The Sacramento Kings beat the NBA odds in their first game under head coach George Karl. Now it’s off to Los Angeles, where the hometown Clippers are coming off a big win over the defending champions.
Jason’s record as of Feb. 19: 35-31-4 ATS, 2-4 Totals
The George Karl Era in Sacramento was off to a rocky start. The Kings offense was stuck in neutral. DeMarcus Cousins was pouting. And the Boston Celtics were kicking their big behinds all over the Mattress Pad. It looked like it was going to be more of the same misery for weary Sacto supporters.
Then the reserves came in and showed us what the future might look like under Karl. By the time the first quarter was over, Sacramento was in front. Even better, Cousins eventually found his rhythm, finishing with 31 points and 15 rebounds as the Kings (–4 at home) beat the Celtics 109-101. Maybe the present doesn’t look so bad under Karl, either. We’ll get another glimpse Saturday night (10:00 p.m. ET) when the Kings visit the Los Angeles Clippers; for some reason, the NBA betting odds for this matchup are on hold as we go to press.
We Need Those 3.7 Points
We’re assuming it’s not because of the status of Austin Rivers (9.2 PER). L.A.’s back-up point guard is considered day-to-day with a tender left ankle; we joked that his absence was the reason the Clippers were able to beat the San Antonio Spurs (–2.5 away) 119-115 this past Thursday. That’s silly, of course. Rivers not playing is just one of the reasons the Clippers won that game. And if Rivers doesn’t bring his minus-3.7 Box Plus/Minus to Staples Center on Saturday, it’ll only help his team’s chances against the Kings. Nothing personal.
Perhaps it has more to do with the status of Sacramento’s starting point guard – who used to be the back-up for the Clippers. Darren Collison (17.7 PER) is out indefinitely with a strained left hip flexor, one of those pesky injuries that’s difficult to put a timeframe on. Collison could play Saturday, or he could be out for a while.
Wizard Needs Minutes, Badly
Good thing the Kings have another point guard – and not just any point guard, but one of Karl’s favorites. Andre Miller (14.3 PER) came over from the Washington Wizards at the trade deadline, in exchange for Ramon Sessions (8.2 PER), who just didn’t seem to fit what they’re trying to do in Sacramento. Miller had no problems fitting in on Friday. He was a plus-7 in 23 minutes off the bench, with eight points on 3-of-5 shooting, four assists, and four rebounds.
But it wasn’t Miller who first pulled Sacramento’s fat out of the fire – he didn’t make his Kings debut until the second quarter. It was the back-up frontcourt trio of Omri Casspi (14.7 PER), Jason Thompson (9.0 PER) and Derrick Williams (11.5 PER) who got the offense flowing, running up and down the court with starting guards Ray McCallum (9.6 PER) and Ben McLemore (9.9 PER). All five players finished with plus ratings, led by Casspi at plus-22. It was like watching Karl’s Denver Nuggets for a while there.
Again, Cousins did come back into the game and assert himself, as did Rudy Gay (18.8 PER), who finished with a healthy 28 points on 9-of-18 from the floor. It’s perfectly reasonable to wonder if the Kings are going to be any better under Karl until they get some more players who can play his style of offense. But let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Especially with the Clippers next on the dance card. We’ve seen DeAndre Jordan (20.9 PER) go nuclear the past three games against overmatched centers, almost stringing together three straight 20-20 games. We’re betting against that happening again on Saturday against Cousins. That’s right: We’re “buying low” on Sacto with our NBA picks. And may the sphere be with you.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Kings