard Lance Stephenson returned from missing one game with a knee injury to score 11 points, grab 10 rebounds and add five assists in 34 minutes against the Wizards. He's going to be an unrestricted free agent this summer and probably too costly for the small-market Pacers with Paul George and Roy Hibbert making big money. Stephenson is averaging 13.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists and has to be in the running for NBA Most Improved Players.
The Pacers (24-12 ATS, 12-24 O/U at sportsbooks) are an NBA-best 18-1 at home (13-6 ATS), with the lone loss coming Dec. 16 against Detroit. That was the definition of a trap game as it preceded a showdown with the Heat in Miami for the Pacers. Indiana allows just 82.6 points at home this year compared to 93.4 on the road. Five of the past six opponents have been held to 82 points or less at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. In nine of the Pacers' home games, the opponent has scored a season low in points.
This starts a six-game road trip for Sacramento. It has played only 13 road games, the fewest in the NBA, winning four of them. The Kings have won two of their past four away games. They were swept by Indiana last season -- losing by eight in OT on the road -- and have lost three of their past four trips to Indianapolis.
I lean on a suddenly confident Sacramento, which has covered four straight against teams with a winning record, and the under for our free NBA picks here. The Pacers will win the game, but the Kings should be able to keep it within single digits with some late garbage points. Indiana has failed to cover its past four after a victory.
NBA Picks: Sacramento to cover and the 'Under'