It’s a Friday in November so that means it’s once again In-Season Tournament time! The Kings have been on a roll, winners of four straight and now face the San Antonio Spurs as part of tournament and regular season play. The Spurs have lost six straight games since a couple of surprising wins against Phoenix, and they will be missing some key players like Devin Vassell. But this will be the first time the Kings get a look at 7’4 French phenom Victor Wembanyama up close and personal, and Gregg Popovich led squads are never to be taken lightly.
Let’s talk Kings basketball!
When: Friday, November 17th, 4:30 PM PT
Where: Frost Bank Center, San Antonio, TX
TV: ESPN, NBC Sports California
Radio: Sactown Sports 1140
In-Season Tournament West Group C Standings
1. Minnesota Timberwolves 2-0 (+10 Point Differential)
2. Sacramento Kings 1-0 (+7 Point Differential)
3. Golden State Warriors 1-1 (-1 Point Differential)
4. Oklahoma City Thunder 1-2 (+27 Point Differential)
5. San Antonio Spurs 0-2 (-43 Point Differential)
Three in the Key
Victor Wembanyama hasn’t exactly been lighting the NBA on fire just yet, but he’s still been far and away the best rookie in the league and has the looks of a generational talent. He’s currently averaging 18.6 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.4 blocks and 1.0 steals in just 30 minutes a game. His efficiency hasn’t been great but it’s clear that once he gets comfortable with the NBA game and builds some strength up he’s going to be absolutely incredible. For being 7’4, he doesn’t move like a typical big man, moving more like a guard or wing and looking very comfortable shooting from outside. He’s like a weird blend of Rudy Gobert and Kevin Durant, except taller and longer than both of those guys. Domantas Sabonis has faced some relatively long and lanky guys recently and beaten them with strength down low and that’s an area where the Kings will probably look to attack tonight if Wemby gets matched up against Sabonis. I would imagine that Pop will probably have the more veteran Zach Collins matchup with Sabonis for the most part but the Kings should at least have the strength advantage down low. Now on the other end of the floor, let’s see if the Kings can keep Wemby and his long arms out of the paint and away from inevitable lobs.
Don’t Get Comfortable
On paper, this should be an easy matchup for the Kings. Vegas has the Kings favored by 9 points on the road and the Spurs have been losing a lot of blowouts recently, including a 36 point loss in their most recent game to the Thunder. They’ll be without Devin Vassell and Tre Jones, two of their more important players. But this isn’t a game the Kings can just afford to take lightly. Maybe it being a tournament game will help on that front since it counts for just a little extra, but we’ve seen the Kings lose focus at times when the opponent isn’t as flashy, or when a lead balloons such as during last game against the Lakers when the Kings let the Lakers cut a 26 point 4th quarter deficit all the way to 9 before finally regaining control and closing the game out. Even last season, the Kings played a Spurs team in Sacramento that didn’t even have Wemby yet and lost in Overtime, allowing guys like Doug McDermott (30 points) and Julian Champagnie (26 points) to run amok. I would like to see the Kings play a complete game and not discount a young Spurs team that has nothing to lose. Plus, one of the tiebreakers for the tournament is point differential, so the better Sacramento does, the better for their chances to make the knockout stages.
Size vs. Speed
Coach Pop is trying something new this season at Point Guard, having the 6’9 Jeremy Sochan run the offense. Sochan hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire as a playmaker yet, and if Tre Jones can’t play, the only other true Point Guard on San Antonio’s roster is Devonte’ Graham. Sochan is a physical player on both ends of the court and it should be an interesting matchup to see how he tries to deal with De’Aaron Fox on both ends of the court. Fox has the speed advantage for sure, but long, rangy defenders have tended to bother him a lot more than other guards. Still, Fox has been playing like an MVP candidate this year, and this is a matchup where the Kings should have a clear advantage.
Domantas Sabonis continues to tear through opposing bigs that weigh half as much as him and leads the Kings to a comfortable tourney victory.
Kings 142, Spurs 109