Aiming for their second winning streak of at least five games this season, the 29-16 Philadelphia 76ers travel south for a duel with the scorching hot 26-18 Sacramento Kings on Saturday night. The Kings are fresh off a 118-113 win against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday. They’ve won six straight.
On the injury front, James Harden is questionable due to injury management. Sacramento is yet to submit its injury report.
According to Cleaning The Glass, Philadelphia is 11th in offensive rating (115.5), fifth in defensive rating (111.7) and fifth in net rating (plus-3.8). Sacramento, currently third in the Western Conference, is third in offensive rating (118.5), 24th in defensive rating (115.7) and eighth in net rating (plus-2.8)
Back in mid-December, the Sixers turned in one of their finest wins of the year with a 123-103 home rout of the Kings. Joel Embiid got Domantas Sabonis into early foul trouble, which bogged down the Kings’ potent offensive attack without their hub in the game. Philadelphia’s defense also did well to contain Sacramento’s actions early in the clock.
Embiid scored 31 points. James Harden logged 21 points, 15 assists and five steals. Star guard De’Aaron Fox struggled to the tune of 13 points (5-of-15 shooting), one assist and three turnovers. Sacramento also shot just 10-of-42 (23.8 percent) beyond the arc. The Sixers countered with a 16-of-35 (45.7 percent) long-range showing.
The Kings function at a breakneck tempo and organize their offense supremely quickly. They’re usually into their initial set a mere 4-5 seconds into the shot clock and rank sixth in pace. Adapting to that, which Philadelphia accomplished in December, is often tough for opponents and is part of why Sacramento touts such a dynamic attack. Slowing the offense requires being ready to defend the moment the possession changes hands. This is a dribble handoff-based scheme that flows through Sabonis, as well as the speed and craft of Fox, surrounded by a bevy of shooters and keen off-ball movers.
I’d imagine De’Anthony Melton defends Fox, Embiid is on Sabonis, Tobias Harris takes Huerter, P.J. Tucker sticks to Harrison Barnes and Harden (assuming he plays) is stashed on Keegan Murray. There are definitely some mismatches to the benefit of Sacramento regardless of how those final three assignments shake out. That’s life against a multifaceted offense as a team lacking versatility at various spots in the rotation.
On the flip side, it’s a rather small front line for Sacramento, which bodes well for Embiid. In an aim to reduce three-point volume, the Kings don’t usually stunt or help brazenly on drives. Only two teams allow a lower rate of long balls to opponents, according to Cleaning The Glass. That tactic creates lots of space inside the arc; they’re 28th in opposing points in the paint. In this case, that could work in favor of the Harden-Embiid two-man game, which should enjoy the real estate to go where they wish.
These are two of the most prolific offenses in the league right now. It’s a bummer the Kings are coming off a back-to-back, but I do expect this to be a pretty fun game. Sacramento is certainly the best opponent Philadelphia’s faced thus far on this West Coast swing, too. I’m sure this will be the Saturday night sporting event that most Philadelphians are most invested in as well. Feel the electricity for
Giants-Birds, err, I mean, Sixers-Kings!
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Sacramento Kings
When: 10:00 pm ET
Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, CA
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic