The Beam Team, better known as the Sacramento Kings, has become everyone’s second favorite team this season. After years (16 years to be precise) toiling in the waste lands of the Western Conference, the Kings are currently sixth in their conference standings. Could they finally end their playoff drought?
Lead by newly instated head coach Mike Brown, the franchise feels aligned from front-office through to players for the first time since 2006. Sacramento have drawn national attention with their up-tempo style of play and more importantly, they are winning games on a consistent basis.
While the Pistons are far from winning games on a consistent basis, they enter tonight full of confidence after defeating the Charlotte Hornets on the road Wednesday night.
When: 7 p.m. ET
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Michigan
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit
Odds: Pistons +5
3 Things to watch for:
1. Damontas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox
The Fox and Sabonis tandem has been everything Kings fans could of hoped for through the early portion of the season. Although each of the duo lack an elite outside shot, their contrasting play-styles mesh perfect on offense.
Sabonis is a playmaking maestro from the elbow area, he leads the team in assists with 6.4 dimes a night. Fox on the other hand likes to create his offense via drives to the basket, penetrating opposing defenses with his foot speed as a means to create his teammates open looks.
Sabonis is averaging the least points (17.5) and rebounds (11.6) since his third season in the league. However, the two-time All Star has never been more impactful when on the court. Per Cleaning the Glass, the Kings are +12.4 points better per 100 possessions with Sabonis on the floor, a career-high in terms of differential for former Gonzaga product.
Like Sabonis, De’Aaron Fox isn’t posting career-highs across the board, but there’s no doubt the shifty point guard is playing the best ball of his pro career. The improvements to Fox’s have come from his scoring efficiency. He’s scoring 22.5 points per game with career bests in field goal, three-point and free-throw percentages. The raw numbers have always been their for Fox, but renewed efficiency and energy on defense are what have Fox amidst All Star conversations.
2 . Isaiah Stewart PF minutes
Stew at the 4 has been one of the fun progressions throughout what has been a bleak season to date. Entering the season, most of the talk surrounding Stewart pertained to his outside stroke—could he knock down long range bombs at a consistent clip? The 21 year-old has answered this question with an emphatic YES, converting on 37.5% of his 4.5 three point attempts per night through 23 games.
In recent weeks, it appears the coaching staff have shifted their attention to developing Stewart’s dribble drive attack. Per NBA.com, Stew’s averaging 2.2 drives per game across his past 5 games, up from 1.0 drives a night on the season.
In the Pistons most recent game against the Hornets, we saw Stew string together a slew of impressive drives. He shot 4/5 on attempts which involved a dribble. Though it looked awkward at times, these are incredibly encouraging signs for Stewart and Piston fans.
4 . Jaden Ivey bounce-back performance
The last time Jaden Ivey scored more than 16 points in a game was against the Kings in Sacramento on Nov. 20. He scored 24 points on 57% shooting from the field, including a career-best four made three-point shots.
Since this game however, Ivey has struggled to play a consistent four quarters. In the nine subsequent games, the dynamic combo-guard is averaging 12.5 points on a dreadful 36% field goal percentage. Amidst this stretch, the prized lottery pick also suffered a right knee injury which sidelined him for multiple games, which as only made things tougher for the high flying guard.
The Kings lack of rim protection provides Ivey with the opportunity to attack the basket at will, which should hold him in good stead for a much needed bounce-back performance.
Detroit Pistons (8-22)
Killian Hayes, Jaden Ivey, Bojan Bogdanovic, Isaiah Stewart, Jalen Duren
Sacramento Kings (15-12)
De’Aaron Fox, Terrance Davis, Harrison Barnes, Keegan Murray, Domantas Sabonis
Question of the Game
On a scale of 1-10, how confident are you that Jaden Ivey becomes a top-3 player on Detroits next playoff team?