The Kings have packed up their playoff hopes and three game win streak, kissed the beam good-bye and hit the road for the next six games to test the mettle of their suddenly strong defenses. Their first opponent? The second best team in the East, winners in five of their last six contests, and perennial Kings killers, the Milwaukee Bucks. Can the Kings find a way to wrangle the best player on Earth? Will the universe implode if the Jrue Holiday and Davion Mitchell's atoms touch? If you spin around three times and say Grayson Allen's name three times does he still try to trip you as you run screaming from your bathroom?
Let's talk Kings basketball!
When: Sunday, December 7th, 5:00 PM PT
Where: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, WI
TV: NBC Sports California
Radio: Sactown Sports 1140
For Your Consideration
Keepin' It a Buck: Tonight's game in Milwaukee is going to be one of those benchmark games for the Kings - are they good or are they good at looking good early in the season? We've seen them win ugly, we've seen them beat teams they shouldn't have... we've seen them get walloped by a truly elite team or two. The Bucks are truly elite. They're lead by the least guardable talent in the world in Giannis Antetokounmpo, bolstered by elite role players in Jrue Holiday, Brook Lopez, Bobby Porter and a still-getting-back-in-the-flow Khris Middleton and have a good bench of vets to boot. Oh, yeah, the Bucks are absolutely rolling into the second quarter of this season happy, hungry and ready to throttle another opponent.
The heliocentricity of the Bucks offense has somewhat overshadowed at times the fact that they're a truly elite defensive team. They're second in the league in defensive rating, hold opponents to the third lowest scoring, they're third in the NBA in blocks, foul less than twenty-seven teams in the NBA and are the best defensive rebounding team in American professional basketball. The Bucks are the NBA equivalent to a museum dedicated to torture devices from years long past. They start a lineup that features the stockade, the Iron Maid, a firmly knotted rope smacked to your sensitive bits - and hell, that might just be me talking about Jrue Holiday alone, who's still not nearly as praised for his defense as he should be. His match-up De'Aaron Fox, who may still be getting over being sick, will be an absolute linchpin in tonight's contest. I'll sing the praises of Brook Lopez too, who has gone from offensive dynamo/occasional Boogie Cousins dunk recipient on the Nets to the odds on favorite to win this year's Defensive Player of the Year. He's up to three blocks a night for the Bucks while also shooting 41.7% from deep on a hair under SIX attempts. Bobby Portis holds his own, Jevon Carter started in absence of Khris Middleton and in those 21 games average a steal and a half a game. Even Grayson Allen stops slapping and kicking long enough to actually play good defense on top of it.
And then there's Giannis. If the rest of the team are various devices for torture, Giannis is an atom bomb. He's an offensive and defensive weapon all in one, built specifically to deter you from ever thinking your team can survive him. He can vaporize your favorite team's lead in a flash, working both ends of court to his advantage, a guy who can give you 50 points on 64% shooting and follow it up with 14 rebounds and 5 blocks and make it look easy... and even that's just his stat line from a championship clinching game against the Suns. The dude averages 31.9 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.5 assists with a little over a block and a little under a steal a game and 90% of the time it is effortless. There is absolutely another level he can reach, teams just rarely bring it out of the guy.
And, oddly enough... I feel like this Kings squad has the best chance in forever in beating these guys. A few things to watch for tonight: the Bucks take the 7th most threes in the league and hit at a respectable 35.1%, 17th in the league. Giannis might not be able to heave from deep, but when you've got guys like Lopez, Allen and Carter all shooting above 40% on a decent # of attempts - one guys getting hot could be all it takes. The Bucks are also a terrible free throw shooting team, at just 72.6%, 28th in the NBA. They draw the 14th most fouls in the NBA, with Giannis himself drawing over half of them at 12.3 free throws a contest for the big guy. He's shooting 62% from the line so you can't Hack-a-Shaq him... but a few well earned smacks and shoves could keep a team in the game.
This team is a nightmare match-up for the Kings, with bigs that can match Sabonis' size, scoring and passing, guards that can slowdown Fox and role players that can handle the task of getting into guys like Huerter, Monk, Barnes, and Murray. A win in Milwaukee tonight would be an absolute statement game for the Kings and put the entire league on notice.
Kings blow the Bucks out of the building. Giannis: zero points, no rebounds, 16 missed free throws. Grayson Allen: arrested for crimes against humanity. Brook Lopez: banned from Disneyland for life. The world weeps as their new overlords climb over the broken corpse of a once great foe. Keon Ellis scores 7 in garbage time.
Kings: 155, Bucks: like, 40 something.